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The Sports Report: Doc Rivers is out as Clippers coach

Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Dan Woike and Broderick Turner on the Clippers: The Clippers have built a reputation around the NBA for making important, effectual decisions without much warning, bolts of lightning that have quickly pushed the franchise in new directions.

They dealt Blake Griffin without much notice and traded Tobias Harris in the middle of the night. They swooped in to sign Kawhi Leonard and acquired Paul George in a way that stunned the rest of the league.

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And Monday, the Clippers did it again, cutting ties with coach Doc Rivers after seven seasons and six postseason trips. The official release said the sides reached a “mutual decision,” but people with knowledge of the situation said Rivers was surprised to learn the Clippers wanted to move on.

Rivers, 58, was a cornerstone of the Clippers’ organizational rebirth, helping legitimize the team from its wretched past. He navigated the franchise through the Donald Sterling scandal, hosted key meetings with Leonard and, inside the NBA bubble, reasserted himself as one of the NBA’s most passionate and trusted voices in the fights against racism and police brutality.

He holds franchise records for most games (564), wins (356), winning percentage (63.1), playoff games (59) and playoff wins (27). Yet his teams never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

Rivers issued a statement on social media.

“Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and for all your support in helping make this a winning franchise,” he wrote. “When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination and bring a championship to this organization. While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won’t be able to see them all through. Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support.

“Thank you to all the players, coaches and staff for helping us get here. Most importantly, thank you to the fans. We went through a lot, and I am grateful for my time here.”

Internally, Rivers enjoyed support even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. But ultimately, the sting from yet another disappointing end to a season prompted the change.

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Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy are considered possibilities for the job, though other candidates could emerge.

————

Helene Elliott: Doc Rivers should be remembered for what he accomplished, and what he didn’t do

Who will be the next Clippers coach? Here are some names to consider

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LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: The Lakers have been in the NBA’s bubble for almost three months now, thriving despite the obstacles that have come from being away from home for so long.

They could be here for another two weeks, but the Lakers won’t complain because they are playing in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, and they have a chance to bring home the franchise’s 17th championship trophy.

The Lakers have maintained their focus, with that desire to claim another title allowing them to stay the course through it all.

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“Well, we’re super locked in,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Monday in a videoconference. “Our group enjoys each other, and we’ve been through a lot, even though we were really assembled this year. It’s not a team that’s been together for multiple years, but with everything that we’ve been through, our chemistry is strong. And I think the fact that we enjoy each other away from the basketball court has really helped with the bubble environment. … And we hope that will continue for us.”

NBA FINALS
All times Pacific
Lakers vs. Miami

Game 1: Wednesday, 6 p.m., ABC
Game 2: Friday, 6 p.m., ABC
Game 3: Sunday, 4:30 p.m., ABC
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 6, 6 p.m., ABC
Game 5: Friday, Oct. 9, 6 p.m., ABC
Game 6: Sunday, Oct. 11, 4:30 p.m., ABC
Game 7: Tuesday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m., ABC

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Last summer, Major League Baseball, spotting a rare national marketing opportunity, made Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich the center of an impromptu ad campaign. It made sense. They were the clear top two NL MVP candidates at the All-Star break. They emerged as superstars in their markets. Belli vs. Yeli, a friendly contrived rivalry, was born. In the end, Bellinger was named MVP.

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That now seems like a long time ago. The two outfielders will meet in the wild-card round starting Wednesday when the Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers play Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, but they aren’t coming off MVP-caliber regular seasons. For 60 games, they were part of a group of All-Stars across the majors that saw their production nosedive in 2020.

Yelich didn’t cross the Mendoza Line until his 22nd game Aug. 19. The 2018 NL MVP finished with a .205 batting average, .705 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 12 home runs. His wRC+ plummeted from 174 last season to 112, which estimates the 28-year-old right fielder was just 12% better than the average hitter.

“I don’t have the reasons,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday. “We’ve hopefully addressed them if we did. He got off to a really poor start. That’s probably the thing I would suggest the most.”

Last season, Bellinger posted a 162 wRC+ while batting .305 with 47 home runs and a 1.035 OPS. But he wasn’t satisfied with his second half. In a vacuum, he was still one of the best sluggers in baseball after the All-Star break — he recorded a .917 OPS — but he thought he should’ve been better.

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So he implemented notable changes to his swing — particularly in his stance — during the shutdown between spring training and summer camp.

