The Sports Report: The Kings are finally back in the playoffs
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
From Hans Tesselaar: For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the Kings will have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
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They clinched a playoff spot Tuesday without even playing. When the Vegas Golden Knights lost on the road to the Dallas Stars 3-2 in a shootout, it guaranteed a third-place finish in the Pacific Division for the Kings (43-27-10). They will play the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, the best-of-seven series beginning next week.
The Kings, with 96 points, will open the series in Edmonton. The Oilers’ 5-1 victory Tuesday night in Pittsburgh gave them 100 points and locked up second place in the Pacific. The Kings went 1-2-1 this season against Edmonton.
Since winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons in 2014, the Kings have just one playoff win. They lost to the Sharks in five games in 2016 and to the Golden Knights in four games in 2018.
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From Helene Elliott: Jessica Mendoza expected to have a long and detailed meeting with Joe Davis last Friday before she sat beside the Dodgers’ TV play-by-play announcer and became the first female analyst on a Dodgers broadcast, but one thing happened and then another and there was no time for them to discuss who would say what and when.
They knew each other a bit as they had shared an agent years ago, and would run across one another when their broadcast dreams were still crystallizing.
“We were really just nobody and trying to figure it out,” she said. After Davis got the Dodgers job, Mendoza would make a point of saying hello when she came to watch the team she’d rooted for while growing up in Camarillo.
Two Olympic softball medals and a career as an ESPN baseball and softball analyst later, Mendoza was hired by SportsNet LA to be one of several road broadcast analysts after Orel Hershiser cut back his travel this season. Her turn at the microphone came up when the Dodgers were at San Diego.
“I was nervous coming into last week because regardless of how well you might know someone or how long you’ve known them, it’s very different when you’re calling a game,” she said. “Everyone has their things — the nuances they want to get into, when they want you to talk, when they don’t.”
Without a lot of time to prepare, they relied on their familiarity and instincts. “It helps so much that we’re both kind of nerdy,” Mendoza said. “We love the game.”
Here’s to having a couple of baseball nerds in the booth.
Dodgers fall to Diamondbacks, 5-3
From Lindsay Kagawa Colas: I woke up to the phone ringing just after 5 a.m. in Portland. My colleague was calling from the East Coast. “Lindz, it’s BG. She’s been taken into custody at the airport. She has her phone and can text.” Brittney Griner, who had spent several WNBA offseasons starring for UMMC Ekaterinburg, an elite Russian basketball club team, had been traveling back to Ekaterinburg from the U.S., connecting in Moscow when she was detained. She was now in the custody of Russian officials at the airport and, for the next several hours, I tracked her location on my phone and continued texting her, trying to stay with her as long as I could.
Staying with her was what Brittney had asked me to do when I started representing her as her sports agent right out of college in 2013. Though she was projected to be the No. 1 pick overall in the WNBA draft, the most important conversation we had early on wasn’t about endorsements or fame. From my experience in the business, I knew that success on the court for women has never been enough to guarantee women similar commercial rewards to men. Only women athletes regarded as conventionally beautiful by a Western standard, “feminine” — or simply perceived to be straight, who were both white and often less important, successful at winning, got any hint of endorsement opportunities. The WNBA and its players, in all of their intersectional power and beauty, are still waiting for society to catch up.
Fighting to shift how the marketplace views and values women athletes has been at the center of my entire career as a sports agent. For Brittney, the most important things I could do to support her career and ensure she maximized opportunity were 1) to make her as much money on the court, as quickly as possible and 2) to always tell her the truth, do my best to protect her and be there for her, no matter what. Before that February morning, that included advising her (along with several other clients) to take advantage of the opportunity to play in Russia for the highest paying team in the world. Ever since that day, it has meant working furiously to try to summon every resource I can to help her, so that I can keep another promise I made after she was formally charged and minutes before she was led away. “BG,” I said, “We love you. We are here. Be brave. We will get you home.”
So while her detention has risen to the top of news for its geopolitical relevance, supercharged by celebrity, at its underbelly lies a story of gender-pay disparity here in the United States.
From Steve Henson: Long before first pitch, a cowboy hat is set behind the bat rack and under three rows of cubbyholes housing helmets in the Angels dugout.
White with black trim, the hat is inconspicuous, nothing special until something special makes it special.
When an Angels player returns to the dugout after hitting a home run, a teammate slaps the cowboy hat onto his head and he bounces triumphantly from one end to the other, slapping hands and bumping fists.
