Howdy everyone, and welcome to the Thursday edition of the Los Angeles Times daily sports newsletter. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m your host for the festivities. Subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here.
Let’s get to it.
It appears a Bryce Harper signing by Philadelphia, San Francisco or the Dodgers is imminent, and Bill Plaschke has some thoughts on that:
“The Dodgers need to blink hard, dig deep and end this game of chicken now by signing baseball’s marquee free agent outfielder so they can begin their third consecutive trip to the World Series and this time win the dang thing.
“Now that they’re in the room, recent events make it obvious that they need to walk out with him in a Dodger uniform, because they must and because they can.
“… The stakes became even higher Wednesday with the news that the San Francisco Giants are seriously involved. According to various reports, the Giants met Harper in his Las Vegas home for a second time on Tuesday, and are discussing the sort of 10-year deal that the Dodgers reportedly will not give him.
“OK, listen Dodgers, if you’re really making a pitch for Bryce Harper, you can lose him to 28 other teams, but you cannot lose him to the Giants. You cannot get outspent by your rivals who have won three World Series championships in nine years while you have won zero in 30 years. Andrew Friedman cannot be outmaneuvered by his former lieutenant Farhan Zaidi.
“Dodger Stadium cannot lose to whatever the Giants are calling their cramped ballpark these days.”
As far as the rest of the team goes, Julio Urias is healthy and confident while trying to earn a spot in the rotation.
It was an important night for the Lakers. Their season was spiraling out of control with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans coming to town. Tania Ganguli on what happened:
“Their season imperiled, the Lakers got the burst of energy they needed in the third quarter from Kyle Kuzma with a soaring dunk.
“And then again with another dunk from Kuzma.
“Then LeBron James joined the dunking party, before Kuzma threw down one more.
“Down by five just two minutes before, the Lakers went on a 10-1 run to pull ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans in a game they had to win.
“It was one segment of a game filled with moments when the Lakers refused to let the game slip from their grasp. New Orleans never led by more than five points, and the Lakers secured their 30th win of the season, winning 125-119.
“The Lakers entered the night on a precarious ledge between the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2013 and a crushing blow to their postseason hopes. The Spurs, Clippers, Kings, Timberwolves and Lakers are all in contention for the seventh and eighth seed in the Western Conference.
“By the end of the night, the Lakers were three games behind the Clippers and Spurs, who are tied for the seventh and eighth seeds.
Earlier in the day, Luke Walton defended the relationship between LeBron James and his teammates, saying “Those guys know LeBron, they’ve got good relationships with LeBron, the culture we try to build down here is supportive of each other. That stuff’s gonna happen, but we just gotta ... do our job and not let that seep in to the way we play for each other and with each other.”
The Western Conference standings. Top 8 teams make the playoffs:
1. Golden State, 43-18, ---
2. Denver, 42-18, ½ GB
3. Oklahoma City, 38-22, 4.5 GB
4. Portland, 38-23, 5 GB
5. Houston, 36-25, 7 GB
6. Utah, 34-26, 8.5 GB
7. San Antonio, 34-29, 10 GB
7. Clippers, 34-29, 10 GB
9. Sacramento, 31-30, 12 GB
10. Lakers, 30-31, 13 GB
11. Minnesota, 29-32, 14 GB
12. Dallas, 27-34, 16 GB
13. New Orleans, 27-36, 17 GB
14. Memphis, 24-39, 20 GB
15. Phoenix, 12-50, 31.5 GB
Helene Elliott takes a look at U.S. Olympic hockey silver medalist Molly Schaus and what she is doing with the Ducks, specifically with the S.C.O.R.E. program, writing,
“S.C.O.R.E. is funded by the Ducks Foundation and a grant from the Industry Growth Fund of the NHL and NHL Players’ Assn. The program — which has no on-ice component — stresses science, reading, physical fitness and leadership through connections to hockey. Schools are given supplies, manuals and curricula. Many kids hadn’t held a hockey stick before they participated. That was a shock for Schaus, who grew up in Minnesota, Chicago, and Boston.
“When I moved out here one of my jobs was to update the street hockey curriculum,” she said. “And they told me, ‘You don’t understand. These kids didn’t grow up playing pond hockey. They didn’t grow up playing street hockey.’ So I was wondering, what’s the hockey culture out here? It’s incredible. It’s one of the fastest-growing states in USA Hockey [registration].”
“One of Schaus’ main responsibilities is the First Flight field trip, which will take place Thursday at Honda Center. It began with kids watching practice and for its 19th edition has evolved into activities for 17,000 students in third through sixth grade from Orange County and beyond. They’ll try exhibits in the parking lot before they enter the arena to watch and interact with Ducks players.
“It’s the loudest the arena has ever been,” Schaus said. “We’ve measured it against playoffs, concerts, Justin Timberlake.”
“This year’s theme centered on getting kids to engineer a better puck. Kids were given activity kits and teachers got software to help them; classes submitted 3D files that were printed and will be used by the Ducks in Thursday’s practice.
“It’s a really neat way to connect,” Schaus said. “Here’s a kid learning in the classroom and the next day, Corey Perry is using his design on ice and talking about the surface area and bounce. When I was in fourth grade I could never have done this.”
Odds and Ends
The Clippers lose to the Utah Jazz, 111-105…. LAFC is eager to build on promising 2018 debut after finish left them with sour taste…. The connection between Las Vegas and L.A. is strong and sports is making it stronger…. U.S. ties Japan 2-2 in Women's World Cup tuneup…. UCLA and USC head to today’s matchup looking for leadership from players…. Coach Kliff Kingsbury aims to fix the Arizona Cardinals after quick exit from USC…. As the likes of USC and UCLA have struggled, tiny Pomona-Pitzer has big basketball dreams…. Angels’ Kole Calhoun is experimenting with a new approach, looking for old results.
In the latest episode of the “Arrive Early, Leave Late” podcast, UFC fighters Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren join Times combat sports writer Lance Pugmire and host Beto Durán in studio to discuss the upcoming UFC 235 in Las Vegas on Saturday and much more.
Woodley — who will defend his welterweight belt against Kamaru Usman — and Askren — an undefeated fighter who will make his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler — share some highly entertaining stories from their days with the Missouri wrestling team. They also talk about the bond that they formed back in those days, one that will not allow them to fight each other even if a title belt is at stake.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Today’s local major sports schedule (all times Pacific)
Dodgers vs. Colorado, noon, AM 570
Angels vs. Texas, noon, FSW, KLAA 830 AM
Dallas at Kings, 7:30, FSW
USC at UCLA, 6 p.m., ESPN, AM 570
Born on this date
1940: Race car driver Mario Andretti
1945: NFL player Bubba Smith
1956: NBA player Adrian Dantley
1958: NHL player Mark Pavelich
1973: NHL player Eric Lindros