The Lakers’ heist of Spaniard Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies turned Jerry Buss’ team into a championship favorite overnight, but a side benefit of the deal might have gone overlooked: It might expand their fan base too. . . .
In the 14 1/2 seasons the Lakers have broadcast games in Spanish, they’ve never had a star player who spoke the language. . . .
Jokes Spanish-language commentator Jose “Pepe” Mantilla, whose broadcasts with play-by-play announcer Fernando Gonzalez can be heard at 1330 AM, “This is the greatest thing that happened to me since I crossed the border.” . . .
Mantilla says the last Laker who spoke Spanish fluently was Stanford graduate Mark Madsen, who memorably addressed crowds at Lakers championship parades bilingually but probably left a more lasting impression as a dancer. . . .
This is probably not the sort of thing that would keep Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal or Dirk Nowitzki awake at night, but hopeful Lakers fans might be interested to know that only once since 1964 have either Phil Jackson or the Lakers failed to reach the NBA Finals in a leap year. . . .
In 2000 and 2004, of course, they made the journey together. . . .
The sprained wrist that kept Sam Cassell sidelined in his last four games with the Clippers will miraculously heal once he lands in Boston or wherever. . . .
Former Clipper Brent Barry, reportedly considering the Phoenix Suns or a return to the San Antonio Spurs after his release by the Seattle SuperSonics, made nearly 80% of his free throws at Oregon State, where he shot them underhanded like his father, Hall of Famer Rick Barry. . . .
He has converted a slightly higher percentage in his 12 1/2 seasons in the NBA, where he shoots his free throws like everybody else. . . .
Roger Clemens is struggling to find a rhythm, the bases are loaded and the cleanup hitter is at the plate with a 3-and-0 count. . . .
In other words, he’s in deep. . . .
If the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox draw 115,000 to their March 29 exhibition at the Coliseum, it would be more than three times the capacity of Fenway Park. . . .
Speaking of beloved old stadiums, Tribune Co. Chief Executive Sam Zell offers an alternative to Chicagoans up in arms over his plan to sell naming rights to Wrigley Field, suggesting that Chicago-based Wrigley Co. buy the rights to the Cubs’ longtime home “after getting it free for so long.” . . .
Reader Rick Wallace found an unlikely interloper among the only Division I schools that have won five or more NCAA men’s championships over the last 20 years, tiny Pepperdine joining USC, UCLA, Stanford and Wisconsin. . . .
The Waves won a baseball championship under Andy Lopez, a water polo title under Terry Schroeder, a golf title under John Geiberger, a tennis title under Adam Steinberg and two volleyball titles under Marv Dunphy. . . .
Sullivan Award finalist and USC sophomore Jamie Lovemark won the NCAA golf title last spring, joining former Trojans Scott Simpson and Ron Commans in winning individual honors, but USC has never won the team title. . . .
Note to Carl Edwards, winner of Sunday’s Auto Club 500: Jeff Gordon, who won the inaugural California 500 in 1997, is the only driver to parlay a pre-Labor Day weekend victory at Fontana into a NASCAR Cup championship. . . .
Flynn Robinson, a reserve on the Lakers’ 1972 championship team, will be at Fred Hall’s Fishing, Tackle & Boat Show next week at the Long Beach Convention Center helping to raise funds for a 976-TUNA program that takes underprivileged kids out on the water and teaches them how to fish. . . .
Fans attending Saturday night’s college baseball doubleheader at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, matching UCLA and USC against Bethune-Cookman and Southern, might want to stay in their seats between games. . . .
The teams from the historically black colleges could be overmatched in the games, but Southern’s dizzying “Human Jukebox” band might overwhelm USC’s more tradition-bound marchers in a between-games battle of the bands. . . .
The Jaguars aim to entertain.