The Sports Report: Kawhi Leonard is an unstoppable force in Clippers victory

Kawhi Leonard dunks over Toronto's Jakob Poeltl during second half.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

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

From Andrew Greif: Eyes on the rim, feet at the stripe, Kawhi Leonard set himself to shoot a free-throw in Wednesday’s first half when a cry arose from section 112 inside Arena.

“Thank you for the banner!” yelled, in unison, a row of fans wearing Toronto jerseys.

In an era where superstars don’t stay put long, Leonard’s departure from Toronto, and its newly won NBA title, for Los Angeles four years ago can feel like an eternity. Yet Raptors coach Nick Nurse, before Wednesday’s tipoff, recalled the lasting imprint of Leonard “elevating a lot of people’s confidence and people’s game” during his lone Raptors season. Leonard’s ability to make minute defensive adjustments in the span of a timeout or free throw “was amazing,” said Nurse. The development of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet into stars has followed Leonard’s lead.

“Kawhi was a 9 to 5, maybe 8:30 to 4:30 guy every day, Pascal is the same,” Nurse said. “He’s the first guy at the gym. He and Freddy, every morning. They learned a lot from the day of work. Not just the shooting, the entire day of work of shooting, eating, take care, lifting, stretching, hot tub, cold, tub, all that stuff. And Kawhi did all that stuff without batting an eye.”


This is the version of Leonard the Clippers have seen since January 8, a dominant run two months to the day in the making, a span in which Leonard is shooting 48% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, 51% on pull-up threes, and 59% of shots inside of 10 feet.

Continue reading here

How fire, an AAU coach and a game of H-O-R-S-E connected Clippers teammates — 10 years ago

Photos | Construction milestone reached at Clippers’ future home, Intuit Dome

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.


From Bill Plaschke: He was the ultimate wingman, the best supporting actor, the perfect complement.


Pau Gasol spent his seven Lakers seasons in the shadow of Kobe Bryant, accepting crude challenges, absorbing trash talk, burying his own ego for the sake of elevating his far more famous colleague in creating two NBA championships.

Every Lakers fan knew Bryant wore No. 8 and No. 24. Few knew Gasol wore No. 16.

Until now. They know now. They’ll know forever. A stately reminder will hang in the Arena rafters, where Gasol’s number was retired Tuesday night for the most unusual yet understandable of reasons.

He was Kobe Bryant’s greatest teammate. He used their synergy to contribute to three of their greatest seasons. Those three straight trips to the NBA Finals from 2008 to 2010 resulted in those two titles.

Pau and Kobe are now a duo for eternity.

Continue reading here

‘The physical style’: How Rui Hachimura helped Lakers beat the Grizzlies

Western Conference


First six qualify for playoffs. Nos. 7-10 compete in play-in tournament to determine final two spots.

1. Denver Nuggets, 46-20, —
2. Sacramento Kings, 38-26, 7 GB
3. Memphis Grizzlies, 38-26, 7 GB
4. Phoenix Suns, 37-29, 9 GB
5. Golden State Warriors, 34-32, 12 GB
6. Clippers, 35-33, 12 GB

7. Minnesota Timberwolves, 34-33, 12.5 GB
8. Dallas Mavericks, 34-34, 12.5 GB
9. Lakers, 32-34, 14 GB
10. New Orleans Pelicans, 32-34, 14 GB

11. Oklahoma City Thunder, 31-35, 15 GB
12. Portland Trail Blazers, 31-35, 15 GB
13. Utah Jazz, 31-35, 15 GB
14. San Antonio Spurs, 16-49, 30 GB
15. Houston Rockets, 15-50, 31 GB


From Ben Bolch: What happens here could earn UCLA a return trip in two weeks.

All it would take is the Bruins fending off concerns about Jaylen Clark’s absence and how it might affect their NCAA tournament seeding.

