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The Sports Report: Inside Steve Ballmer’s vision for a perfect NBA arena

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and team consultant Jerry West tour the Intuit Dome construction site
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, left, and team consultant Jerry West tour the Intuit Dome construction site. The dome will be the new home of the Clippers.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero. I’m filling in for Houston Mitchell, who is probably counting Dodgers Dugout Hall of Fame ballots. Let’s get right to the news.

From Sam Farmer: The year was 1973 and the muggy Michigan summer pulsed with Motown hits such as ““Higher Ground” and “Superstition.” At Detroit Country Day School, the football team wheezed its way up a steep slope known simply as “The Hill” on the backside of the leafy campus.

The slog wasn’t a straight race to the top. Instead, the teenagers gradually plodded to the summit by getting into formation and running plays. The loudest among them, the one urging everyone, was right tackle Steve Ballmer, the husky son of a Ford manager. Although he would be too reluctant to deliver his valedictory speech, Ballmer, the future chief executive of Microsoft and owner of the Clippers, didn’t hold back when it came to encouraging his out-of-gas buddies.

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“You gotta love it,” he screamed, in what would become a team mantra. “You gotta love it!”

Fast-forward nearly 50 years and Ballmer, wearing a construction helmet and bright yellow safety vest, stood in front of a different hill, a severe concrete incline reaching to the heavens. This will become the “Wall of Sound,” a central feature of the glistening new home in Inglewood he’s building for his NBA team. This section of the Intuit Dome will be an unbroken swath of 51 rows from floor to ceiling, a peak of pandemonium cleverly teetering above the visitors’ bench.

“We want a little more intensity on that side,” said Ballmer, 66, frantically clapping his hands with the unbridled glee of that Country Day kid.

The $2-billion arena, scheduled to open in summer 2024, is located at the intersection of Prairie and Century, across the street from SoFi Stadium. It will feature the main court and four others — three for the Clippers to use for practice, and a fourth for community events. The venue will have 640 restroom stalls, twice as many as its next-closest NBA competitor.

USC VS. UCLA

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps in an attempt to get past USC safety Xavion Alford
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps in an attempt to get past USC safety Xavion Alford, who pushed him out of bounds Nov. 20, 2021, at the Coliseum.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: The only thing more chaotic than Pac-12 after dark is the Pac-12 after tiebreakers.

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Pac-12 Conference race remains wide open. Five teams — USC, UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington — could still land in a five-way tie for two spots in the conference championship game.

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Here’s what to know about how UCLA and USC can claim a ticket to the title game Dec. 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas:

USC (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12) has the most direct path: Win and the Trojans are in. USC can clinch its spot in the Pac-12 championship game with a victory over rival UCLA on Saturday night. The Trojans would likely face the winner of Saturday’s Utah-Oregon game for the title Dec. 2.

A win would not only cement USC’s place in its fourth Pac-12 championship game, but it also would eliminate UCLA from contention. After last week’s loss to Arizona, the Bruins (8-2, 5-2) need help to play in the title game for a shot at their first conference crown since 1998.

MORE ON THE RIVALRY:

Commentary: To reach playoff, USC would likely need to win heated Tennessee debate

Austin Jones takes lead, for now, in uncertain USC rushing attack

UCLA athletes say they value being in same conference as USC as UC regents mull vote

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Who will win the big USC vs. UCLA football game? The Times’ experts weigh in

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LAKERS

Lakers guard Max Christie and forward Anthony Davis celebrate during a timeout against the Nets
Lakers guard Max Christie and forward Anthony Davis celebrate during a timeout in the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

From Dan Woike: If the Lakers somehow take their season and flip it around, using their 3-10 start as fuel for some unlikely triumph, a brutally honest film session could take on almost mythical importance.

The team, gathered Saturday in the theater room of their practice facility in El Segundo, couldn’t let the stench of their second five-game losing streak in a month go on. They needed to get clean. They needed to tell the truth.

They needed to be better.

“Just laying out everything on the table,” forward Anthony Davis said of the film session that preceded their win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. “Trying to get a win. We had conversations that a team that was 2-10 should have, you know? About what each player can do better, what we were gonna do better collectively. Coaching staff. Medical staff. Everybody. We just want to figure this thing out.”

