The Sports Report: What to do about Russell Westbrook?

Russell Westbrook
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Looking for Rams news? That comes in our special Super Bowl newsletter that you will get at 6 a.m. each day until the day after the Super Bowl. If you are subscribed to this newsletter, you are automatically subscribed to the Super Bowl newsletter.

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Russell Westbrook, the Lakers guard who does everything loudly, meekly clapped his hands together from the end of the team’s bench, his play landing him here instead of out there.


Without him on the court, the Lakers were putting the Knicks away in overtime on Saturday. With him on the floor, they were outscored by 15 points, a stretch that included the end of the fourth when his mistakes helped the Lakers cough up a seven-point lead.

So Frank Vogel, for the second time in the Lakers’ last three home games, decided to close with the team’s $44-million man on the bench.

To finish off the Knicks, Vogel instead played Talen Horton-Tucker throughout overtime.

“Obviously Russ was having a tough night on both sides of the ball and [LeBron James] was really going,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ 122-115 win. “So I knew the ball was gonna be in Bron’s hands, and I felt like we were going to get more from a defensive perspective and off-ball action with Talen. So … you just make tough decisions in the spirit of whatever the team needs to win a game.”

Westbrook shot 1 for 10 with four turnovers. He scored only five points, a season low. It’s only the second time in his career that Westbrook scored five points or fewer in 29 minutes or more.

It’s also the first time since April 12, 2017 that he didn’t score more than five points.

“Everybody has off nights. I have some. Other people may have some. And that’s a part of the game,” Westbrook said. “That’s basketball. But I don’t care about anything as long as we won. Winning is the most important part of this game.”

Postgame, Westbrook seemed unaffected — smiling on his way into a postgame news conference and not complaining about Vogel’s decision.


“He’s the coach. He makes the decision on whatever he feels is best for his team,” Westbrook said. “Like I said, the most important part is not about myself, it’s about our team. We won the game and that’s the most important part.”

But is it?

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

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


Note: Our Olympics coverage is done in real time, so if you don’t want to know what happened before you watch TV today, skip down to the TV schedule.

Nathan Fenno on skiing: Mikaela Shiffrin fell seconds into her first run of the giant slalom Monday and was eliminated from the competition in a shocking start to her Beijing Olympics.

Shiffrin, the world’s top female skier, won a gold medal in the giant slalom four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games and was a favorite to earn another medal in the event.

“You’re only five turns into it and it’s like, well, yeah, the day was finished basically before it even started,” Shiffrin said. “But I felt that I had really the right mentality. Actually, I’m proud of those five turns. But, yeah. I mean, it’s a huge disappointment. Not even counting medals.”


She had won two World Cup giant slaloms this season and ranked third in the world in the event. But in her first race of the Games at the Yanqing National Alpine Centre, Shiffrin missed a gate, fell on her side for an instant, then skied off the course.

Afterward, she mentioned having to take time off last year because of a back injury and being isolated in December after testing positive for the coronavirus. The unwelcome breaks disrupted training. The answer, if there is one, to what happened Monday might be simpler in a sport where the smallest mistake can mean the difference between a medal or, as she experienced, not finishing.

“I skied a couple good turns and I skied one turn wrong,” Shiffrin said. “I really paid the hardest consequence for that and now we have to move forward because there’s a lot still to come.”

There’s plenty of time for redemption. Shiffrin plans to ski the four other individual events, if the weather cooperates and leaves the schedule intact. That’s not a given on a mountain where gusting wind has been a constant problem.


American figure skater Vincent Zhou has tested positive as part of regular COVID-19 screening at the Beijing Olympics, one day after struggling through a poor free skate for the eventual team silver medalists.

Zhou is undergoing additional testing Monday to confirm his status. If the results are negative, he will be allowed to compete in the individual competition, which begins with the men’s short program on Tuesday.


The high-flying but wildly inconsistent 21-year-old Zhou arrived in Beijing with high hopes of contending for a medal. He finished sixth in the men’s program at the Pyeongchang Games, but his second-place finish at the NHK Trophy and victory at Skate American in his two Grand Prix assignments gave him hopes of earning a medal.


An astronaut and an alien danced eloquently about the power of love and Karen Chen discovered the power of redemption, two seemingly unrelated concepts that somehow came together Monday to fuel a silver-medal finish for the U.S. in the Olympic figure skating team event.

“Astronaut” Evan Bates teamed with “alien” Madison Chock of Redondo Beach to perform an exquisite free dance to music by Daft Punk and defeat the reigning world champions, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Chock and Bates pretty much clinched the silver medal by performing the highest-scored free dance and earning a personal-best 129.07 points. But Chen, who was upset with herself after falling on a familiar jump in her short program Sunday, added a nice flourish in the last phase of the event with a free skate program that had a few minor flaws but was otherwise entrancing.

The Russian Olympic Committee won the three-day team event with 74 points, to 65 for the U.S. and 63 for Japan.