Mike Trout enjoyed the ritual in the third inning of the Angels’ 4-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, blasting a two-run home run to left field. Trout also had an RBI double, providing plenty of support for left-hander Patrick Sandoval, who extended to 15 innings his streak of not giving up an earned run this season by yielding two hits over seven innings.
Sandoval, a Mission Viejo High product, struck out nine and walked one, displaying a devastating changeup and command of four pitches. He hopped off the mound with glee after prompting Oscar Mercado to flail at his changeup to end the seventh inning on his 90th and final pitch.
From Ryan Kartje: When he decided earlier this month to skip the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, Drake London understood there would be questions. His speed was the only serious concern for NFL scouts, the only nit to pick in an otherwise sterling draft profile and now the former USC star wideout was opting out of his final chance to offer evidence in his favor.
Months into the process, London had heard quite enough of those doubts. Anyone who still had questions, he suggested, should “just watch film.”
“Don’t really have to blow by guys to catch a ball,” he said. “I can at the end of the day, but I really don’t have to.”
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the former NFL wideout training London for the draft, went one step further.
“Speed,” Houshmandzadeh declared, “is overrated.”
Overrated or not, speed might be the only discernible obstacle in the way of London becoming the fourth USC receiver to be selected in the top-10 of the NFL draft, which kicks off Thursday with the first round. (The last, Mike Williams, wasn’t exactly a burner, either, when the Lions picked him 10th in 2005.)
From Gary Klein: The star-studded Super Bowl champion Rams are basking in their Hollywood image.
On Tuesday, ahead of Thursday’s NFL draft in Las Vegas, the team released a slickly produced pseudo movie trailer entitled “On the Clock.” The three-minute video featured several Rams players, and actors playing owner Stan Kroenke, general manager Les Snead, coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
“Les and I both felt pretty good about it,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters, “and I know Raheem Morris certainly feels really good that Tyrese Gibson played him.
“So, he’s been walking around with his chest out all day.”
The Rams won’t have marquee billing in the draft — they are without a first-round pick for the sixth year in a row — but they will continue their Hollywood theme by conducting business and making their picks from a palatial Hollywood Hills home.
From Bill Dwyre: If the name Dick Barnett tickles your memory a bit, you are probably a Lakers fan, and not a young one. Or, more likely, you are a Knicks fan.
If the achievements of the 1957, ’58 and ’59 basketball teams from Tennessee A&I trigger any recognition, consider yourself one in a million, a sports geek.
But there is as story there, and no matter what your age or sports interests, it is worth knowing. It’s about much more than basketball success, and it is being told in a documentary film entitled “The Dream Whisperer.” The first look at that will be presented Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival, in a theatre complex at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
Barnett is the “Dream Whisperer.” He is also the former Lakers guard who played with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor from 1962 to 1965. To stir your memory, think of a skinny, left-handed jump-shooter, who kicked his legs backward as he unleashed. Think of a long, emaciated face a man who carried the nickname “Skull” because, well, he looked like one. You can also think of the player, an ace sixth man most of the time, who got traded from the Lakers to the New York Knicks, infuriating West and ending up helping the Knicks win their only two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). The Knicks beat the Lakers both times.
The heart of this story is not the Lakers, or the Knicks, or West, nor even the many celebrity voices the film presents, such as Phil Jackson, Walt Frazier, David Stern, Julius Erving, Bill Bradley, Al Sharpton and the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is Barnett’s story of, as the former Knicks star and U.S. senator Bradley calls it, “incredible tenaciousness.”
Before he was a pro, before he was drafted fourth overall by the Syracuse Nationals in 1959, Barnett played for the Tennessee A&I Tigers, a school in Nashville that is now Tennessee State. His team won the championship of the NAIA (National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics) three times in a row, and that was just five years after all-Black schools were even allowed to compete in any national basketball tournament that meant their presence would integrate the competition. The Texas Western Miners, with five Black starters, stunned the college basketball world in 1966 by beating Pat Riley’s Kentucky in the NCAA final. The A&I Tigers had won a national title a decade before and done it three times.
But it turned out that that three-peat had little traction in the sports world. The NAIA division featured a bunch of smaller schools and the sports world related more to Disneyland than Branson, Mo.
From J. Brady McCollough: The greatest indictment of Mark Emmert’s 12-year run as NCAA president is the job description he leaves behind for his replacement:
Keep the haves among NCAA Division I schools from splitting away from the have-nots and creating their own governance model that allows for the pursuit of massive television revenues above all else and drops the pretense of college sports being an amateur enterprise at the highest level.
