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Damian Lillard shoots a free throw during one of the NBA's restart games. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Sports are back, and on the surface, the actual gameplay looks fairly similar to when we last saw them.

But beneath that facade of normalcy lie some interesting trends spurred on by fan-less environments, long layoffs and condensed schedules.

NBA: Free throw attempts — and percentages — have risen.

  • Before the shutdown, the 22 bubble teams attempted 23.05 free throws per game and made 77.65% of them. In the bubble, those numbers have risen to 27.91 and 79.42%, respectively (through Wednesday).
  • Officials are calling more fouls because they can actually hear the contact, and players are shooting better without a wall of fans trying to distract them.
  • "I feel like it's a hooper's gym," said Suns guard Devin Booker. "It's easier to shoot in here with less depth perception."
  • Worth noting: Overall shooting percentage among the 22 teams is down in the bubble.

MLB: Pitchers are getting injured at an unprecedented rate.

  • During the season's first 10 days, there were 30 pitcher arm injuries, which is 2.5x more than in any previous season's opening stretch (12). In the three days since then, four more pitchers have landed on the shelf with arm injuries.
  • The culprit appears to be the stop-and-start nature of spring training, which has led to a disconnect between fine-tuning mechanics and building the muscle required to execute them.

WNBA: Pace of play is at an all-time high.

  • In the past three seasons, six teams surpassed 80 possessions per 40 minutes. Through Wednesday's bubble action, nine teams were north of that mark.
  • Pace has been rising for years now, but this season is faster than ever in part because players' legs have never been so fresh. Those who play overseas normally enter the WNBA season right after their abroad seasons end. But this year, those campaigns were shut down in March, so they're well-rested.

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2020 - Sports

Obama praises sports stars who "take a stand" for racial justice

LeBron James and President Barack Obama at the White House in 2013. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama praised NBA and WNBA teams and players Sunday who "take a stand for racial justice and encourage civic participation," as he congratulated the Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle Storm on their championship wins.

The big picture: The Lakers clinched the NBA title Sunday and the Storm defeated the Las Vegas Aces last Tuesday to win the WNBA Championships. Sports stars have used their platforms this season to support social justice, civic engagement and voting rights. Obama praised Lakers star LeBron James earlier this month for his More Than a Vote drive to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts.

Updated 8 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 20 mins ago - Sports

IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

Team USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing in the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is "looking into" U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders' gesture on the Tokyo Games podium after she won a silver medal, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters Monday.

Why it matters: Saunders told AP she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the podium to stand up for "oppressed" people. The IOC has banned protests during the Tokyo Games.