Advertisement
Share

The Sports Report: Lakers fall to the Kings

LeBron James dunks in the first quarter.
(José Luis Villegas / Associated Press)

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

Dan Woike on the Lakers: The chorus from the band Foreigner’s hit was sliced and cued up to play as soon as they announced Russell Westbrook’s name as the final player of the Lakers’ starting five.

“You’re as cold as ice.”

Advertisement

They played it again when he tried to squeeze a layup between the rim and the backboard and again when he couldn’t drain the elbow jumper that he likes so much.

And they played it again when Westbrook missed a three-pointer that could’ve cut the lead to one.

Ice cold indeed, Westbrook going 2-for-14 in a 125-116 loss to the Kings in Sacramento.

With the Lakers pushing to get back in the game (a push driven by Westbrook’s offensive energy and passing), he took an ill-advised three and turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions to end the third quarter.

Those mistakes led to five-straight Sacramento points and that Lakers’ comeback being put back on ice.

But just like Westbrook has claimed that he can’t be judged solely on makes or misses, the Lakers have the tools to survive with one of their stars trying to thaw out. It’s just that it can’t happen like this, not with so many of the Lakers’ other issues joining Westbrook in struggling.

Beginning with four straight baskets late in the second quarter, the Lakers fumbled chance after chance because their defense allowed the Kings’ backcourt unimpeded paths to the basket.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams, seeking depth in the wake of injuries in the secondary, have signed Eric Weddle, a six-time Pro Bowl safety who retired after the 2019 season, the team announced Wednesday.

Weddle, 37, played for the Rams in 2019, the final season of a 13-year NFL career that included nine seasons with the Chargers and three with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Rams play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night in an NFC wild-card game at SoFi Stadium.

The Rams signed Weddle and defensive backs Blake Countess and Sharrod Neasman to the practice squad. They also signed safety Jake Gervase to the roster.

Rams safety Jordan Fuller suffered a season-ending ankle injury last Sunday during the team’s ’ 27-24 overtime defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, a loss that dropped the Rams from the No. 2 seed to No. 4.

CHARGERS

Bill Plaschke on the Chargers: In taking their first serious strides toward becoming Los Angeles’ favorite team, the Chargers have the right star, the right culture, the right branding … but have yet to answer the most important question.

Do they have the right coach?

Is bold, brainy but baffling Brandon Staley the best person to lead them into the hearts of this town?

His football intelligence is off the charts, but some game decisions make it appear he’s lost his mind. He’s a defensive whiz, yet his defense ranked among the worst in the league. He’s a players’ coach, yet his players sometimes ignore his pleas to play smart, racking up the league’s third-most penalties.

Everybody loves him, he’s engaging, accountable, and inspirational. After our 20-minute video call Wednesday, this columnist was ready to follow him into battle.

But after his first season as a head coach at any level, Staley was just 9-8 and one of the reasons America can’t marvel at Herbert in the playoffs.

It is unfair to say he will enter next season on the hot seat. But it is perfectly reasonable to expect him to evolve and grow and do whatever it takes to make sure Herbert doesn’t become another postseason-challenged Mike Trout.

Staley had an interesting honeymoon, but that all ended Sunday night in Las Vegas, and now comes the high and hard heat.

He’s unapologetic, unfazed, and ready for it.

”Every fan and every media market has every right to scrutinize these decisions, it’s what makes professional sports so special,” Staley told me, adding, ”What people discover is that I had a really good reason behind what we did and why we did it. I felt like it would be an advantage situation for us. What I’m not scared of, what I’ll not shy away from, is competing to the fullest of our ability.”

NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Wild-card round

Saturday
Las Vegas at Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m., NBC, Cincinnati favored by 5 1/2 points
New England at Buffalo, 5:15 p.m., CBS, Buffalo by 4

Sunday
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m., Fox, Tampa Bay by 8 1/2
San Francisco at Dallas, 1:30 p.m., CBS, Dallas by 3
Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., NBC, Kansas City by 12 1/2

Monday
Arizona at Rams, 5:15 p.m., ABC, ESPN, Rams by 4

Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 on NBC.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Jerry Azzinaro, the embattled UCLA defensive coordinator and longtime Chip Kelly lieutenant, has resigned, according to multiple reports, providing an opportunity for the Bruins to upgrade in the one area in which they have consistently struggled the last four years under Kelly.

Azzinaro’s departure comes with UCLA trying to finalize contract extension discussions with Kelly, who is on track to enter the last season of his deal Sunday when his reciprocal $9-million buyout expires. It was not believed that Kelly faced any demands about staff changes as part of an extension agreement.

