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The Sports Report: Rams’ Whitworth retires, Hekker to be released

Andrew Whitworth
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Gary Klein: Andrew Whitworth, the Rams’ left tackle for the last five seasons and a pillar of the Super Bowl championship team, will retire after a 16-year NFL career, the team announced Tuesday.

Whitworth, 40, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. He is one of only five NFL offensive linemen to play into their 40s and the oldest to start at left tackle.

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The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Whitworth capped his career in February by helping the Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. A few days before the game, he was named the winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, presented annually to a player for his outstanding achievement on the field and in the community.

The Rams plan to release punter Johnny Hekker, a four-time All-Pro who was the longest tenured Rams player on their Super Bowl championship team, a person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.

Hekker’s release will come after the start of the NFL’s new league year, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the move will not become official until Wednesday.

Hekker, 32, signed with the Rams as a free agent in 2012 and became an invaluable tool for Rams special teams under former coordinator John Fassel and current coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

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NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT

From Ryan Kartje: Chevez Goodwin’s smartwatch started lighting up seconds after USC’s selection into the NCAA tournament was announced, and amid the flurry of texts from friends and family in South Carolina, there was a prevailing sense of disbelief in the serendipity.

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After two years spent more than 2,000 miles away from home, after a college career that spanned three schools and the second-most basketball games played in Division I (171), Goodwin’s last ride will start where it all began in South Carolina.

“It was destined,” one friend texted Goodwin just as USC was announced as a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region, slated to face 10th-seeded Miami in Greenville on Friday.

It sure seemed scripted to USC’s sixth-year forward, a budding screenwriter who has penned a few movie scripts. But even he wouldn’t have imagined such a storybook ending. Goodwin grew up an hour away in Columbia, spent his freshman season at College of Charleston and the next three at Wofford in nearby Spartanburg.

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NCAA tournament bracket picks: J. Brady McCollough’s prediction for every game

Roundtable: Here’s what UCLA and USC need to do to earn NCAA tournament success

Results and schedule

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First Four
at Dayton, Ohio
Tuesday’s results
Midwest Region: No. 16 Texas Southern 76, No. 16 Texas A&M-CC 67
East: No. 12 Indiana 66, No. 12 Wyoming 58

Today
South: No. 16 Bryant vs. No. 16 Wright State, 3:30 p.m., truTV
West: No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Rutgers, 6 p.m., truTV

First Round
Thursday

West
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Georgia State, 1:15 p.m., TNT
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Vermont. 6:20 p.m., TNT
No. 5 Connecticut vs. No. 12 New Mexico State, 3:50 p.m., TNT
No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 9 Memphis, 10:45 a.m., TNT

East
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Norfolk State, 11 a.m., TBS
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s, 4:10 p.m., CBS
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Akron, 6:50 p.m., TBS
No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 Indiana, 4:20 p.m., TBS
No. 7 Murray State vs. No. 10 San Francisco, 6:40 p.m., CBS
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Marquette, 1:30 p.m., TBS

Midwest
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Texas Southern, 6:57 p.m., truTV
No. 4 Providence vs. No. 13 South Dakota State, 9:40 a.m., truTV
No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 12 Richmond, 12:10 p.m., truTV
No. 8 San Diego State vs. No. 9 Creighton, 4:27 p.m., truTV

South
No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Longwood, 11:45 a.m., CBS
No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 Michigan, 9:15 a.m., CBS

Friday

West
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 CS Fullerton, 4:10 p.m., CBS
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 Montana State, 10:45 a.m., TNT
No. 6 Alabama vs. No. 11 Notre Dame/Rutgers winner, 1:15 p.m., TNT
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Davidson, 6:40 p.m., CBS

East
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Yale, 11 a.m., TBS
No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech, 1:30 p.m., TBS

Midwest
No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State, 9:40 a.m., truTV
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Colgate, 6:50 p.m., TBS
No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 Miami, 12:10 p.m., truTV
No. 6 LSU vs. No. 11 Iowa State. 4:20 p.m., TBS

South
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Bryant/Wright State winner, 4:27 p.m., truTV
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Delaware, 11:45 a.m., CBS
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Chattanooga, 3:50 p.m., TNT
No. 5 Houston vs. No. 12 Alabama Birmingham, 6:20 p.m., TNT
No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 Texas Christian, 6:57 p.m., truTV
No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Loyola of Chicago, 9:15 a.m., CBS

NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: This isn’t what Cori Close wanted. A trip to the WNIT is never on the UCLA coach’s calendar for March. But as she told her team after the Bruins missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015, this is what they earned.

