The Sports Report: Lincoln Riley defends the USC defense

Lincoln Riley
(Steve Marcus / Associated Press)

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

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Lincoln Riley shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and offered a tight smile.

“How long do you got?” the USC coach responded when faced with yet another question about his defense.

After the team’s Heisman-winning quarterback provided unprompted, emphatic support of USC’s embattled defense last weekend, the coach provided his own Tuesday, saying the outside perception of the Alex Grinch-led unit fails to see the whole picture of an improving group that has come up with key plays.


“A lot of people in the media had their mind made up that the first second there was any adversity this year, it was like, ‘Oh my God, they should have done this, and they should have made this change,’ and blah blah blah. And it’s not true,” Riley said in a 2-minute 12-second soliloquy after practice. “Like, listen — you’re going to go through the whole year, you’re going to have a tough game. You’re going to have a tough quarter. Do you respond?”

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From Ryan Kartje: On the night of his 40th birthday, Lincoln Riley left his USC office late, as he does most Tuesday nights during football season. By the time he reached his Palos Verdes home, he was ready to turn in early.

The coach’s birthday always came at an inopportune time — Sept. 5, just as football season was in full swing. There wasn’t much his family could do to celebrate with his schedule, so Riley had gotten used to low-key birthdays.

He didn’t expect anything different last month when he turned 40.

The last two years left Riley thinking more about life and what was important. So much had changed for his family since November 2021, when the Rileys left Oklahoma, enraging an entire state in the process. They loved their new world at USC, where his Trojans are preparing for a major litmus test Saturday in South Bend, Ind. The Southland afforded them relative anonymity, but “the transition from Oklahoma wasn’t as easy, I think, as we’d hoped it would be,” says Clarke Stroud, USC’s director of football operations and a close friend of Riley’s.

Soon after the Rileys moved, Dave Nichol, a USC assistant coach and another close friend, was diagnosed with cancer and died within three months. By the end of the year, the coach and mentor who gave Riley his first break as a coach, Mike Leach, died suddenly from complications of a heart condition. Losing both men, each so crucial to Riley’s rise, rocked him. But USC, in the midst of a rapid rebuild, needed Riley to project confidence. So he kept those feelings close and pushed forward.


“He had this really unique ability to keep everyone focused,” Stroud said. “But privately, I had never seen him like that. It was a really, really difficult time for him.”

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From Bill Shaikin: The Arizona Diamondbacks have not played a postseason home game in six years. When the playoffs finally return to Chase Field on Wednesday, with the home team one victory from eliminating the Dodgers, the ballpark will be rocking.

With Dodgers fans, probably.

The San Diego Padres were not about to put up with Dodgers fans last October, at least to the extent they could control it. Fans could see the Padres play a postseason game at Petco Park for the first time in 16 years, and the Padres wanted to maximize the home-field advantage.

When the Padres put tickets on sale, they enforced this restriction: If you lived in Los Angeles County, or anywhere else beyond San Diego County and a selected group of nearby areas, you could not buy a ticket.


You could call that policy brilliant, or you could call it embarrassing, but you have to admit it worked.

“What San Diego did last year, to kind of X the Dodger fans out because of zip code,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “I’ve never seen Petco Park that loud.”

The Diamondbacks could have imposed a similar restriction. They did not, team president Derrick Hall said.

“We always draw Dodger fans,” Hall said. “We have a lot of [Dodgers] fans in the Valley, and a lot will travel over.

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All times Pacific


Dodgers vs. Arizona
Arizona 11, Dodgers 2 (box score)
Arizona 4, Dodgers 2 (box score)
Tonight at Arizona, 6 p.m.
*Thursday at Arizona, 6 p.m.
*Saturday at Dodgers, 6:20 p.m.

All games will be on TBS.

