The Sports Report: After a real break, LeBron James is refreshed and ready to go

LeBron James
LeBron James
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Time — LeBron James never had much of it to begin with. But going into the Lakers’ title defense last season, there was less of it than usual.


There was a movie to film and voter rights issues to support. That was on top of the normal commitments, the work in his hometown, dealing with his expanding production company and growing media empire. And, with the clock ticking faster than ever, there was a compressed season to play during the pandemic.

A year later, on the heels of an actual offseason with relaxation and a total reset, James has been setting the tone for the Lakers in a pair of early training camp practices, his legendary energy levels apparently restored.

“[It’s] just the energy. Energy alone,” he said. “Just, you know, last year after coming off the bubble, it literally took everything away from you. Any little bit of energy that you had, it was completely gone when we left there. … Guys just didn’t have an opportunity to get a mental break.”

James wasn’t bored this summer. When the cast of your movie is mostly animated, you end up doing a lot of the promotional work. Yet he did have time for family, for friends, for physical and emotional recovery.

He wasn’t out of the gym — James would routinely post videos from 6 a.m. workouts, his bearded mouth rapping along to a booming beat while he broke a pre-sunrise sweat. He even recruited new Lakers to join him, dragging them from their beds for barre workouts.

“He sets a great tone for attentiveness, hanging on every word the coaches are saying and making sure he’s understanding it, executing it at the right level,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I think that sets a tone for the rest of the guys absorbing what we’re trying to get through to them.


“It starts there. But then, obviously, his overall basketball mind and the experience in our system the last two years. Just like the assistant coaches, every time we implement something, if there’s a detail that needs to be cleaned up, he’s very vocal in those situations too. But I think if his voice is hoarse, it’s because of the intensity of today’s practice.”

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Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers completed their third straight series sweep of the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, discarding their once competitive foes aside like the dismal sub-.500 team they’ve become in an 8-3 victory.

It was their ninth straight win over the Padres and 103rd win of the season -- tied for fifth most in franchise history -- with three games remaining. An undefeated finish and they’d match the franchise record set two years ago.

The problem is the San Francisco Giants have been even better, leaving the Dodgers as quite possibly the best second-place team since divisions were implemented in 1969.

The Dodgers completed their win Thursday minutes before LaMonte Wade Jr.’s walk-off single gave the Giants a 5-4 win over the 50-win Arizona Diamondbacks, keeping the Dodgers two games behind them in the National League West standings.

The Dodgers (103-56) continued Thursday where they left from their late-inning home run barrage Wednesday with back-to-back home runs from Mookie Betts and Corey Seager to start the bottom of the first inning. Justin Turner and AJ Pollock then went back-to-back in the fourth to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

An inning later, Fernando Tatis Jr. mashed the longest home run of them all for the Padres (78-81), a 457-foot, two-run blast that bounced off the top of the roof over the left field pavilion and out of the stadium. The home run – Tatis’s seventh at Dodger Stadium this season -- was the second-longest home run hit in the ballpark since 2015.

The Dodgers followed with a three-run sixth inning on four singles to effectively put the game away. Seager clubbed his second home run – and third in two days – in the eighth inning to remove any doubt as the Dodgers tallied at least five runs in consecutive games for the first time since July 31 and Aug. 1.


Gary Klein on the Rams: Experience has its privileges.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is in his fifth season playing in coach Sean McVay’s offense. That affords Kupp creativity and freedom running routes within parameters set by McVay.

“It makes it a lot of fun as you kind of learn where those parameters are,” Kupp said after practice Thursday, “and pushing them a little bit and making him pull you back, but it’s been really good.”

For Kupp and the Rams.

Kupp goes into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with an NFL-leading five touchdowns and 367 yards receiving. He is tied for the league lead with 25 receptions.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has twice been named the NFC’s offensive player of the week while leading the Rams to a 3-0 start. But Thursday Kupp was named NFC offensive player of the month. He is the first Rams receiver to earn the recognition since Torry Holt in 2003.

“Receiver, more than I think any other position, is reliant upon the other 10 guys doing their job really well,” Kupp said. “To be in the position I’m in, I’m really just a benefactor of 10 others guys doing some really good work.

“So really appreciative for those guys and for the work we’re doing just as a team offensively.”


Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers rushed for only 77 yards Sunday in hot and hostile Kansas City, where a crowd of 72,980 was dominated by red.

