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The Sports Report: LiAngelo Ball is searching for his spot in the NBA

LiAngelo Ball
LiAngelo Ball
(Getty Images)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news. The first story happened Saturday, but since we didn’t have an issue Sunday, it’s worth recapping now.

Andrew Greif on the NBA: For two hours Saturday afternoon, before Bruno Mars entertained along the Strip and Allegiant Stadium opened to Raiders fans for the first time, the hottest act in Vegas played inside a hot, cramped gymnasium: the latest attempt by an undrafted, 6-foot-5 reserve to land a job in the NBA.

At a time when COVID-19 concerns have largely thinned the crowds at the NBA’s 10-day Summer League, nearly every red seat inside the 2,400-seat Cox Pavilion, the smaller of two, connected venues hosting the action, was taken before tipoff.

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Those unable to get in to watch Charlotte face Toronto formed lines outside each of the gym’s pair of double-door entrances, snaking deep into an adjoining concourse. One Summer League official estimated as many as 500 fans were in each line at their largest, calling the demand unrivaled since a 2010 game featuring Jeremy Lin against John Wall.

“The Ball effect,” one fan said to his seatmate before tipoff.

If there were any doubt LiAngelo Ball, the middle son of one of California’s most famous basketball families, could draw interest, he has answered that at Summer League. The question remains whether he will show enough here to ensure that he will have a seat on an NBA bench when the regular season begins.

“I know myself, I’m an NBA player,” Ball said. “In my head, I can play in the NBA. I can play anywhere for real. I don’t really think about how people think about me, I just do my own thing.”

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DODGERS

Ethan Sears on the Dodgers: Coming into Monday night, the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had beaten the Dodgers was June 6, 2018, an 11-9 thriller in which Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig played the corner outfield positions for the Dodgers. Despite not playing each other in 2020, the winning streak stood at 13 games — and 1,167 days.

For a brief moment Monday, it looked like that streak would end. Then Billy McKinney and Max Muncy sent baseballs into the right-field bleachers, tying the game and putting the Dodgers ahead.

It took until the seventh inning for the Dodgers to score their first run of the game. It took until the eighth inning for them to go ahead. And it wasn’t a night where their offense was much to brag about. But, after returning from the East Coast at 4:30 in the morning, their winning streak over Pittsburgh would reach a 1,168th day.

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ANGELS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: The Angels didn’t arrive at their Manhattan hotel until 5 a.m. EDT Monday, their 10-game, five-city trip getting off to a bit of a rough start when their flight from Long Beach to Newark was delayed for several hours Sunday.

“I’m sure there will be some fatigue,” manager Joe Maddon said before Monday night’s game against the New York Yankees, “but Yankee Stadium is the kind of place that can draw some of that out of you if you’re not feeling 100%, and then you have to face a pitcher of Gerrit Cole’s stature on top of that.”

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A lively crowd of 37,010 showed up in the Bronx for the makeup of a July 1 rainout, and any cobwebs the Angels had were knocked off by Cole’s first pitch of the night, a snap-to-attention 99-mph fastball that Shohei Ohtani swung through.

The Angels went on to play a crisp game, getting a solid start from left-hander Jose Suarez, stout relief from Steve Cishek and turning a clutch double play in the sixth inning, but they managed just three hits off Cole and four Yankees relievers in a 2-1 loss.

RAIDERS

The Las Vegas Raiders will require all fans attending home games to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19.

The team said Monday that the policy will take effect for the first regular season home game on Sept. 13 against Baltimore.

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The Raiders implemented the change in accord with new directives from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak regarding large events. Vaccinated fans will not need to wear masks at the games.

“Health and safety has always been our number one priority,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said. “After consultation with Governor Sisolak and other community leaders, this policy ensures that we will be able to operate at full capacity without masks for fully vaccinated fans for the entire season.“

RAMS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Rams: Preseason games aren’t just for players hoping to prove themselves or rookies trying to learn the ropes. Coaches need them too.

In his first preseason game as the Rams defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris was trying to relay play calls to rookie linebacker Ernest Jones but his messages weren’t reaching the field. Meanwhile, the Chargers were marching down the field.

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Morris was pressing the wrong button on his headset. He smiled as he recounted the stressful start to his Rams tenure Monday.

