The Sports Report: Wayne Gretzky is still the great one
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
From Helene Elliott: Go ahead, call Connor McDavid the best player in the NHL.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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He’s a franchise player who became a franchise changer, a spectacularly talented kid who matured into a man while rallying the Edmonton Oilers past the Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He was commanding in leading the Oilers past the Calgary Flames and to the Western Conference final against the Colorado Avalanche. He’s gifted with speed that breaks defenders’ ankles and vision that makes him an uncannily accurate passer. With 26 points in his first 12 playoff games he jumped within easy reach of Wayne Gretzky’s record of 47 points in one playoff year, set by Gretzky in 18 games in 1985.
Call McDavid great. Gretzky, the Great One, agrees.
“I think that if there’s any sort of a negative towards Connor this year it’s that I’m not sure he got the recognition that he deserved,” Gretzky said Tuesday before taking up his TNT studio host duties in Denver for the opener of the Western Conference final.
“Yeah, he’s in the running for the Hart Trophy [as the most valuable player] and he won the scoring race going away but people are going to get an opportunity to see him now on an every-second-night basis on normal Eastern time zone. So this is going to be tremendous exposure not only for Connor but for the National Hockey League.”
Just don’t call McDavid better than the Great One, as some overenthusiastic fans have been doing.
Not yet. Maybe not ever if you take into account Gretzky’s off-ice feats in giving the NHL a relatable, marketable face and making hockey part of the culture in places where ice was most commonly saved for cocktail glasses.
The debate on who’s the NHL’s greatest player is a complicated discussion.
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From Jack Harris: There was undesirable deja vu for the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Another early hole. Another failed comeback. Another loss at home to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
Every season comes with unexpected dips. But a three-game sweep against a rebuilding, previously slumping, seemingly overmatched team? Even manager Dave Roberts had a hard time reconciling it following Wednesday’s 8-4 defeat.
“I thought we had opportunities to change certain outcomes,” Roberts said. “And we just couldn’t capitalize.”
From Mike DiGiovanna: The Angels did not lose again Wednesday night. The weather put at least a temporary halt to their two-week tailspin when their game against the New York Yankees was rained out.
The game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader Thursday, with Shohei Ohtani scheduled to oppose Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes in the first game at 10 a.m. PDT and Reid Detmers scheduled to oppose Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon in the 4 p.m. nightcap. Thursday’s forecast calls for more rain.
The Angels have lost six straight and 10 of their last 13, going from a 24-13 record and a first-place tie with Houston in the American League West on May 15 to a 27-23 mark and five games behind the Astros after the Angels’ 9-1 loss Tuesday to the Yankees.
But Angels general manager Perry Minasian does not think the team’s struggles are severe enough to warrant major shakeups in the lineup, rotation and bullpen.
“I don’t look at things in six-game blocks,” Minasian said before Wednesday’s game was postponed. “We’re two months in, and our goal two months in is to be in the mix. Right now, we’re in the mix. Do we want to win more games? Sure. That being said, we’re in a decent spot right now.”
What fantasy commissioner Mike Trout says about Tommy Pham-Joc Pederson flap/slap
From Gary Klein: Aaron Donald is absent from voluntary organized team activities, but the Rams’ seven-time All-Pro defensive lineman is expected to attend a mandatory minicamp next week, coach Sean McVay said Wednesday.
“That’s the plan right now,” McVay said after practice.
The Rams and Donald’s agents are attempting to work out a new contract. Donald, 31, has three years left on the $135-million extension he signed in 2018, but the Rams acknowledge that he has outperformed the deal.
Donald has remained in hometown Pittsburgh for most of the offseason program.
From Jeff Miller: The Chargers staged another media availability during organized team activities Wednesday.
The offseason program will continue for two more weeks before finishing with mandatory minicamp June 14-15.
Click here for some highlights from Costa Mesa.
From Ben Bolch: A year after returning fully intact from its Final Four run, UCLA is going to experience some significant turnover.
The Bruins lost a third starter Wednesday when senior guard Jules Bernard announced on Instagram that he had played his final game with the team. His departure means that UCLA will feature three new starters next season alongside returning point guard Tyger Campbell and guard-forward Jaime Jaquez Jr.
“I’ve had unforgettable times and made memories that will last a lifetime going to battle with my teammates and coaches who took to the court with the purpose of bringing a banner to Westwood,” Bernard wrote on Instagram. “However, I believe it is my time to step aside and see others experience that opportunity to enjoy to perform on college basketball’s most storied stage … Pauley Pavilion.”
Bernard was the third member of the team to leave after fellow guards Johnny Juzang and Peyton Watson announced they were headed for the NBA draft. Bernard did not specify his plans in his farewell, writing only that “it has been 4 magical years wearing these 4 letters across my chest. I have always tried to represent this great institution and you, the alumni and fans, with dignity and class. I hope in some small way I’ve made you proud.”
From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: The moment was surreal. Stepping onto the field at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium gave Maya Brady chills.
When the UCLA star made her Women’s College World Series debut last year, she marveled at the packed stands that extended into an upper deck and wrapped around the outfield. Fans cheered with every pitch. Standing in center field amid the chaos, Brady felt at peace.