MORE LAKERS:

As part of our look back at 75 years of the Lakers, we want you to tell us who you believe are the 10 greatest Lakers of all time. Minneapolis and Los Angeles are included, so don’t hesitate to put someone like George Mikan on your list. Compile your list of the 10 greatest Lakers, in order from 1 to 10, and email it to houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Our team of experts voted on players only, but you can include nonplayers, so if you think Chick Hearn or Jerry Buss or heck, even Dancing Barry, deserve a spot in the top 10, feel free to vote for them. You have until Dec. 1 to vote. First place on your ballot will receive 12 points, second place nine, third place eight points, etc. The readers’ top 10 will be announced soon after voting closes.

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WORLD CUP

Falcons are presented at the Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition at Katara Cultural Village.
Falcons are presented at the Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition at Katara Cultural Village in Doha on Sept. 10. The desert birds are revered in Qatar as a symbol of dignity, honor and pride.
(Mustafa Abumunes / AFP via Getty Images)

From Kevin Baxter: The Souq Waqif, Doha’s ancient marketplace, unspools from the nearby bay like a roll of precious fabric. A medieval maze of narrow alleyways linked to a wide main plaza, the Souq has long served as a trading post for Bedouin arriving by camel and travelers in small boats.

But today, as one of the city’s last surviving historic urban spaces, the Souq also serves the rapidly modernizing emirate as a link to a history and a culture that is fading. Nowhere is that clash of past and present more apparent than at the market’s falcon hospital, a state-of-the-art medical facility dedicated to caring for animals that have been revered here for centuries.

“In Qatar, falcons are a symbol of dignity, valor and pride,” said Dr. Ikdam M. Alkarkhi, the hospital’s Iraqi-educated director and veterinary consultant. “For Arabs, falconry was a way of life where every household, irrespective of their social or tribal status, enjoyed the presence of falcons around them. Falcons would be considered part of the family.”

MORE SOCCER:

A guide to the eight stadiums hosting games at the 2022 World Cup

Israel urges soccer fans going to Qatar to keep a low profile

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Qatar’s World Cup denounced for ‘washing’ country’s image

Christian Pulisic embracing the pressure of spearheading U.S. World Cup ambitions

Maradona ‘Hand of God’ World Cup ball sold for $2.4 million

— Follow all of Kevin Baxer’s World Cup reporting from Qatar at latimes.com/soccer.

RAMS

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is sacked by Bucs defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is sacked by Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Stafford suffered a concussion during the game and missed the Rams’ game last week against Arizona.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

From Gary Klein: After a one-game absence, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is on track to return.

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Stafford remains in concussion protocol but is expected to be cleared to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in New Orleans, coach Sean McVay said Wednesday.

Stafford has been in the protocol since Nov. 8, two days after he was sacked four times in the Rams’ defeat by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla.

CHARGERS

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. reacts after tackling Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce
Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. reacts after tackling Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in September. The rematch is Sunday.
(Peter Aiken / Associated Press)

From Jeff Miller: During his most recent visit to SoFi Stadium, Travis Kelce scored the tying and winning touchdowns against the Chargers — both coming in the final 2 minutes, 31 seconds.

The Kansas City tight end had a seven-yard scoring reception with 1:16 left in regulation and then a 34-yarder 1:15 into overtime during Week 15 a year ago.

It must be remembered that Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. was injured early that night and not in the game at the end.

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On Sunday, Kelce and the Chiefs return to SoFi Stadium for another headlining matchup against James and the Chargers, the two AFC West rivals’ third consecutive game against each other in prime time.

“It’s always fun playing Kelce,” James said. “He’s knows who I am. I know who he is. It’ll be a show on Sunday, for sure.”

HIGH SCHOOLS

Sierra Canyon's Jimmy Oladokun dunks during the team's 85-53 win over King/Drew on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.
(Nick Koza)

From Luca Evans: He’d hear it constantly, the term thrown at him from every angle, every college coach offering a vapid thanks-but-no-thanks to Jimmy Oladokun.

You have potential — but. The potential’s good — but.

“It does hurt,” Oladokun said. “Immensely.”