The Rams ironed out some kinks in their first preseason game Saturday and are using the lessons learned from their 13-6 loss to the Chargers to prepare them for upcoming joint practices with the Raiders and their regular-season opener against the Bears on Sept. 12.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The play was a solid one, a cornerback in tight coverage edging in front of a wide receiver to secure a clutch interception.

What the play represented, however, was the reason Chargers coach Brandon Staley liked it so much.

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Earlier in training camp, Michael Davis was beaten by Mike Williams with a back-shoulder throw on the same route.

In practice Monday, Davis read the situation correctly and this time picked off Justin Herbert’s pass intended for Jason Moore.

The play was a sign of progress — of a lesson learned.

“We wanted to make sure that we worked really hard on that back-shoulder [throw],” Staley said. “That was a good example of him [using] all the drill work that [the coaches] are putting in front of him each and every day. That’s exciting.”

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: The two redshirt freshmen had already established themselves as the leading contenders in USC’s left tackle competition, taking turns to see who might fill the glaring hole on the Trojans’ offensive line.

But on Monday, for the first time in fall camp, both Courtland Ford and Jonah Monheim took their places on USC’s first-team offense. Ford was on the left. Monheim was on the right. And senior Jalen McKenzie, after spending the first eight practices at right tackle, was left on the sideline.

USC has made a point of rotating tackles throughout camp, all the while reiterating its plans to find the best five linemen and figure out their positions later. But the deadline to define that line is fast approaching, and Monday’s grouping offered a first glimpse into a line bookended by freshmen, one that could — and perhaps, should — become a reality soon enough.

USC coach Clay Helton said he hoped to have an initial two-deep up-front figured out after the team’s second scrimmage Saturday. The interior already appears to be decided, with Andrew Vorhees and Liam Jimmons at guard and Brett Neilon at center. The intrigue, instead, remains at tackle, where McKenzie has started each of the last two seasons on the right side.

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UCLA FOOTBALL

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins: The 2021 season is approaching, but the circumstances surrounding Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s mysterious 10-day absence from UCLA training camp sounded very 2020.

Speaking Monday for the first time since he missed eight practices, the UCLA quarterback declined to specify what kept him out, saying simply it was “really personal,” and he had to “deal with some stuff.” Following a policy put in place last year to not risk tipping their hand in the event of a COVID-19 health and safety incident, UCLA and coach Chip Kelly said only that Thompson-Robinson was “unavailable.”

After participating in the first three practices of training camp, Thompson-Robinson said he was still working out during the absence and attended meetings through Zoom. He enjoyed watching his teammates blow off training camp steam in a karaoke session. But after Monday’s practice — his third since returning — he said he’s glad to trade on-screen bonding activities for real-life celebrations.

“It was amazing being able to get to see the guys after so long,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Everybody was really excited to see me and I was really excited to see everybody.”

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SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Carli Lloyd, arguably the best big-game player in U.S. soccer history, announced her retirement from international competition Monday following a 17-year career in which she was twice named FIFA world player of the year.

Lloyd, 39, also won two Olympic gold medals — delivering the winning goal in both finals — and two World Cup titles. During this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, Lloyd scored twice in the third-place game to give the U.S. a bronze medal.

Lloyd will play the remainder of the NWSL season with NJ/NY Gotham FC as well as in the anticipated four-game fall series for the national team before stepping aside completely. Details for the fall series matches have not been announced by U.S. Soccer. She’ll go into those final four international games with 312 caps, second all-time behind Kristine Lilly’s 354.

How impactful was Lloyd? The U.S. lost just 17 of the 312 games she played in.

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BOXING

Bill Dwyre on boxing: To be Manny Pacquiao is to smile and carry on.

He is a legendary boxer, about to fight in his 82nd professional match. He is one of just 12 senators who govern the Philippines. And if that isn’t enough, he is an almost certain candidate for the country’s presidency on May 9, 2022.

His cup runneth over. His life is nonstop chaos. He is, daily, pulled in nine different directions before he can get his socks on. A main Olympic storyline in recent weeks was about athletes succumbing to demands on them, to the pressure of expectations. If the same were applied to Pacquiao, he should, by now, be a puddle of water.