It’s where she always hoped to be.
The redshirt sophomore first fell in love with UCLA as a kid watching the Bruins win the national championship in 2010, and now she’s playing on the same stage, hoping to help the program to its 13th NCAA title. The No. 5-seed Bruins (48-8) face Texas (43-19) in Thursday’s opening game at 9 a.m. PDT on ESPN in the double-elimination tournament.
Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah scored midway through the first half, Haji Wright converted a second-half penalty kick in his international debut and the United States beat Morocco 3-0 on Wednesday night in the first of four World Cup warmup matches in June.
The 15th-ranked Americans, using a roster at about 75% of full-strength, won for the first time in four matches with No. 24 Morocco, also preparing for the November tournament in Qatar.
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All times Pacific
All games on TNT
Colorado (C1) vs. Edmonton (P2)
Colorado 8, Edmonton 6
Today at Colorado, 5 p.m.
Saturday at Edmonton, 5 p.m.
Monday at Edmonton, 5 p.m.
*Wednesday at Colorado, TBD
*Friday, June 10 at Edmonton, TBD
*Sunday, June 12 at Colorado, TBD
All games on ESPN
New York Rangers (M2) vs. Tampa Bay (A3)
New York 6, Tampa Bay 2
Friday at New York, 5 p.m.
Sunday at Tampa Bay, noon
Tuesday at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m.
*Thursday, June 9 at New York, 5 p.m.
*Saturday, June 11 at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m.
*Tuesday, June 14 at New York, 5 p.m.
When the NBA Finals begin tonight in San Francisco, it will mark a return to familiar ground for Golden State’s championship-tested core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
Yet for their three championships together with coach Steve Kerr, those Warriors never played for a title while all 30-plus years old, nor surrounded by their current supporting cast.
Likewise their opponent, the Boston Celtics, boasts a trio as playoff-tested as they come.
To peel back the curtain on the angles, adjustments and key players to watch during the Finals, The Times surveyed NBA insiders — three team scouts and one team executive — to analyze the league’s biggest stage on a granular level, with each granted anonymity in exchange for their candor.
Click here to read what they had to say.
Meet Josiah Johnson, the former UCLA benchwarmer who became an NBA meme king
Schedule and results
All times Pacific
All games on ABC
Boston vs. Golden State
Tonight at Golden State, 6 p.m.
Sunday at Golden State, 5 p.m.
Wednesday at Boston, 6 p.m.
Friday, June 10 at Boston, 6 p.m.
*Monday, June 13 at Golden State, 6 p.m.
*Thursday, June 16 at Boston, 6 p.m.
*Sunday, June 19 at Golden State, 5 p.m.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1896 — Hastings, ridden by H. Griffin, edges Handspring by a neck to capture the Belmont Stakes.
1908 — Royal Tourist, ridden by Eddie Dugan, posts a four-length victory over Live Wire in the Preakness Stakes.
1909 — Joe Madden, ridden by Eddie Dugan, wins the Belmont Stakes by eight lengths over Wise Mason.
1935 — Babe Ruth, 40, announces his retirement as a player.
1947 — After a six-year layoff, 13-year-old Honey Cloud wins the second race at Aqueduct. His jockey, Clarence Minner, takes his first ride in 10 years.
1985 — Nancy Lopez beats Alice Miller by eight strokes to win the LPGA championship.
1991 — Andrettis finish 1-2-3 in the Miller 200 at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway in Milwaukee. Mario Andretti finishes third, his son Michael wins the race and his nephew John finished second.
1996 — Annika Sorenstam closes with a 4-under 66 to win her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open. Sorenstam’s 8-under 272 is the best ever in the Open.
2002 — Annika Sorenstam matches the LPGA record for margin of victory in a 54-hole event while winning the inaugural Kellogg-Keebler Classic. Sorenstam finishes at 21-under 195 to win by 11 strokes.
2005 — Jockey Russell Baze records his 9,000th victory aboard Queen of the Hunt in the eighth race at Golden Gate Fields.
2007 — Daniel Gibson scores a career-high 31 points as Cleveland beats Detroit 98-82 to advance to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers are the third team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a conference finals, joining the 1971 Baltimore Bullets and 1993 Chicago Bulls.
2008 — Pittsburgh outlasts Detroit 4-3 in three overtimes of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. Petr Sykora scores at 9:57 of the third overtime ending the fifth-longest finals game in NHL history.
2010 — Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers loses his bid for a perfect game with two out in the ninth inning on a call that first base umpire Jim Joyce later admits he blew. First baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fields Jason Donald’s grounder to his right and makes an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag. The ball is there in time, and all of Comerica Park is ready to celebrate the 3-0 win over Cleveland, until Joyce emphatically signals safe.
2011 — Dirk Nowitzki makes the tie-breaking layup with 3.6 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks roar back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat 95-93 and tie the NBA finals at one game apiece. The Mavs outscore the Heat 22-5 down the stretch and pull off the biggest comeback win in an NBA finals since 1992.
Compiled by the Associated Press
Armando Galarraga’s perfect game (well, it should have been). Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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