But 39 of those yards came in the decisive fourth quarter, during which the Chargers overcame a field-goal deficit by scoring twice in the final three minutes for a 30-24 victory.

Coach Brandon Staley said Thursday that his offense “got into a rhythm” on the ground in the fourth quarter and noted the significance of that development.

“We’re trending positive in that direction,” he explained. “And you need to because, when you go on the road in a place that’s loud, running the football helps you.”

The ground component could be vital again Monday, even though the Chargers will be playing at home.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who is 4-3 playing the Chargers on the road, said trips to Southern California — be it Los Angeles or San Diego — haven’t felt much like trips at all.

“It was always looked at as another home game,” Carr told reporters in Las Vegas. “And that’s no disrespect. It’s a fact.”


Chargers corner Asante Samuel Jr. is NFL’s defensive rookie of the month

NFL Week 4 picks: Chargers knock off Raiders; Rams stay undefeated


Follow our live blog for all the news leading up to the UCLA-Arizona State game.


Follow our live blog for all the news leading up to the USC-Colorado game.


College football: Best games to watch in Week 5


John Cherwa on Bob Baffert: Bob Baffert parlayed a hobby as a 5-foot-9 jockey into a job as a quarter-horse conditioner into a career as a thoroughbred trainer before jumping onto the highest pedestal of horse racing and becoming the most recognizable name in the sport. Two Triple Crown winners and a signature shock of white hair will do that for a man.

Now 68, Baffert is seeing his livelihood and reputation under attack after a series of medication infractions have made him an outcast to some in the industry and a pariah to many more outside of it. He’s the person few in the business want to talk about, but everyone wants to hear about.

“It’s truly painful when you know what the truth is,” Baffert told The Times earlier this week in his first interview on the subject since May. “There have been so many false narratives that have come up and the hearing process isn’t even done yet. The consolation is knowing the truth will come out as the process plays out.

He paused, then added: “I’ve learned who my friends are.”


1903 — The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Pilgrims 7-3 in the first World Series game. Jimmy Sebring hits the first Series homer, Deacon Phillippe is the winning pitcher and Cy Young the loser.

1961 — Roger Maris hits his 61st home run of the season, against Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The blow gives New York a 1-0 victory and eclipses Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old single-season home run record.

1975 — In the “Thrilla in Manila,” Muhammad Ali beats Joe Frazier in 14 rounds to retain his world heavyweight title.

1977 — 75,646 fans come to the Meadowlands to see soccer great Pele play his farewell game. Pele plays the first half with the New York Cosmos and the second half with his former team, Santos of Brazil.

1997 — Kevin Garnett agrees to terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves on the richest long-term contract in pro sports history, a six-year deal worth more than $125 million.

2004 — Ichiro Suzuki sets the major league record for hits in a season, breaking George Sisler’s 84-year-old mark with a pair of early singles as the Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 8-3. Sisler set the hits record of 257 in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns over a 154-game schedule. Suzuki breaks it in the Mariners’ 160th game of the year.

2006 — Tiger Woods matches his longest PGA Tour winning streak of six at the American Express Championship. Woods finishes with a 4-under 67 for an eight-shot victory. It’s also his eighth victory of the year, making him the first player in PGA Tour history to win at least eight times in three seasons.

2011 — Tyler Wilson throws for a school-record 510 yards and Jarius Wright catches 13 passes for a school-record 281 yards as Arkansas turns an 18-point halftime deficit into a 42-38 victory over Texas A&M.

2017 — Frankie Dettori wins an unprecedented fifth Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as Enable caps a memorable season. Enable, the 10-11 favorite, leads for most of Europe’s richest horse race to claim her fifth consecutive victory after wins in the Epsom Oaks, the Irish Oaks, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks. The filly wins by 2 1/2 lengths over Cloth Of Stars.

2017 — Houston’s Deshaun Watson becomes the first rookie to throw four touchdowns and run for another one, since Fran Tarkenton in 1961 and tied an NFL record for most TDs by a rookie quarterback in Houston’s 57-14 victory.

2017 — Todd Gurley scores the go-ahead touchdown on a 53-yard catch-and-run, and Greg Zuerlein kicks a career-high seven field goals to lead the Rams to a 35-30 win over Dallas.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Roger Maris hits his 61st homer. Watch and listen here. “The Thrilla in Manila” Watch it here.

Until next time...

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