The Sports Report: What’s next for the Lakers?

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook brings the ball up during a game against the Jazz
Russell Westbrook
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

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

From Dan Woike: The Lakers were built on the hope this season that the Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook could deliver the franchise an NBA-best 18th championship.

The Lakers were also built on the hope that aging future Hall of Famers and role players had strong enough backs to be serious contenders for the crown.

It turned out to be false hope.

Now the question becomes how do Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and Kurt Rambis, the team’s senior basketball advisor, build a team for next season that will give their fans hope for better results following this disastrous season during which the Lakers were eliminated from NBA play-in tournament contention on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

James, Davis and Westbrook played just 21 games together this season because of multiple injuries to James and Davis. They went 11-10 in those games, hardly inspiring confidence that this was a championship-quality team.


Westbrook was asked late Tuesday night whether he‘d like to see what they can accomplish if healthy next season with that trio intact.

“Yeah. I mean, that’s the plan. But nothing is promised,” he said. “You kinda gotta take one day at a time each day. And like I’ve said all season long, you got to play the cards you’re dealt. Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season. But we’re not sure if that’s guaranteed neither. So, I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something.”

Pelinka and Rambis will be challenged to put together a championship roster for next season that won’t be old and slow like this current underwhelming rendition.

The Lakers have just four players under contract for next season — James ($44.4 million), Davis ($37.9 million), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10 million) and Austin Reaves ($1.5 million).

Two others have player options — Westbrook ($47.1 million) and Kendrick Nunn ($5.2 million).

Presumably, Westbrook will opt in, considering how much he’s due to earn, and so will Nunn, since he hasn’t played all season because of a bone bruise in his right knee.

The Lakers have a team option on Stanley Johnson ($2.3 million). They can give a qualifying offer to Mason Jones ($1.5 million), who is a restricted free agent after his two-way contract expires. They also have Wenyen Gabriel signed through next season on a two-way contract.

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From Jack Harris: Dave Roberts said he believes the Dodgers could have one of the best rotations in baseball.

“I’d put us somewhere in the top 10,” he said on “The Dan Patrick Show” last month.

It’s also the group that worries the seventh-year manager the most.

“I think probably starting pitching depth,” Roberts told reporters on the last day of spring training in Arizona, when asked what part of the team concerns him when he unwinds every night. “I think that’s probably the thing that occupies my mind.”

For all the talent the Dodgers have amassed in their collection of starting pitchers, they are lacking the proven depth they’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. The ceiling is as high as ever for the group, but the floor also seems precariously low.

And at the dawn of a new season, it is shaping up to be perhaps the most consequential area of the roster. While a star-studded lineup is the most impressive part of the 2022 Dodgers, the success of their starting rotation might be the most important.

“I think it’s about our starting pitching,” Roberts said while making his title guarantee to Patrick. “Just keeping our guys healthy.”


NL West preview: Can anyone stop the Dodgers from winning the division?


From Mike DiGiovanna: This is the year the Angels have the pitching, hitting and defense to win the American League West, when they stay healthy and play well enough to snap a seven-year playoff drought and send two of baseball’s most transcendent stars, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, to the postseason.

To which most Angels fans, hardened by years of rickety rotations, threadbare bullpens, injuries to key players, failed free-agent pursuits and an abundance of overpaid and underachieving veterans, would respond: Yeah, right.

“First of all, I understand the skepticism, absolutely, I do,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “And they have every right to be.”

The Angels are 1,600 miles from Missouri, but they open the 2022 season against the Houston Astros on Thursday night in a show-me state. Until they show they’re good enough and deep enough to contend for a playoff berth, they won’t shed the narrative of negativity that has dogged them for seven years.


Hernández: Will Arte Moreno prove to Shohei Ohtani he’s fully invested in winning?


From Andrew Greif: With a pair of second-quarter free throws in a runaway Wednesday win, Paul George became only the 16th active NBA player with at least 15,000 points.

But the real milestone – the one that alters the Clippers’ postseason potential, at least – was reached 10 minutes earlier when George checked in to begin the second quarter.

In a season that has been one, long waiting game for the Clippers’ trio of injured stars to return, Wednesday marked the moment two-thirds were together for the first time, and if Norman Powell’s performance in his first game since Feb. 10 turned heads, his first minutes together with George as Clippers turned a 113-109 Clippers victory with otherwise little bearing on how a potential first-round series could look into one teeming with possibility for the Clippers.