Convince those presidents and athletic directors at Power Five schools — many of which are now offering pay-for-play contracts disguised as name, image and likeness “collective” agreements — to continue to share the revenue pie from March Madness with all the little guys instead of starting their own men’s basketball postseason tournament that brings in at least $1 billion annually.
Assuming those predictable shifts occur in the future and the NCAA’s cash cow does graze toward greener pastures, save the Olympic and non-revenue sports that represent the authentic “student-athlete” experience at the bottom of Division I and throughout Division II and Division III, protecting thousands of educational opportunities for American youth who otherwise may not find their way to a college campus.
Back up the Title IX lip service with a genuine commitment to gender equity, avoiding embarrassments like the disparity between the bells and whistles at the 2021 men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments.
NCAA President Mark Emmert stepping down no later than 2023
ERIC KAY TRIAL
From Nathan Fenno: A federal judge in Texas rejected Eric Kay’s request for a new trial Tuesday, more than two months after a jury found the former Angels communications director guilty of providing counterfeit oxycodone pills that led to the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
In a one-paragraph order filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Judge Terry R. Means wrote that he was denying Kay’s motion “for the reasons urged by the government.”
After Kay’s legal team filed a motion last month for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, prosecutors said the move had “no reasoned basis” and failed to show “prejudice, let alone the kind of miscarriage of justice that would warrant a new trial.”
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1956 — Rocky Marciano retires as the undefeated heavyweight boxing champion. He finished with a 49-0 record, including six title defenses and 43 knockouts.
1960 — The Minneapolis Lakers announce they will relocate to Los Angeles.
1968 — Jimmy Ellis wins the heavyweight boxing title with a 15-round decision over Jerry Quarry in Oakland. This is the final bout of an eight-man elimination tournament to fill Muhammad Ali’s vacated title.
1994 — Scott Erickson, who allowed the most hits in the majors the previous season, pitches Minnesota’s first no-hitter in 27 years and the Twins beat Milwaukee 6-0.
1994 — Dave Hannan scores 5:43 into the fourth overtime to keep the Buffalo Sabres going in the NHL playoffs with a 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils, the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
2002 — Derek Lowe pitches a no-hitter against Tampa Bay. Brent Abernathy is the only baserunner Lowe allows in Boston’s 10-0 victory.
2003 — Kevin Millwood pitches his first career no-hitter to lead the Philadelphia Phillies over the San Francisco Giants 1-0.
2007 — Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse employee, pleads guilty to distributing steroids to major league players for a decade and agrees to help baseball’s steroids investigators.
2008 — Ashley Force becomes the first woman to win a national Funny Car race. The 25-year-old beats her father, drag racing icon John Force, in the final round of the 28th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals to deny him his 1,000th winning round in his 500th NHRA tour event.
2009 — The Denver Nuggets match the biggest victory in playoff history with their 121-63 rout of New Orleans in Game 4 of their first-round series. The Minneapolis Lakers had the other 58-point postseason victory, beating the St. Louis Hawks 133-75 in 1956.
2011 — Nathan Horton scores 5:43 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series. Boston had never won a playoff series after trailing 0-2 in 26 tries.
2011 — Dwayne Roloson makes 36 saves and Tampa Bay completes a big series comeback and eliminates Pittsburgh with a 1-0 win in Game 7. Roloson becomes the second goalie to go 6-0 in elimination games. He allowed only four goals in winning the final three games as the Lightning erased a 3-1 series deficit.
2013 — The Detroit Red Wings make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season after Henrik Zetterberg had two goals and an assist in a 3-0 victory over Dallas. The Red Wings own the longest active playoff streak in major pro sports, six years longer than the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs’ stretch of postseason play.
2014 — Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh wins her record 47th FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour title, teaming with April Ross to beat Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva and Maria Antonelli in the Fuzhou Open final.
2014 — Lydia Ko, three days after her 17th birthday, birdies the final hole for her third LPGA Tour victory and first as a pro, holding off Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin in the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
2017 — Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is picked first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the NFL draft. Chicago sends a third-round pick, a fourth and a 2018 third to San Francisco to switch and selects quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who started only 13 games for North Carolina. The 49ers take defensive end Solomon Thomas from just down the road at Stanford.
Compiled by the Associated Press
Derek Lowe pitches a no-hitter. Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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