“So make the most of what we’ve earned,” Close said Monday, one day after UCLA discovered its postseason landing spot. “Make no excuses, and let’s go compete and become and show the team what we want to become and show.”

After a challenging, injury-riddled season, UCLA ‘s postseason redemption tour begins Friday at 7 p.m. against UC Irvine in the first round of the postseason WNIT.

For a program that had not only played in five consecutive NCAA tournaments but earned a top-four seed in four of them, playing in the WNIT comes with mixed emotions.

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UCLA (14-12) entered the season with high hopes, relying on an influx of talented transfers that would overcome the loss of Michaela Onyenwere, who’s now in the WNBA. Then injuries piled up, starting with forward Emily Bessoir (knee) and point guard Gina Conti (foot). Then a COVID-19 pause canceled three nonconference games that could have helped bolster the Bruins’ postseason resume. They were one of the first four teams out of the 68-team NCAA tournament field.

Schedule

First Four
Today
No. 16 Incarnate Word vs. No. 16 Howard, 4 p.m. ESPNU
No. 11 DePaul vs. No. 11 Dayton, 6 p.m. ESPNU

Thursday
No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 Longwood, 4 p.m., ESPN2
No. 11 Florida State vs. No. 11 Missouri State, 6 p.m., ESPN2

First round
Friday

Spokane Region
No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast, 11:30 a.m. ESPNU
No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 13 Delaware, 2 p.m., ESPNU
No. 7 Utah vs. No. 10 Arkansas, 2:30 p.m., ESPNews
No. 8 Kansas vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech, 4:30 p.m., ESPNU
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Fairfield, 5 p.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 16 Montana State, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Wichita Region
No. 7 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 South Dakota. 10:30 a.m., ESPN2
No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, 12:30 p.m., ESPNews
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 15 Hawaii, 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 Albany, 3 p.m., ESPN2

Greensboro Region
No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 South Florida, 8:30 a.m., ESPN2
No. 7 Colorado vs. No. 10 Creighton, 10:30 a.m. ESPNews
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 16 Incarnate Word/Howard winner, 11 a.m., ESPN
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Illinois State, 1 p.m., ESPN
No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 DePaul/Dayton winner, 4:30 p.m., ESPNews
No. 3 Iowa State vs. UT Arlington, 7 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday

Spokane Region
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Florida State/Missouri State winner, 11:30 a.m., ESPNU
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Jackson State, 2 p.m., ESPNU

Wichita Region
No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Villanova, 10 a.m., ESPNews
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Buffalo, Noon, ABC
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 14 American, 12:30 p.m., ESPN2
No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 Belmont, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2

Greensboro Region
No. 5 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin, 4:30 p.m., ESPNews
No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 13 UNLV, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Bridgeport Region
No. 8 Washington State vs. No. 9 Kansas State, 8:30 a.m., ESPN2
No. 2 Connecticut vs. No. 15 Mercer, 10 a.m., ABC
No. 3 Indiana vs. No. 14 Charlotte, 10:30 a.m., ESPN2
No. 1 North Carolina State vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s/Longwood winner, 11 a.m., ESPN
No. 7 Central Florida vs. No. 10 Florida, 12:30 p.m., ESPNews
No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Princeton, 1 p.m., ESPN
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Massachusetts, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 IUPUI, 7 p.m., ESPNU

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: After Mookie Betts flew out of the gates to begin his Dodgers career, helping the team to a World Series title in 2020 while finishing second in most-valuable-player voting, last year was a series of stop and starts for the star outfielder.