As Phoenix, playing on a second consecutive night, rested Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the players most responsible for its NBA-best and franchise-record 63 victories, Powell made his first six baskets in his first action since fracturing a bone in his toe on Feb. 10, just three games after being acquired by the Clippers in a trade with Portland to become one of the team’s future cornerstones alongside George and Kawhi Leonard.

Like George in his efficient return from a 43-game absence one week earlier, Powell betrayed little rust in his own return, scoring 24 points on 10 shots, aided by nine-of-10 shooting at the free-throw line. He played 23 minutes, his workload capped. He scored 17 first-half points on a mix of catch-and-shoot three-pointers and curls to the rim after taking handoffs from center Isaiah Hartenstein that he finished with the kind of bounce that attracted the Clippers to his potential playing off of George and Leonard as an dangerous, and probably overqualified, third scoring option.


From Sam Farmer: The Masters is old hat.

Old hat, yellowed scorecard, weathered press badge, vintage program ... CJ Reading is looking for any of those. If they happen to be autographed by a famous golfer, all the better.

It’s a bustling business for Reading, selling Augusta National memorabilia out of Trends & Traditions Antique Mall just down Washington Boulevard from the world’s most exclusive golf course. The onetime chain restaurant chef, as with others in the area, now turns all things Masters into green.

“People are just dying to go,” said Reading, who got the nickname “Crazy Johnny” in high school, hence CJ. “It’s like if you score a Rolling Stones ticket and you’re a music fan.”

You can’t always get what you want. Only a small percentage of people who enter the annual Masters ticket lottery actually win, so people such as Reading are there to soften the blow.


1940 — Jimmy Demaret wins the Masters by four strokes over Lloyd Mangrum. Mangrum opens with a 64, a course record by two strokes that stands for 46 years.

1946 — Herman Keiser edges Ben Hogan by one stroke to win the Masters.

1951 — Ben Hogan takes the Masters by two strokes over Robert Riegel.

1956 — Joe Graboski scores 29 points and Paul Arizin 26 as the Philadelphia Warriors beat the Fort Wayne Pistons 99-88 to win the NBA championship in five games.

1963 — Jack Nicklaus becomes the youngest Masters winner at 23, beating Tony Lema by a stroke.

1985 — New Jersey’s Herschel Walker rushes for a USFL-record 233 yards in leading the Generals to a 31-25 victory over the Houston Gamblers. Walker breaks his own USFL record for the longest run from scrimmage by going 89 yards on his second carry.

1996 — Dave Andreychuk scores a goal for his 1,000th career point, and the New Jersey Devils top the New York Rangers 4-2.

1998 — Al MacInnis has a goal and an assist in St. Louis’ 5-3 loss at Detroit to become the sixth NHL defenseman to reach 1,000 points.

2003 — Syracuse wins the NCAA title with an 81-78 victory over Kansas.

2007 — Michigan State beats Boston College 3-1 for its first NCAA hockey title in 21 years.

2008 — Mario Chalmers hits a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and Kansas goes on to defeat Memphis 75-68 for the NCAA title.

2009 — Tina Charles scores 25 points and grabs 19 rebounds and Connecticut routs Louisville 76-54 to capture its sixth women’s basketball title. UConn (39-0) wins every one of its 39 games by double digits, a first in college basketball.

2010 — Don Nelson sets the NBA career record for victories by a coach in the Golden State Warriors’ 116-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Nelson’s 1,333 wins surpass Lenny Wilkens’ total.

2014 — Shabazz Napier scores 22 points and Connecticut wins its second NCAA men’s title in four years, beating the freshmen-led Kentucky 60-54 in the championship game.

2015 — UConn’s women down Notre Dame 63-53 for their 10th NCAA championship. Coach Geno Auriemma ties UCLA’s John Wooden for the most titles in college basketball.

2016 — Ernie Els, winner of four major titles, opens with a 10 on the par-4 first hole at the Masters. After his first two shots, Els seven-putts from 2 feet. His sextuple bogey is the worst score on the first hole at the Masters, beating the old mark by two strokes.

2016 — The Golden State Warriors become the second team to win 70 games in a season by beating the San Antonio Spurs 112-101.

And finally

Kansas defeats Memphis to win the men’s basketball title in 2008. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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