Wild-card round schedule
All times Pacific

No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Brewers
Game 1: Wednesday, at Dodgers, 7 p.m., ESPN
Game 2: Thursday, at Dodgers, TBD
Game 3*: Friday, at Dodgers, TBD

*-if necessary

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ANGELS

Maria Torres on the Angels: Angels owner Arte Moreno fired general manager Billy Eppler after five consecutive losing seasons. Now comes the hard part.

Moreno will spend at least part of October identifying and interviewing potential replacements. The candidate pool is expected to include executives who have proven ability in scouting and development. Another prerequisite for the job? Experience leading a team to victory.

The Angels are expected to consider a long list of candidates. Here are five possibilities in alphabetical order.

Josh Byrnes, 50

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Most recent team: Dodgers (2014-present)

Dave Dombrowski, 64

Most recent team: Boston Red Sox (2015-19)

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Dan Jennings, 60

Most recent team: Washington Nationals (2016-present)

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De Jon Watson, 54

Most recent team: Washington Nationals (2017-present)

Logan White, 57

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Most recent team: San Diego Padres (2014-present)

Other potential candidates: Jason McLeod, Chicago Cubs, senior vice president of player personnel; Billy Owens, Oakland Athletics, assistant general manager and director of player personnel; J.J. Picollo, Kansas City Royals, vice president and assistant general manager of player personnel; Jared Porter, Arizona Diamondbacks, senior vice president and assistant general manager.

JAY JOHNSTONE

Mike DiGiovanna on Jay Johnstone: Jay Johnstone, the fun-loving outfielder who was best known for his clubhouse pranks and a dramatic pinch-hit home run that helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series, died Saturday, his daughter, Mary Jayne Sarah Johnstone, confirmed on Facebook. He was 74.

Johnstone, who hit .267 with 102 home runs and 531 RBIs in a 20-year major league career from 1966-85, suffered from dementia and was in a Granada Hills nursing home when he died of complications from COVID-19.

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“COVID was the one thing he couldn’t fight,” Johnstone’s daughter told the Associated Press on Monday. “It’s really kind of shocking.”

NHL


The joyful yells from the bench could be heard in the empty arena in the final seconds and the roar from players when Commissioner Gary Bettman called for Steven Stamkos to accept the Stanley Cup echoed even louder.

The triumph of winning the NHL championship in a bubble was certainly no less sweet for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brayden Point scored his playoff-best 14th goal and the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 on Monday night to win finish off the most unusual NHL postseason in history, staged nearly entirely in quarantine because of the pandemic.

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The clock hitting zeros with no fans in attendance set off a celebration for a team that endured years of playoff heartbreak and two months in isolation — and their fans outside Amalie Arena in Tampa celebrated right along with them.

“It takes a lot to be in a bubble for 80 days or whatever long it was,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. “But it’s all worth it now, we’re coming home with the Cup.”

Before giving that trophy to Hedman, Bettman gave all the players credit for enduring a quarantine largely on their own for so long.

“To be in this place at this time under these circumstances is remarkable and frankly overwhelming,” Bettman said. “Frankly, all of the players who participated should feel like MVPs.”

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STANLEY CUP FINAL
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Dallas 4, Tampa Bay 1
Game 2: Tampa Bay 3, Dallas 2
Game 3: Tampa Bay 5, Dallas 2
Game 4: Tampa Bay 5, Dallas 4 (OT)
Game 5: Dallas 3, Tampa Bay 2 (2 OT)
Game 6: Tampa Bay 2, Dallas 0

MLB PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

Wild-card round
All times Pacific
American League

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No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
Game 1: Today, at Tampa Bay, 2 p.m., TBS
Game 2: Wednesday, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m., TBS
Game 3*: Thursday, at Tampa Bay, TBD

No. 2 Oakland A’s vs. No. 7 Chicago White Sox
Game 1: Today, at Oakland, noon, ESPN
Game 2: Wednesday, at Oakland, noon, ESPN
Game 3*: Thursday, at Oakland, TBD

No. 3 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
Game 1: Today, at Minnesota, 11 a.m., ABC
Game 2: Wednesday, at Minnesota, 10 a.m., ESPN2
Game 3*: Thursday, at Minnesota, TBD

No. 4 Cleveland Indians vs. No. 5 New York Yankees
Game 1: Today, at Cleveland, 4 p.m., ESPN
Game 2: Wednesday, at Cleveland, 4 p.m., ESPN
Game 3*: Thursday, at Cleveland, TBD

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National League

No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds
Game 1: Wednesday, at Atlanta, 9 a.m., ESPN
Game 2: Thursday, at Atlanta, TBD
Game 3*: Friday, TBD

