The Sports Report: With playoff drought over, Kings face their next challenge

Kings center Anze Kopitar
(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

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

From Helene Elliott: Now that the worst seems to be behind them — the tedious rebuild of their talent base and their philosophy, the climb from the depths of their division and their return to the playoffs — the Kings should enjoy smooth sailing when they assemble for training camp Thursday in El Segundo.

Or maybe not.

“I don’t think the hardest part’s behind us. I think the easiest part’s behind us,” coach Todd McLellan said.

Say what?

His reasoning is that while it was difficult to restructure an old, slow team to compete in a league driven by youth and speed, that transformation has been accomplished. Creating salary cap space by shedding big contracts worsened the pain but became a gain because it allowed them to sign useful free agents and pay productive winger Kevin Fiala, this summer’s big trade prize. They’ve accumulated young talent and have positioned prime draft picks to become stars.

The next step is steep: building on the progress some of their kids made last season, pushing for more from them and other young players while relying on Stanley Cup champion holdovers Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick to help lead them to contention again.


The Kings had to make the playoffs last season to assure themselves and their fans the indignity of their post-Cup decline was a tolerable price to pay for a potentially bright future. Despite injuries, the Kings gave the Edmonton Oilers a battle and led their first-round series 3-2 before the Oilers wore them down.

The Kings’ ceiling has become higher. So are expectations. They must embrace that.

“The hard work is to close the gap on the top 10 teams in the league because they’re getting better every day,” McLellan said by phone Wednesday. “So I think we have the hard work ahead of us. The easy work is done.”

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From Jeff Miller: Justin Herbert’s final pass Thursday was a seven-yard touchdown strike to Joshua Palmer.

That remained his most recent throw witnessed by any team outsiders Wednesday after the portion of Chargers practice open to the media.

Herbert did some stretching and warming up but otherwise limited his participation to handoffs as he deals with fractured rib cartilage suffered Thursday against Kansas City.

Only the first 20 minutes or so of practice was available for media-viewing.


From Gary Klein: It’s not a problem for Rams coach Sean McVay.

Not yet anyway. Maybe ever.

Two games into the season, Matthew Stafford is right where he was at the end of the 2021 regular season: No. 1 in the NFL in most passes intercepted.

Stafford goes into Sunday’s NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals (1-1) having had five passes intercepted — three in a season-opening rout by the Buffalo Bills and two in last Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons.


“You want to have those at a minimum,” McVay said Wednesday, “but I also want to make sure that it’s a fine line between not allowing him to compete at a high level. Where we want to be smart but aggressive.”


Rams lose only backup tight end, Brycen Hopkins, to three-game suspension


From Jack Harris: Dustin May had no problem getting the first two strikes against Arizona Diamondbacks hitters on Wednesday night.

Putting them away, however, became a nightmarish adventure for the Dodgers hard-throwing right-hander.

In a 6-1 loss at Dodger Stadium, May followed up his best start since returning from Tommy John surgery with one of his worst.

In four shaky innings, he gave up five runs. He walked two batters, hit another, and allowed seven men to reach base from a two-strike count.


For a pitcher that manager Dave Roberts said earlier in the day would likely be starting playoff games, and who was coming off five no-hit innings against the San Francisco Giants last week, it was a significant step back.


Rookie Josh Smith homered and the Texas Rangers beat the Angels 7-2 on Wednesday night.

Shohei Ohtani and Taylor Ward extended their hitting streaks to seven games in the first when Ohtani singled and Ward followed with his 19th home run for a 2-0 Angels lead.

Ohtani and Ward were working on another rally to start the seventh when the two-way star reached on a routine grounder because reliever Brock Burke didn’t cover the bag. But Burke snagged Ward’s liner and doubled Ohtani off first.


From John Cherwa: Dr. Jeff Blea has had a lot of time to try to understand what has happened to him during the past year while taking his daily four- to six-mile walks around the Rose Bowl, listening mostly to Eric Church, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.

“They tell stories about life,” Blea said. “Everybody goes through things in life and the goal is to come out better.”


Blea is hoping those song lyrics will reflect his reality when he returns to work Wednesday as equine medical director (EMD) of the California Horse Racing Board after negotiating a settlement with the California Veterinary Medical Board (VMB). Blea has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 11 after the VMB suspended his license accusing him of multiple violations, many of which were nothing more than bookkeeping errors when he was in private practice.

Blea will be on probation for three years, have to go to continuing education in regard to record keeping and pay the VMB $131,464 over a 30-month period as reimbursement for the cost of their investigation. As the EMD, Blea has moved from the world of practicing veterinarian to regulatory veterinarian, meaning he no longer see horses as clients.


Robert Sarver says he has started the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a move that comes only eight days after he was suspended by the NBA over workplace misconduct including racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees.

Sarver made the announcement Wednesday, saying selling “is the best course of action,” although he initially hoped that he would be able to keep control of the franchises — pointing to his record that, he claims, paints a dramatically different picture of who he is and what he stands for.


1905 — Willie Anderson wins the U.S. Open for the fourth time in five years, beating Alex Smith with a 314-total at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Mass.

1927 — Gene Tunney wins a unanimous 10-round decision over Jack Dempsey at Soldier Field in Chicago to retain his world heavyweight title. The fight is marred by a long 10-count in the seventh round. Dempsey knocks Tunney to the mat, but Dempsey doesn’t go to a neutral corner. The referee doesn’t start counting until four or five seconds after Tunney is down. Tunney regains his feet and goes on to win.


1969 — Willie Mays becomes the second major league player to hit 600 homers with a two-run shot off Mike Corkins, giving the San Francisco Giants a 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

1974 — The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos are the first teams to play to a tie, 35-35, with the new overtime rule in effect.

1984 — Mississippi Valley State’s Willie Totten passes for 526 yards in a 49-32 victory over Jackson State. Wide receiver Jerry Rice has 285 yards receiving.

1987 — The 1,585-member NFL Players Assn. goes on strike after the New England-New York Jets Monday night game. The strike lasts 24 days.

1990 — Illinois’ Howard Griffith sets an NCAA record when he scores eight rushing touchdowns in a 56-21 rout of Southern Illinois. Griffith gets touchdowns on three consecutive carries in the second quarter and ties an NCAA record with four touchdowns in the third quarter. Griffith doesn’t play in the fourth quarter. It’s the most points scored in an NCAA game by a player other than a kicker.

1991 — Miami coach Don Shula gets his 300th victory in the Dolphins’ 16-13 win over Green Bay.


2002 — New England’s Tom Brady completes 39 of 54 passes for 410 yards and throws touchdown passes to four different receivers, leading the Patriots to a 41-38 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

2007 — Graham Harrell of Texas Tech completes 46 of 67 passes for 646 yards, the fourth-best total in major college history, in a 49-45 loss to Oklahoma State.

2007 — Kentucky’s Andre Woodson sets a major college record for consecutive passes without an interception, breaking the mark of 271 held by Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer.

2012 — Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas has 10 catches for a Southeastern Conference record 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-26 to Rutgers.

2012 — Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke smashes NCAA Division I records by throwing for 730 yards. He completes 55 of 79 attempts without being intercepted and leads the Monarchs back from a 23-point, third-quarter deficit to a 64-61 victory against New Hampshire.

2018 — Anthony Joshua retains his IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight titles by stopping Alexander Povetkin in the seventh round at Wembley Stadium.


2018 — Jess McDonald scores two goals and the North Carolina Courage win the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Willie Mays hits his 600th homer. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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