UCLA finished 8-4 last season, propped up by a prolific offense, while its struggles came primarily because of a defense that gave up 26.8 points per game, ranking No. 74 nationally.

UCLA’s defense has been a nagging sore spot under Kelly after giving up an average of 34.1 points in 2018, 34.8 points in 2019 and 30.7 points in 2020, leading to calls for Azzinaro’s dismissal.

————

Roundtable: Could Caleb Williams transform USC? What is Chip Kelly’s contract status?

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Natalie Simon has spent much of her life on a soccer field, yet in those 32 years she’s rarely seen another person who looks like her.

“I haven’t had anyone to really identify with,” said Simon, who is Black and Native American. “I was always the only Black person on every team I played on. I was always the token Black girl.”

It was that way in high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on travel teams in South Florida and in college at Stetson, a small, largely white private school east of Orlando.

“I spent a lot of time wondering if I belonged,” Simon said. “I spent most of my career questioning if I was good enough. I think a lot of Black people, especially Black women, can relate to that.”

If Simon felt she stood out as a player though, she’s really about to break new ground as an official. Last month, she was added to the international panel of match referees by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, becoming one of four American women holding a FIFA badge, the highest ranking a referee can aspire to, and the first Black American woman to earn that honor, one that clears her to work international games and tournaments.

And the example she’s setting could open the door for others to follow.

“I can’t believe it’s 2022 and your first Black referee?” said Christina Unkel, who was a FIFA official for seven years. “Maybe I was ignorant. ‘There’s no glass ceilings because that’s the American dream.’ But until you see someone that looks like you, do you truly believe it or think ‘Hey, you know, there are people that look like me that do that’?

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1962 — Wilt Chamberlain scores an NBA regulation-game record 73 points to lead the Philadelphia Warriors to a 135-117 triumph over the Chicago Packers.

1971 — Lenny Wilkens of the Seattle Supersonics, at 33, becomes the oldest All-Star MVP as he scores 21 points to give the West a 108-107 victory over the East.

1974 — The Miami Dolphins win their second straight Super Bowl in their third straight appearance with a 24-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Larry Csonka, the game’s MVP, gains 145 yards on 33 carries and scores a touchdown.

1986 — NCAA schools vote overwhelmingly in favor of adopting the controversial Proposition 48. The rule requires that incoming freshman maintain 2.0 grade point averages and score 700 or more on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or a 15 on the American College Testing program.

1987 — Lewis Lloyd and Mitchell Wiggins of the Houston Rockets become the third and fourth NBA players to be banned from the league for using cocaine.

1991 — Phil Mickelson overcomes an 8 on the 14th hole to become the second amateur since 1954 to win a PGA Tour event as he posts a one-shot victory over Bob Tway and Tom Purtzer in the Northern Telecom Open.

1995 — America3, the first all-women’s team in the 144-year history of America’s Cup, wins the first race of the America’s Cup defender trials, beating Team Dennis Conner by 1 minute, 9 seconds.

1997 — Spain’s Carlos Moya becomes the first man to knock out the defending champion in the opening round of a Grand Slam event in 20 years. After 3 1-2 hours of brutal heat, Moya beats Boris Becker 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 at the Australian Open.

2003 — Jennifer Capriati becomes the first women’s Australian Open defending champion to lose in the first round in the Open era. Capriati, seeded third, loses 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 to 90th-ranked Marlene Weingartner of Germany.

2006 — Larry Brown becomes the fourth coach in NBA history to win 1,000 regular-season games as New York beats Atlanta 105-94. Brown, 1,000-762 in 23 seasons in the NBA, joins Lenny Wilkens, Don Nelson and Pat Riley in the 1,000-win club.

2010 — Kobe Bryant nails a game-winning jumper with 28 seconds left, lifting the Lakers to a 100-95 victory over Dallas. The Lakers become the first NBA team to reach 3,000 wins.

2013 — Matt Bryant kicks a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left and the Atlanta Falcons bounce back after blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, defeating Seattle 30-28 in an NFC divisional playoff game. The Falcons lead 27-7 at the start of the final quarter before rookie quarterback Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks to three fourth-quarter touchdowns and a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left.

2013 — Tom Brady becomes the winningest quarterback in postseason play, throwing for three touchdowns to beat Houston 41-28 and lift the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game. Brady gets his 17th victory, surpassing Joe Montana, by throwing for 344 yards.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The Dolphins defeat the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. Watch and listen 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.


Advertisement