The word “potential” turned negative for Oladokun, a 6-foot-9 senior forward who came to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon over the summer but is hardly the typical Trailblazers transfer. He was content at La Verne Damien High before the principal of his seventh-grade sister’s school left, sending his family scrambling to find her a solid education, eventually landing on Sierra Canyon and persuading Oladokun to come along for the ride.

“This is definitely something that my family motivated me heavily to do,” Oladokun said of the transfer, smiling softly. “Once I got here, I always had the mindset that once I’m here, I have to make the best out of it.”

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On Wednesday, the storm from all the changes in his life finally calmed, Oladokun signing a letter of intent to play for the University of San Diego in the afternoon and leading the Trailblazers to an 85-53 win over King/Drew at night in their first game of the season.

MORE HIGH SCHOOLS:

Prep basketball roundup: Jerica Williams’ debut as Windward coach ends in victory

Column: Joseluis Rincon discovered how to cope: ‘Running was my therapy’

KINGS

Kings center Trevor Moore (12) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period.
Kings center Trevor Moore had a hat trick in the team’s 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

From the Associated Press: Trevor Moore had a hat trick and the Kings beat the struggling Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Wednesday night.

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Viktor Arvidsson assisted on all three goals for the Kings, who have won five of their last six games. Cal Petersen stopped 22 shots.

Zach Hyman scored for the Oilers, who have lost five of their last seven games. Stuart Skinner made 29 saves.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1956 — Syracuse beats Colgate 61-7 behind halfback Jim Brown. Brown sets an NCAA-record for points by an individual player in a single game by scoring six touchdowns and kicking seven extra points for 43 points.

1959 — Syracuse’s Connie Dierking becomes the first player to foul out of a game in the first quarter, as the Nationals beat Cincinnati 121-116 at New York.

1968 — The “Heidi” television special starts on time and cuts off the NBC broadcast of the Oakland-New York Jets game in the final minutes, leaving viewers in the dark and unaware that the Raiders score two touchdowns in the last minute for a 43-32 comeback victory.

1975 — Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

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1981 — Bill Cartwright of the New York Knicks ties a 20-year-old NBA record by hitting 19 of 19 free throws in a 124-110 loss to the Kansas City Kings.

1984 — Purvis Short of the Golden State Warriors scores 59 points in a 131-114 loss to the New Jersey Nets.

1990 — David Klingler of Houston throws an NCAA-record 11 touchdown passes as the Cougars trounce Eastern Washington 84-21. Klingler completes 41 of 58 passes for 572 yards and ties the NCAA record for touchdown passes in a season with 47.

1991 — Detroit offensive lineman Mike Utley suffers a spinal injury on the first play of the fourth quarter of a 21-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams and is left paralyzed from the chest down.

2000 — Jason Kidd has a dubious quadruple-double — 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 14 turnovers in the Phoenix Suns’ 90-85 loss to the New York Knicks. The turnovers tie the NBA record set by Atlanta’s John Drew on March 1, 1978.

2001 — Lennox Lewis knocks out Hasim Rahman in the fourth round to get back his WBC and IBF heavyweight titles. Rahman’s championship reign of 209 days is the shortest in heavyweight history.

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2004 — New Orleans ties an NBA low by taking just two foul shots in a 95-84 loss to Phoenix.

2007 — Martin Brodeur becomes the second goalie in NHL history to win 500 career games by stopping 26 shots in New Jersey’s 6-2 win at Philadelphia. Patrick Roy won 551 games in his career.

2013 — Jimmie Johnson wins his sixth Sprint Cup championship in eight years. Johnson, who needed only to finish 23rd or better to wrap up the title, finishes ninth.

2013 — Sebastian Vettel wins the U.S. Grand Prix in easy fashion, setting an F1 season record with his eighth straight victory behind another blistering drive that gave the field no chance to catch him.

2014 — Amber Orrange makes a go-ahead jumper with 1:38 left in overtime and the tying 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation, sending No. 6 Stanford to an 88-86 victory against top-ranked Connecticut to snap the Huskies’ 47-game winning streak. UConn, which went 40-0 last season, loses for the first time since falling to Notre Dame in the 2013 conference tournament.

2014 — Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton agrees to terms with the team on a $325 million, 13-year contract. The contract tops the $292 million, 10-year deal Miguel Cabrera agreed to with the Detroit Tigers in March.

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Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Look back at the 1996 USC versus UCLA game settled in double overtime.

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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