For three days, gusts of sub-zero wind baffled and battered the men trying to navigate the two-mile downhill run at the Yanqing National Alpine Centre.


The wind delayed the competition at the Winter Games by a day in addition to wreaking havoc with the prerace training schedule.

But the wind calmed Monday and allowed Switzerland’s Beat Feuz to claim the sport’s signature race.

“It was perfect weather, no wind, and I was just standing perfectly on the skis,” he said. “A dream come true.”

Feuz, a 13-time downhill winner on the World Cup circuit, finished in 1 minute, 42.69 seconds. France’s Johan Clarey took silver, 0.10 seconds behind, and Austria’s Matthias Mayer earned bronze.


Olympic volunteers lined up shoulder to shoulder at Genting Snow Park’s slopestyle course to witness history. They clapped and waved ski poles in the air as, 50 feet below the impromptu audience, Su Yiming stepped onto the Olympic podium.

Su, a 17-year-old Olympic rookie, won China’s first Olympic men’s snowboarding medal, taking home silver in slopestyle Monday. Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris took home gold and bronze, respectively, while defending champion Red Gerard finished fourth.



Monday’s TV Schedule


11:45 p.m. Sunday – 9:30 a.m.

Men’s short track speedskating – 1,000 meters final (Live)

Women’s short track speedskating – 500 meters final (Live)

Women’s speedskating – 1,500 meters (Live)

Women’s luge – Second run (Live)

Men’s snowboarding – Slopestyle final

Mixed doubles curling – U.S. vs. Great Britain

Women’s biathlon – 15-kilometer individual

Mixed team ski jumping – Normal hill

9:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Mixed doubles curling – Semifinals

Women’s speedskating – 1,500 meters

Women’s luge – First and second runs

Women’s biathlon – 15-kilometer individual

5:15 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

Men’s figure skating – Short program (Live)

8:10 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.


Women’s ice hockey – U.S. vs. Canada (Live)

10:30 p.m. – 11:50 a.m.

Men’s and women’s snowboarding – Parallel giant slalom final (Live)


11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Men’s speedskating – 5,000 meters

Men’s cross-country skiing – Skiathlon

Men’s ski jumping – Normal hill final

4 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Figure skating – Team event (Live)

Figure skating – Pairs’ free skate

Figure skating – Free dance

Figure skating – Women’s free skate

Women’s Alpine skiing – Giant slalom first run (Live)

Women’s freestyle skiing – Big air qualifying (Live)

Women’s freestyle skiing – Moguls final

Men’s Alpine skiing – Downhill first run

Men’s Luge – Third and final runs

9 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Women’s Alpine skiing – Giant slalom final (Live)

Men’s Snowboarding – Slopestyle final


Beijing Olympics live: Latest news and results from the 24th Winter Games


For Olympic skiers, defying death and conquering injury are part of the sport

Elliott: Disparity in women’s hockey continues to drag down the sport

Julia Marino claims silver as Jamie Anderson’s golden reign in slopestyle ends


Andrew Greif on the Clippers: One day after arriving in Los Angeles the centerpiece of a trade the Clippers believe will point their trajectory upward, Norman Powell was rising Sunday evening, higher and faster than any Milwaukee defender, toward the rim.

His two-handed dunk, off a dead sprint from beyond the three-point arc made possible by first crossing over Jrue Holiday, one of the NBA’s feared defenders, was met with cheers from a fanbase that hopes explosiveness like that will become the norm -- and upgrade this team’s offense both now and in the future, when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eventually return.

But Powell’s burst, as sudden as it was, had only trimmed the Clippers’ deficit to 20.

As welcomes go, the Clippers rolled out a mat for new additions Powell and Robert Covington as only they could in Arena. Their offense went from clicking to clanging, again, leading to a scoring drought of more than five minutes, again. When they fell behind by 25 points with 15 minutes to play, nobody who has watched this team in the past month batted an eye. Because it set the stage for a comeback.



Powell opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer. He drove to the rim, was fouled on his layup, and made the free throw. Flipped the ball for a wide-open wing three, he instead rerouted the pass to Covington in the corner, who made his three-pointer. Out of a Milwaukee timeout, Powell drove headlong into the paint again, and when his layup missed, Covington was there to tap in a basket for a nine-point deficit with nine minutes to play.

But the reigning world champions answered the Clippers’ charge, swatting away their push in a manner so many other opponents have not in the past four weeks through a 17-7 run over the last four minutes. Final score: Milwaukee 137, Clippers 113.


Luca Evans on NASCAR: It was time to give the parents a break for the weekend.

Three weeks after Los Angeles native Eugene Hasson found an online ad for a NASCAR race at the Coliseum, here he was with his wife Angela Smith, taking his grandkids Aenus, Aziel and Ace out for an afternoon to experience a sport they’d never seen before.

The kids dangled their feet from crimson seats, lollipop stems protruding from their mouths, each sporting a pair of headphones nearly as large as their heads. Aenus is 6 years old, Ace 4 and Aziel 2; sitting in direct earshot of the hundreds of horsepower revving up nearby would naturally be an issue.