After beginning slowly at the plate, Betts was sidelined by a bone spur in his right hip. He missed 11 games in July, 16 in August and occasionally played at second base to help manage the nagging discomfort.

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“It was pretty frustrating,” Betts said.

Betts hopes it’s behind him. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old sounded upbeat, saying he hasn’t had any discomfort since the end of last season and reported to spring training over the weekend “ready to go.”

“Things have been smooth,” Betts added, noting that he didn’t need any MRIs or other examinations before camp. “It’s been pretty normal. So no need.”

The Dodgers will be hoping it translates to a bounce-back season for Betts, who still was one of their best hitters last year but fell short of his elite production.

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Federal judge rules minor leaguers are year-round MLB employees

Former Dodger Corey Seager will take on a new, unfamiliar role with Rangers

Hernández: Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías is calmer and more confident for 2022

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Five Dodgers spring subplots: Will Trea Turner get an extension? Who is the closer?

Rangers disappointed to not get Clayton Kershaw. But what about next year?

Freedom, faster? California bill could limit how long MLB teams control minor leaguers

ANGELS

From Dylan Hernández: On the surface, nothing had changed.

Shohei Ohtani was as soft-spoken Tuesday as he was five years ago when he was in camp with the Angels for the first time.

He responded to questions with the enthusiasm of a customer service representative.

The majority of his answers were brief.

He rarely smiled.

The bland mask concealed the single greatest force at the Angels’ spring training complex, an ambition as gargantuan as some of the homers the 27-year-old two-way player launches in batting practice.

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Others viewed Ohtani’s 2021 campaign as a once-in-a-century tour de force. Ohtani saw his MVP season as something else: a starting point.

“If I think of trying to do what I did last year, it will be hard to put up the same kinds of numbers,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I would like to aim higher and higher.”

CHARGERS

From Jeff Miller: The Chargers announced Tuesday that they have placed tenders on offensive tackle Storm Norton, wide receiver Jalen Guyton and tight end Donald Parham Jr., meaning each will remain with the team.

They also released right tackle Bryan Bulaga, opening $10.75 million of salary cap space. In another move that was expected, quarterback Chase Daniel agreed to a one-year contract to return as Justin Herbert’s backup.

KINGS

Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves for his second straight shutout, Valeri Nichushkin and J.T. Compher scored on the power play, and the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Kings 3-0.

Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist, and the Avalanche continued their push for a second straight Presidents’ Trophy by becoming the first team this season to pass the 90-point mark.

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Kuemper followed up his 46-save showing in a 3-0 win over Calgary on Sunday by getting his fifth shutout of the season.

Jonathan Quick allowed three goals on 27 shots for the Kings, who are 1-2-1 in their last four games.

DUCKS

Adam Fox scored 55 seconds into overtime and the New York Rangers beat the Ducks 4-3.

Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Jonny Brodzinski also scored for the Rangers (38-17-5), who have won five of seven. Artemi Panarin had three assists and Fox added two to help New York improve to 12-2-1 in its last 15 home games. Alexandar Georgiev made 20 saves.

Max Comtois, Cam Fowler and Derek Grant scored for Anaheim (27-25-11), which lost its fifth straight (0-3-2) — all on the road. Adam Henrique had two assists.

TENNIS

From Helene Elliott: Stefanos Tsitispas didn’t seem all that impressed by Jenson Brooksby after the precocious 21-year-old from Sacramento had upset him in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

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“I don’t think there’s something that makes him tricky to play,” said Tsitsipas, ranked No. 4 in the world, after Brooksby prevailed 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Monday.

OK, Brooksby isn’t tricky. Then what makes him so difficult to play?

“Putting balls back. That’s what makes him difficult,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s not a very explosive player, but he’s able to get balls back. He’s not the most athletic player as well. He’s just able to read the game well, play with his pace, play with the opponent’s pace. He’s able to read the game well and stay consistent.

“There’s nothing that he has that kills, I would say.”