No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
Game 1: Wednesday, at Chicago, 11 a.m., ABC
Game 2: Thursday, at Chicago, TBD
Game 3*: Friday, at Chicago, TBD

No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals
Game 1: Wednesday, at San Diego, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Thursday, at San Diego, TBD
Game 3: Friday, at San Diego, TBD

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*-if necessary

WNBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

Semifinals
All times Pacific

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. No. 7 Connecticut Sun

Game 1: Connecticut 87, Las Vegas 62
Game 2: Las Vegas 83, Connecticut 75
Game 3: Connecticut 77, Las Vegas 68
Game 4: Las Vegas 84, Connecticut 75
Game 5: Today, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2

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No. 2 Seattle Storm vs. No. 4 Minnesota Lynx

Game 1: Seattle 88, Minnesota 86
Game 2: Seattle 89, Minnesota 79
Game 3: Seattle 92, Minnesota 71

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

No games scheduled

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1923 — Gene Sarazen beats Walter Hagen 1 up to capture the PGA championship.

1941 — Joe Louis knocks out Lou Nova in the sixth round at the Polo Grounds in New York to retain the world heavyweight title.

1954 — Willie Mays makes his over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz’ long drive to center field and pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes homers off Bob Lemon in the 10th inning to lead the New York Giants to a 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the World Series.

1974 — Dr. Norbert Sander Jr. wins the New York City Marathon in 2:26:30 and Kathy Switzer capture the women’s division in 3:07:29.

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1977 — Muhammad Ali wins a unanimous 15-round decision over Earnie Shavers at Madison Square Garden in New York to retain his world heavyweight title.

1984 — Mike Prindle of Western Michigan sets an NCAA record by kicking seven field goals in a 42-7 rout over Marshall.

1985 — Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon is sacked 12 times in a 17-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys to tie an NFL record.

1991 — Pat Bradley wins the MBS LPGA Classic by one shot over Michelle Estill for her 30th career victory, qualifying her for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

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1995 — The NHL and NHL Players Association strike a deal to allow league players to participate in the 1998 Winter Olympics.

2000 — At the Sydney Olympics, the U.S. men’s basketball team escapes the humiliation of playing for a bronze medal with an 85-83 victory over Lithuania in the semifinals. It’s the closest victory and biggest scare for a U.S. Olympic team since NBA players started competing in 1992.

2002 — After losing to Iowa State, Nebraska drops out of the Associated Press Top 25 football poll after being ranked for 348 consecutive weeks. The last time Nebraska was missing from the poll was Oct. 5, 1981.

2004 — Major League Baseball announces the Montreal Expos will move to Washington to begin play at RFK Stadium in the 2005 season.

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2011 — The Tampa Bay Rays clinch the AL wild card with a stunning rally, overcoming a late seven-run deficit and then beating the New York Yankees 8-7 on Evan Longoria’s home run in the 12th inning. The Rays’ win comes four minutes after Boston blew a one-run lead in the ninth at Baltimore and lost 4-3. The Red Sox, who held a nine-game lead over the Rays in early September, and Tampa Bay began the final day of the regular season tied for the wild card.

2011 — Chris Carpenter and St. Louis complete one of the more remarkable comebacks in baseball history, clinching the NL wild card with an 8-0 win over Houston and a later loss by Atlanta. St. Louis, which trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, win 23 of their last 31 games. The Cardinals get their playoff spot when the Braves falls to Philadelphia 4-3 in 13 innings.

2012 — Geno Smith throws for 656 yards and ties a Big 12 record with eight touchdown passes to lead No. 9 West Virginia to a 70-63 win over No. 25 Baylor. Smith outduels Baylor’s Nick Florence, who has a standout game of his own with 581 yards and five TDs. Baylor’s Terrance Williams sets a Big 12 record with 314 yards receiving.

2013 — On the last day of the season, Miami’s Henderson Alvarez pitches one of baseball’s most bizarre no-hitters. Alvarez celebrates in the on-deck circle when the Marlins score on a two-out wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0.

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2016 — Brad Marchand scores a short-handed goal with 43.1 seconds left and Canada beats Team Europe 2-1 to win the World Cup of Hockey.

2017 — Clay Millican breaks the Top Fuel time record in the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. Millican has a 3.631-second pass at 330.39 mph at the home race for Stringer Performance during the second round of qualifying.

And finally

Jay Johnstone’s two-run pinch-hit homer in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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