The Sports Report: LeBron James faces ’23 of the most important games’ of regular season career

LeBron James dunks during the first half of the All-Star game.
(Kyle Terada / Associated Press)

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

From Dan Woike: There are no secrets, no hidden agendas, no questions to be asked.

LeBron James was crystal clear — there’s one acceptable outcome for the rest of this season.

“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career for a regular season,” he said before the All-Star Game at Vivint Arena on Sunday.


And after a bit of a scare, that’s what James will have to deal with next.

James missed the second half because of a hand injury as Team Giannis beat Team LeBron 184-175. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who was selected as MVP, scored 55 for Team Giannis, breaking Anthony Davis’ All-Star Game single-game scoring record.

When the NBA resumes, the Lakers will need to be in a sprint — the team is two games out of the final play-in spot and 4 ½ games out of the No. 6 seed.

James spoke pregame Sunday before captaining and drafting his team for the All-Star Game, and though he answered multiple questions about breaking the league’s all-time scoring record, James insisted his focus is elsewhere.

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From Dylan Hernández: As spring training opened, there were rumblings in some corners of the industry about a relatively unpublicized addition the Dodgers made over the winter.

How could they have hired the engine of a sign-stealing operation that might have contributed to them losing the 2018 World Series?

How could they have hired former Boston Red Sox video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins?

The most important voice on the Dodgers didn’t raise any such questions Sunday when asked about Watkins.


Clayton Kershaw said he didn’t have any problem with them bringing on the 33-year-old former minor league catcher who will assist Dodgers players with a hitting game plan.

“No matter what enhancements technology had back then, there needs to be a clear distinction between what the Astros did and what everybody else did,” Kershaw said.

In other words: Who cares?

Not every rule violation is the same.

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Jayda Curry scored 27 points and Michelle Onyiah had six points in overtime as California upended No. 25 USC 81-78 on Sunday

The Trojans, back in the rankings for the first time since 2016, had their chances to win this one after falling to No. 3 Stanford 50-47 on Friday.

From the final four minutes of regulation until Destiny Littleton hit a three-pointer with 1:08 to go in overtime, USC missed eight straight shots. After Littleton tied the score at 78 and Leilani McIntosh put the Golden Bears on top with two free throws with 44 seconds to go, the Trojans came up empty on their next possession despite two offensive rebounds.



From Steve Henson: With the gallery wildly cheering a golfer struggling to stay one measly shot under par, Jon Rahm enhanced his status as the best player on the PGA Tour by holding off pesky Max Homa to win the Genesis Invitational on Sunday by two strokes.

The focus of many spectators at Riviera Country Club was Tiger Woods, who played his first meaningful golf since last year’s British Open before shifting into tournament host mode to present the championship trophy to Rahm, whose win was his third this year, fifth in his last nine worldwide starts and 10th on the PGA Tour.

Woods shot two over par in the final round to finish one under, not an unimpressive accomplishment given his rust and a sore right ankle that had him limping a bit more each day and remains a reminder of his horrific car crash two years ago the day after this tournament.

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From John Cherwa: You can always count on the last 10 regulation laps of the Daytona 500 to have more twists, turns and spins than the previous 190, and Sunday’s 65th running of NASCAR’s biggest race did not disappoint.

In fact, 200 laps weren’t enough to determine the winner. They were in the 12th extra lap when the race was declared over because of another caution, which left it to NASCAR to check video to determine who won the race. In this case, it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. winning his first Daytona 500.


A video review wasn’t necessary because of the small margin of victory over Joey Logano, but rather a rule that if a caution comes out during the last lap after more than one overtime, time is frozen when the yellow caution light appears. NASCAR then seeks visual evidence to declare the winner.

Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher and Alex Bowman completed the top five.

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From Dan Loumena: The Sparks added veteran guard Yang Liwei to their roster, the team announced Sunday. Terms of the signing were not disclosed.

Yang, 28, is coming off a season with Inner Mongolia of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Assn. in which she averaged 13.5 points, 5.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 19 games. She shot a career-best 61.4% from the field, including 40.4% from three-point range, and 81.1% from the free-throw line.

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1887 — The International Association, the first minor league baseball association, is organized in Pittsburgh.


1951 — The college point-shaving scandal prompts Long Island University to drop basketball and all other intercollegiate sports. LIU revives basketball in 1957.

1971 — En route to a record 76-goal season, Boston’s Phil Esposito becomes the first player to score his 50th goal in February, but the Bruins lose to the Kings 5-4.

1972 — Larry Brown of the Denver Rockets sets ABA records for assists in a game (23), half (18) and quarter (10) during a 146-123 home win over the Pittsburgh Condors.

1974 — Gordie Howe, the NHL’s career scoring leader, comes out of retirement and signs a $1 million, four-year contract to play with the Houston Aeros of the WHA and sons Mark and Marty.

1976 — Muhammad Ali beats Jean-Pierre Coopman with a fifth-round knockout at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Puerto Rico to defend his world heavyweight title.

1988 — In Calgary, Brian Boitano of the U.S. wins the Olympic figure skating gold medal on a technical merit tiebreaker and nearly flawless free skate.


1993 — Julio Cesar Chavez records a fifth-round TKO over Greg Haugen in a WBC super lightweight title bout before a record crowd of 130,000 at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium.

1998 — Tara Lipinski, 15, becomes the youngest Olympic figure skating champion, beating fellow teen and U.S. teammate Michelle Kwan to take the gold. Lipinski is two months younger than Sonja Henie was in her 1928 victory.

2006 — Tanith Belbin and partner Ben Agosto end the U.S. medals drought in Olympic ice dance competition with a silver. The last to do so were Colleen O’Connor and James Millns, who won bronze in 1976.

2009 — Lindsey Van of the U.S. becomes the first female ski jumping world champion. Women’s ski jumping makes its debut at this year’s Nordic world championships in the Czech Republic. Todd Lodwick wins the opening Nordic combined event to give the U.S. two golds in one day. Before Van’s victory, the U.S. had not won a gold at a Nordic worlds since 2003 when Johnny Spillane took a Nordic combined sprint.

2010 — Switzerland’s Simon Ammann wins the large hill at the Vancouver Games to become the first ski jumper with four individual Olympic titles.

2011 — Trevor Bayne, 20, wins the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest race, in only his second Sprint Cup start.


2011 — Kobe Bryant wins his record-tying fourth All-Star game MVP award, scoring 37 points before his hometown fans and leading the West past the East 148-143.

2016 — Lindsey Vonn clinches a record 20th World Cup crystal globe title and surpasses Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark. It’s Vonn’s record eighth downhill title. Stenmark won 19 globes between 1975 and 1984.

2021 — Australian Open Women’s Tennis: Naomi Osaka of Japan wins her 4th major and second Australian title; beats American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3

2022 —- Hannah Green of Australia becomes first woman to win a mix-gender golf tournament over 72 holes; closes with 5-under 66 for a 4-stroke win in TPS Murray River on the PGA Tour of Australasia

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Kobe Bryant is named MVP of the 2011 All-Star game. Watch and listen here.


Until next time...

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