That’s enough about what Brooksby supposedly doesn’t have. Focus on what he has: talent, smarts and the maturity to belong in the forefront of a modest resurgence by American male tennis players.

An American man won at least one Grand Slam singles title from 1990 through 2003. On five occasions during the dominance of Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, American men won three of the four Slams singles titles in a year. Andy Roddick’s 2003 U.S. Open championship was the last in that streak and remains the most recent Slam singles title won by an American man.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: In many ways, Thomas Hudnut, the newest member of the California Horse Racing Board, has the ideal credentials to join the regulatory agency tasked with reforming racing in California.

As the longtime head of Harvard-Westlake, the uber-rich private school in Studio City, he is very familiar dealing with people used to getting their own way and having to figure out how to convince them otherwise.

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He walks in as the possible swing vote on a board that has formed two camps over how to keep racing going in California in the face of vocal opposition.

One group, led by Vice Chairman Oscar Gonzales and including Wendy Mitchell and Brenda Washington Davis, seems willing to use measures such as shortening licenses and increasing penalties for safety issues. The other group is in favor of slower change and a gentle touch when dealing with the tracks and includes Chairman Greg Ferraro, Dennis Alfieri and Alex Solis. Damascus Castellanos was the ideological center, although he tended to vote with the latter group.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1938 — Temple defeats Colorado 60-36 in the first National Invitation Tournament and the first major postseason basketball tournament.

1947 — Billy Taylor of the Detroit Red Wings sets an NHL record with seven assists in a 10-6 triumph over the Chicago Black Hawks.

1955 — NHL President Clarence Campbell suspends Maurice “Rocket” Richard for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs after striking linesman Cliff Thompson during a melee in a game against the Boston Bruins.

1961 — Montreal’s Bernie Geoffrion becomes the second player to score 50 goals in a season in a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maurice Richard was the first to do it, in 1945.

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1971 — Goaltender Glenn Hall gets his 407th and final NHL victory as the St. Louis Blues post a 6-2 win against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

1990 — Philip Hutcheson of David Lipscomb University hits a running 5-foot hook shot in the NAIA Tournament to become the all-time scoring champion of college basketball. The 6-foot-8 Hutcheson, who scored in double figures in every college game he played, breaks the record of 4,045 set in 1969-72 by Travis Grant of Kentucky State.

2005 — Norway’s Robert Sorlie wins his second Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in one of the closest races in years. Sorlie completes the 1,100-mile race across Alaska in nine days, 18 hours, 39 minutes and 31 seconds. He’s still in the winner’s circle when Ed Iten of Kotzebue crossed the line 34 minutes later.

2007 — Kobe Bryant scores 33 of his 65 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Lakers to a 116-111 win over Portland.

2008 — Denver sets NBA season highs for points in a half with 84 and points in a game with a 168-116 rout of the Seattle SuperSonics.

2010 — Lance Mackey wins the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to become the first musher in the event’s 38-year history to win four consecutive races.

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2012 — Kyle O’Quinn has 26 points and 14 rebounds to help No. 15 seed Norfolk State stun second-seeded Missouri 86-84 in the West Regional of the men’s NCAA tournament. C.J. McCollum scores 30 points and Lehigh upsets Duke 75-70 in the South Regional to become the second No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 during a wild day in the NCAA tournament.

2013 — Mikaela Shiffrin delivers an astonishing second run to overtake Tina Maze and clinch the World Cup slalom title with an improbable come-from behind victory at Lenzerheide, Switzerland. The American teenager trailing Maze by a massive 1.17 seconds after the first leg, finishes ahead of the Slovenian in the second run to win the slalom title in her first full season on the circuit.

2013 — Ted Ligety caps his dominant season in giant slalom with a sixth World Cup win at Lenzerheide, Switzerland. The American skier joins Ingemar Stenmark as the only men in the 47-year World Cup history to get six GS victories in a season. Stenmark’s 10-race sweep in 1978-79 is the record.

2018 — Senior guard Jairus Lyles scores 28 points and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulls off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 to become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in men’s basketball. Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Kobe Bryant scores 65 points against Portland. Watch and listen here.

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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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