Mick Cronin did not seem worried in the least when a reporter informed the coach that he had spoken to ESPN bracket analyst Joe Lunardi about UCLA’s purported need to win the Pac-12 tournament to get a No. 1 seed.

“You spoke to who?” Cronin asked Tuesday.

“Joe Lunardi,” the reporter responded.

“Not sure who that is,” Cronin deadpanned.

“ESPN,” the reporter continued.

“Yeah,” Cronin said, “I don’t have any comment on that. I’d rather you speak to my father, somebody that actually knows basketball.”

Continue reading here


Pac-12 men’s tournament
at Las Vegas
All times Pacific

Today (all on Pac-12 Network)
No. 9 Colorado 74, No. 8 Washington 68
No. 5 Washington State 69, No. 12 California 52
No. 10 Stanford 73, No. 7 Utah 62
No. 6 Arizona State 63, No. 11 Oregon State 57

No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 9 Colorado, noon, Pac-12 Network
No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 5 Washington State, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 10 Stanford, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network
No. 3 USC vs. No. 6 Arizona State, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 1, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Game 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

7:30 p.m., ESPN


From Ryan Kartje: The bronze trophy sits in the same spot on his dining room table, a reminder of the high bar he set in his first season at USC. And in the three whirlwind months since he first hoisted his Heisman, becoming the eighth Trojan to earn the honor, Caleb Williams has had plenty of time to consider how his encore might surpass it.

For one, his plans involve making more room on the table.

“Gonna have two of them soon!” Williams said Wednesday when asked where his Heisman was, a grin spreading across his face.

Only one player in college football history has managed to hoist the Heisman a second time — Ohio State’s Archie Griffin — and his second win came nearly 50 years ago. The odds of being the second to repeat are stacked against USC’s junior quarterback, and his coach, Lincoln Riley has made clear he and Williams haven’t spent much time, if any, talking about it.

Continue reading here


From Sarah Valenzuela: This spring training has given Phil Nevin, fully entrenched as the Angels’ manager, a lot of firsts.


There was his first news conference in Tempe, Ariz., after pitchers and catchers reported to camp. There was his first Cactus League game, in Peoria, at the helm of the team. There was his first speech to the team before the first full-squad workouts.

“I suppose I’ve only been thinking about that one for about 20-some odd years,” Nevin said jokingly of that moment. Nevin was the third base coach for the Angels when he was promoted to interim manager in June after the firing of Joe Maddon. In October, he was given a one-year deal for the job for 2023.

Cleveland Guardians shortstop Brayan Rocchio warms up prior to a spring training baseball game.

There were glimpses of what the clubhouse was like when Nevin took over in the middle of last season. Starting off fresh this year, though, it’s clear what the foundations of his team are in the hopes of forming the next winning era of Angels baseball.

“The record was what it was at a certain point,” Nevin said of last season, “but you walked in that room … they were practicing to play, they expected to win every day. Playing .500 the last 60-whatever games. It’s a credit to what that room is. That room is going to be even stronger this year.”

Continue reading here



From Kevin Baxter: Giorgio Chiellini knew everything about LAFC’s opponent in the round of 16 game in the CONCACAF Champions League except how to say the Costa Rica team’s name.

“I know the name,” he said. “I was worried and scared about the bad pronunciation.”

It was a veteran move by Chiellini, 38, the ultimate veteran: Mispronounce the team’s name and it can be misconstrued as a sign of disrespect.

But here are some of the things Chiellini can say about Alajuelense (pronounced alaxwe lense) where LAFC will play Thursday: The club, based about 20 miles northwest of San Jose, has won 30 national championships and two Champions League titles. The team’s roster includes five Costa Rican World Cup veterans, including two Chiellini faced with Italy in the 2014 tournament. And it is atop the table 11 games into the Liga FPD season while its star forward Johan Venegas leads the league with 17 goals.

The CONCACAF Champions League, the region’s most prestigious club competition, is contested in a two-leg playoff format decided by aggregate goals. The second and deciding leg of the LAFC-Alajuelense series will be played March 15 at BMO Stadium. Last year the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the tournament under its present format. LAFC made the final in 2020, losing to Mexico’s Tigres.