The noise could be managed, however. Many of the kids’ favorite toys at home were racecars. It was time to see them come to life.


“We want to soak it all in,” Hasson said. “They’re really excited … we may become fans.”

There was plenty to soak in Sunday at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum — everything from gasp-inducing spinouts to permanently damaged racecars to Pitbull telling the crowd, “we making history!”

After the asphalt settled, Joey Logano emerged as the winner of the 150-lap main event, duking it out with Kyle Busch down the stretch to pull ahead convincingly. Ultimately, though, NASCAR as a whole won on Sunday — hosting a spectacle in front of approximately 50,000 that captivated a major market in Los Angeles.

“This could’ve gone awful,” Logano said after the race. “It went great.”


IImar’I Thomas scored a team-high 16 points and notched her first double-double of the season with 12 rebounds as the UCLA women’s basketball team defeated California 59-54 in Pauley Pavilion.

With UCLA (10-7, 5-5 Pac-12) trailing by two points at 43-41 and 4:23 left in regulation, Charisma Osborne stripped a California defender of an offensive rebound, and on the other end of the court, located Thomas on the low post. Thomas scored the tying bucket with a lay-in and drew a foul, giving the Bruins a 44-43 lead at the free throw line that they would not surrender for the rest of the game.


The USC women’s basketball team lost to No. 2-ranked Stanford at Galen Center, 83-57. It was the Trojans’ sixth consecutive loss in Pac-12 play. USC is now 9-11 overall and 2-8 in Pac-12 play while the defending national champions improve to 18-3 overall and 9-0 in conference with their 10th straight victory.

The Cardinal made seven second-half three-pointers to finish with 10 on the day, while USC got just one three to go in the game. Stanford shot 43.7% overall from the floor to USC’s 33.3% and the Cardinal won on the boards 48-34.



1882 — John L. Sullivan wins the world heavyweight bare-knuckle title by beating Paddy Ryan in a nine-round bout in Mississippi City, Miss.

1942 — At the Millrose Games in New York, Dutch Warmerdam becomes the first man to clear 15 feet in the pole vault indoors. Warmerdam, the first to break the 15-foot mark outdoors in 1940, clears 15 feet 3/8 inch.

1949 — Joe DiMaggio signs his contract with the New York Yankees, making him the first baseball player to earn $100,000 per year.

1969 — Diana Crump becomes the first female jockey to race at a U.S. pari-mutuel track. She rode her first mount to 10th place in a field of 12 in Hialeah, Fla.

1970 — Pete Maravich scores 69 points, including 47 in the second half, to set a NCAA record, but LSU loses to Alabama 106-104.

1976 — Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs sets an NHL record for points in a game with six goals and four assists in an 11-4 victory over the Boston Bruins.


1990 — Lisa Leslie of Morningside High in Inglewood, Calif., scores 101 points in the first half against South Torrance High School. The final score is 102-24 as the coach of South Torrance decides not to bring his team out for the second half.

1995 — Joe Mullen becomes the first American-born player to reach 1,000 points in the NHL when he assists on two of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first three goals in a 7-3 victory over Florida.

2000 — With an astonishing comeback to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Tiger Woods wins his sixth straight PGA Tour victory. Seven strokes behind with seven holes to play, Woods holes a 97-yard wedge for eagle on the 15th, and birdies two of the last three holes to win. Woods becomes the first player since Ben Hogan in 1948 to win six straight.

2010 — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints rally to beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in the Super Bowl.

2013 — Tyler Griffey makes an uncontested layup at the buzzer off a baseline inbound pass and Illinois beats No. 1 Indiana 74-72, the fifth straight week the nation’s top-ranked team loses. The Hoosiers took over the top spot in The Associated Press’ Top 25 on Feb. 4. The run of No. 1 teams to lose has been Duke, Louisville, Duke again, Michigan and Indiana.

2015 — Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee becomes the second NCAA men’s basketball coach to win 1,000 games. Magee, who won 1,000 games over 48 seasons at the school, hits the milestone with the Rams’ 80-60 win over Post.


2016 — Von Miller forces two fumbles to set up Denver’s two touchdowns and the Broncos defense frustrates Cam Newton all game to carry Peyton Manning to his second Super Bowl title with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

2016 — Rachel Banham ties an NCAA women’s record with 60 points — with 10 coming in the first overtime and eight in the second — to lead Minnesota to a 112-106 win over Northwestern. Banham matches the 60 points put up by Cindy Brown of Long Beach State against San Jose State on Feb. 16, 1987.

2018 — St. John’s takes down another of the nation’s elite, and stuns No. 1 Villanova 79-75 for its second win over a top-five team in one week. St. John’s beat then-No. 4 Duke 81-77 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 3, snapping an 11-game losing streak.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Mikaela Shiffrin crashes out of the women’s giant slalom. 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, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.