Saturday, at the 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, he will step into a boxing ring again. At least that part should be simple. One venue, one opponent, let the fists fly. But like everything in boxing, and in Pacquiao’s life, the uncertain reigns.

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Tuesday, he and his camp got word that the fighter he was to meet, highly regarded and unbeaten Errol Spence Jr., had to pull out. Spence had a torn retina in his left eye, a serious injury that might not have merely spoiled Spence’s big payday against Pacquiao, but also his career. Pacquiao, with the veteran poise of an air traffic controller, immediately issued a politically correct and sympathetic statement that said, “Thank God that the tear in Errol’s eye was discovered before it could be damaged further.”

Then he and his team got to work on a reclamation project. The fight. There would be another one, there would be a storyline and there would remain an opportunity for people to go to Vegas and buy tickets or sit at home and fork over the pay-per-view price. In the cash flow arena, boxing has a way of ending up on its feet.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1933 — Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees plays his 1,308th straight game to break Everett Scott’s record of 1,307.

1938 — Henry Armstrong wins the lightweight title with a 15-round decision over Lou Ambers and becomes the only boxer to hold world championship titles in three weight divisions simultaneously. Armstrong won the featherweight (126-pound) title by knocking out Petey Sarron in six rounds on Oct. 29, 1937. On May 31, 1938, he won the welterweight (147-pound) championship from Barney Ross by a decision.

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1960 — Flash Elorde knocks out Harold Gomes at 1:20 in the first round to win the world junior lightweight title.

1969 — Ray Floyd beats Gary Player by one stroke to win the PGA championship.

1995 — John Roethlisberger wins the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships’ all-around title in New Orleans, becoming the first gymnast in 28 years to win four titles.

1997 — Davis Love III shoots a 66 at Winged Foot to win the PGA Championship in Mamaroneck, N.Y., his first major title, by five strokes over Justin Leonard with a 72-hole total of 11-under 269.

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2001 — Shingo Katayama shoots a 6-under 64, and David Toms shoots a 65 to share the second-round lead in the PGA Championship. Katayama and Toms at 9-under 131, tie the PGA record for 36 holes last set by Ernie Els at Riviera in 1995.

2005 — The NCAA purchases the rights to the preseason and postseason National Invitation Tournaments as part of a settlement ending a four-year legal fight between the two parties. The 40-team postseason NIT, which is a year older and was once the bigger event, will be run by the NCAA.

2008 — At the Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps and three teammates win the 400-meter medley relay for Phelps’ eighth gold medal, eclipsing Mark Spitz’s seven-gold performance at the 1972 Munich Games. Of his five individual races and three relays, Phelps sets world records in seven and an Olympic record in the eighth.

2008 — Jesus Sauceda of Matamoros, Mexico, pitches the fifth perfect game in Little League World Series history and the first in 29 years for a 12-0 win over Emilia, Italy. Sauceda also stars at the plate, going 3-for-3 with six RBIs, including a grand slam in the third.

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2013 — Nick Davilla throws six touchdown passes and the Arizona Rattlers defeat the Philadelphia Soul 48-39 in the Arena Bowl. The Rattlers win the championship for the second straight year, beating the Soul in both championship games.

2014 — Inbee Park successfully defends her title in the LPGA Championship, beating Brittany Lincicome with a par on the first hole of a playoff to end the United States’ major streak at three.

2014 — The Phoenix Mercury sets a WNBA record with their 29th win, beating the Seattle Storm 78-65 in the season finale. Phoenix (29-5) tops the previous mark set by Los Angeles (28-4 in both 2000 and 2001) and Seattle (28-6 in 2010).

2015 — The National Labor Relations Board dismisses a historic ruling that Northwestern University football players are school employees who are entitled to form what would be the nation’s first union of college athletes.

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2016 — Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson completes the first 100-200 women’s Olympic double since 1988. Thompson wins the 200 in 21.78 seconds to become the first woman since Marion Jones in 2000 to win both Olympic sprints. Jones’ records have since been stripped, so Thompson goes in the record book along with Florence Griffith-Joyner, who starred in the 1988 Seoul Games.

And finally

Highlights of Monday’s Dodgers-Pirates game. 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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