Continue reading here


From Kevin Baxter: Alyssa Thompson spent the day before her first pro soccer match doing homework.


And we’re not talking about studying formations, looking at game film or practicing technique. Instead, Thompson curled up in a corner at the Angel City practice facility and worked on a high school essay.

On the field, however, Thompson was giving the lessons in her Angel City debut Wednesday, starting and scoring a breathtaking goal in a 3-0 win over Mexico’s Club América in a preseason friendly at BMO Stadium.

If there was any doubt Thompson belonged at this level, she dispelled it in the first five minutes.

“Out on the field you couldn’t tell that she’s an 18-year-old,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said.

“She’s given that opportunity and she’s growing in confidence. We’re starting to see her express herself more. It’s allowing her to feel comfortable in her environment where then we can challenge her to bring the best out of her.”

Continue reading here



J.T. Miller scored his second goal of the game 20 seconds into overtime to give the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win over the Ducks on Wednesday night.

Miller also scored short-handed in the first period, and Andrei Kuzmenko added a goal for Vancouver. Thatcher Demko stopped 20 shots.

Troy Terry and Brock McGinn scored for Anaheim. Lukas Dostal made 31 saves.


1943 — Eddie Dancker banks in a desperation 25-foot hook shot from the corner to give Sheboygan a 30-29 win over Fort Wayne and the National Basketball League crown. The defeat of the Pistons is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in pro basketball history.

1948 — NHL President Clarence Campbell expels Billy Taylor of the New York Rangers and Don Gallagher of the Boston Bruins because of gambling associations.

1958 — George Yardley of the Detroit Pistons becomes the first NBA player to score 2,000 points in a season. Yardley averages 27.8 points in the 72-game season.

1968 — Houston’s Elvin Hayes scores 49 points and pulls down 27 rebounds in a 94-76 win over Loyola of Chicago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


1977 — Anthony Roberts of Oral Roberts sets an NIT record with 65 points in a 90-89 loss to Oregon in the first round.

1979 — Detroit’s Kevin Porter hands out a franchise-record 25 assists as the Pistons defeat the Boston Celtics 160-117.

1984 — Tim Witherspoon wins the vacant WBC heavyweight title with a 12-round majority decision over Greg Page.

1986 — Buffalo’s Gilbert Perreault scores his 500th goal in a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.

1994 — Detroit’s Dino Ciccarelli scores his 1,000th point with a goal in a 5-1 win over Calgary.

2001 — Ty Tryon, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, makes the cut in his first PGA Tour event. He’s 1 over after the second round of the Honda Classic, making him the second-youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.


2011 — Kevin Love records his 52nd consecutive double-double to surpass Moses Malone for the longest such streak since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976 in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 101-75 over the Indiana Pacers. Love overcomes a bruised left knee to put up 16 points and 21 rebounds in just 27 minutes.

2013 — Liberty becomes the second 20-loss team to reach the NCAA tournament, beating Charleston Southern 87-76 to win the Big South Conference title. It joins Coppin State in 2008 as the only schools with 20 or more defeats in the field of 68.

2013 — Bernard Hopkins at 48 becomes the oldest boxer to win a major title, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud to claim the IBF light heavyweight championship in New York.

2016 — Russell Westbrook has 25 points, a career-high 20 assists and 11 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Clippers 120-108. It’s the first triple-double with at least 20 points and 20 assists since Rod Strickland did it for the Washington Wizards in 1998.

2017 — Villanova Wildcats shoot 63% and commits just five turnovers in a record-setting 108-67 victory over St. John’s in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. It’s the most points and largest margin of victory in the tournament for Villanova and the worst loss ever for the Red Storm

—Compiled by the Associated Press


And finally

The Pau Gasol jersey retirement ceremony. Watch and listen here.

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, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.