Philadelphia vs. Atlanta
Philadelphia 3, Atlanta 0 (box score)
Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 4 (box score)
Today at Philadelphia, 2 p.m., TBS
Thursday at Philadelphia, 3 p.m., TBS
*Saturday at Atlanta, 3 p.m., TBS

*-if necessary


All times Pacific

Texas vs. Baltimore
Texas 3, Baltimore 2 (box score)
Texas 11, Baltimore 8 (box score)
Texas 7, Baltimore 1 (box score)

Minnesota vs. Houston
Houston 6, Minnesota 4 (box score)
Minnesota 6, Houston 2 (box score)
Houston 9, Minnesota 1 (box score)
Today at Minnesota, 4 p.m., FS1
*Friday at Houston, 1 p.m., FS1

*-if necessary

ALDS: Corey Seager helps send Rangers to ALCS with sweep of Orioles


From Helene Elliott: The Kings’ season will be an exercise in mathematical wizardry and an attempt to exorcise the memory of two consecutive playoff losses to the Edmonton Oilers.


The math component looms large for the Kings, who open the season Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche at Arena, because the NHL’s hard salary cap has grown slowly since the COVID-19 pandemic and stands at $83.5 million. They aren’t alone in starting the season with fewer than the maximum 23 players on their roster — they might open with 20 — and they’ll probably dress 11 forwards instead of the usual 12 in some games in order to stay under the cap limit.

The roster and lineups could change often, creating unpredictability and questions for a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations but might have to make a move if the Pheonix Copley-Cam Talbot goaltending tandem can’t produce top-tier performances. The uncertainty surrounding the roster is the most Kings coach Todd McLellan has faced, and he’s starting his sixth season with them and 17th as an NHL coach.

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NHL bans players from wrapping sticks with rainbow-colored Pride Tape


From Broderick Turner: His outside touch has been remarkably better in two preseason games with the Lakers than it was at any time last season, the basketball leaving Anthony Davis’ hands a sign that he has regained faith in his three-point shooting.

While the sample size is small, it has been encouraging for the Lakers to see Davis shoot without fear.


He has shot three for six from three-point range in two preseason games, 58% overall. Equally important, Davis has shot 83.3% from the free-throw line.

Coach Darvin Ham said “his confidence” has allowed Davis to shoot the three with freedom.

“That’s something that he’s worked on — being a more consistent shooter and not just more consistent in his areas but consistent from deep range,” Ham said after practice Tuesday. “And not hesitating. Not overthinking it. So if he’s got a good look, we’ve all encouraged him to put it up.

“I told him, I want him, if he can — I know he won’t do it, but maybe he’ll shock me — but I’ve requested to see six three-point attempts a game. Three per half, at least. I wouldn’t put that on him if I didn’t think he was capable. He’s more than capable and I just think once he calibrates his mind to have that focus, he’ll do it. Amongst all the other things, the great things that he does.”

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From Andrew Greif: Back in the city where he grew famous for his excitable, full-decibel addresses to Microsoft employees, Steve Ballmer grabbed a microphone before tipoff Tuesday inside an arena at Seattle’s center and asked for help.


Ballmer wanted fans to give his team a warm welcome. “All night long,” he roared, “we better be loud enough in this building to hear us all the way back in New York, if you get me,” a reference to the NBA league office that in coming years could decide whether to give this city an expansion team to replace its long-gone SuperSonics.

That is a work in progress. For that matter, so is this iteration of the Clippers, who beat the Utah Jazz, 103-98, to even their preseason record at 1-1 with two more exhibitions left.

The Clippers’ biggest concern isn’t shooting, although they followed their 39% shooting, including 26% on three-pointers, in Sunday’s preseason-opening loss to Utah in Hawaii with 38% shooting in Tuesday’s rematch. This time they made 27% of their three-pointers.

When they will regain their accuracy is less important than when they will return to full health. After starting training camp that way last week, Marcus Morris Sr. (strained left groin), Norman Powell (strained left groin), Ivica Zubac (back spasms) and Brandon Boston Jr. (knee contusion) have been added to the injury list since Saturday.

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From Gary Klein: The season is only five games old and the Rams traded another player Tuesday from their 2020 draft class.


Receiver Van Jefferson, 27, was the latest to go in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. The Rams also sent a seventh round pick in the 2025 draft to the Falcons and received a sixth round pick in the same draft.

Jefferson joins running back Cam Akers as former second round picks that were traded. The Rams sent Akers to the Minnesota Vikings after their second game.

Jefferson went into training camp as the presumptive No. 2 receiver behind star Cooper Kupp. When Kupp went on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury, Jefferson’s role appeared on track to grow even more.

But rookie Puka Nacua emerged as the Rams’ No. 1 receiver, with Tutu Atwell also getting many targets.

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From Jeff Miller: Running back Austin Ekeler described himself as a full participant in practice Tuesday and said he’s “99%” certain that he’ll return Monday night when the Chargers play Dallas at SoFi Stadium.


Following the team’s off week, Ekeler said his high-ankle sprain is healed after he missed the last three games. He was injured in the Chargers’ season-opening loss to Miami.

The Chargers won’t release their first injury report of the week until Thursday, but they welcomed back several players as they returned to practice at their facility on Costa Mesa.

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From Christi Carras: United States gymnastics legend Mary Lou Retton has been hospitalized for more than a week after contracting “a very rare form of pneumonia,” her daughter said Tuesday.

Retton’s daughter, McKenna Kelley, has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for her mother’s medical expenses. In the description for the campaign, Kelley explains that her “amazing mom” is in the intensive care unit “fighting for her life” with no medical insurance.

“She is not able to breathe on her own,” Kelley writes.

“We ask that if you could help in any way, that 1) you PRAY! and 2) if you could help us with finances for the hospital bill. ANYTHING, absolutely anything, would be so helpful for my family and my mom. Thank y’all so very much!”


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1890 — The first 100-yard dash under 10 seconds is run by John Owens at 9.8 in an AAU track and field meet in Washington.

1902 — Laurie Auchterlonie beats Stewart Gardner with a 307-total to win the U.S. Open golf title.

1991 — Chip Beck shoots the second sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with a 59 in the Las Vegas Invitational. Beck cards a 29-30, 13 under, to match Al Geiberger’s second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic.

1992 — Deion Sanders plays on the same day for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves.

2003 — Buffalo is the third NHL team since 1967-68 to be shut out in each of its first two games after a 6-0 defeat to the New York Islanders.

2009 — Kurt Warner passes for 301 yards in Arizona’s 28-21 win over Houston. It’s the 50th 300-yard game for Warner in 113 games, making him the fastest to reach 50 in NFL history. Dan Marino, who took 176 games to reach the mark, was the fastest.


2010 — Minnesota’s Brett Favre becomes the first NFL player to throw 500 touchdown passes and for 70,000 yards. However, with Favre trying to rally his team, Dwight Lowery returns an interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:30 left as the New York Jets beat the Vikings 29-20.

2011 — The U.S. women roll to their third title at the world gymnastics championships held in Tokyo. The Americans finish with 179.411 points, a whopping 4 points ahead of Russia, last year’s champion.

2014 — Baylor’s Bryce Petty throws for 510 yards and six TDs, including a tying 25-yarder to Corey Coleman with 4:42 left in the No. 9 Bears’ 61-58 win over No. 9 TCU. Chris Callahan kicks a 28-yard field goal as time expires and Baylor scores 24 points in the final 11 minutes to beat the Horned Frogs in the highest-scoring game ever between two teams in the AP Top 10.

2020 — British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton wins the Eifel Grand Prix at Germany’s Nurburgring to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 victories.

2020 — French Open Men’s Tennis: Rafael Nadal beats Novak Đoković 6-0, 6-2, 7-5; 20th Grand Slam singles title; record 13th French singles title.

2020 — NBA Finals: Lakers beat Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 to win record equalling 17th title; MVP: LeBron James; first to win the award with three different teams.


—Compiled by the Associated Press

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