The Sports Report: Bad news for the Lakers
Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell. It seems that the Lakers just can’t catch a break, unless it’s a bad one.
The Lakers were cruising through the off-season, apparently headed to a return to the playoffs and, if you believe some, an NBA title. Then, Thursday happened.
Center DeMarcus Cousins tore the ACL is his left knee. We’ll let Tania Ganguli explain.
“Cousins sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, according to his agent, Jeff Schwartz, of Excel Sports Management.
“Injuries are part of the game, but you’re talking about a player who has now dealt with the two most feared injuries for NBA players — the Achilles and the ACL,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after a Team USA practice at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “To deal with that over two-and-half, three-year span, it’s unheard of. I don’t know. What a blow for him, for the Lakers.”
“The injury occurred during a five-on-five game of organized pickup with other NBA players earlier this week in Las Vegas. Cousins bumped knees with another player and fell to the court, but when he rose he walked without any apparent limitations. It wasn’t until the next day that the injury began to seem more serious.
“It was confirmed after Cousins met with Lakers doctors Thursday afternoon. The center, who turned 29 on Tuesday, is still working through a recovery plan and timetable. Recovery from ACL tears often take between nine months and a year.
“Cousins went into free agency this season feeling healthy, and he was slimmer than he’d been throughout his playing career, knowing many teams would be wary of his health.
“When fully healthy, he was widely considered one of the league’s best centers. The New Orleans Pelicans considered it a coup to have traded for him in February 2017. During the 2017-18 season Cousins was playing some of the best basketball of his career. His Achilles tendon tear in January 2018 depressed his free-agent value and kept him off the court for a year.
“He signed a one-year deal with the Warriors without offers from any other team. He made his Warriors debut in January 2019, but suffered a quadriceps injury three months later. That injury caused him to miss most of the playoffs.
“I love it that much more,” Cousins said in July when asked how his injuries had impacted his mindset. “Everything I’ve gone through in the past three years it just helped me realize how fast this thing can be taken away from you. I love it that much more. I’m grateful for every opportunity. I learned the hard way.”
“The Lakers had hoped Cousins would beef up their frontcourt and allow star big man Anthony Davis to play his preferred position of power forward, rather than center.”
Meanwhile, Times NBA columnist Dan Woike offers his take on the matter:
“What do you make of this, another sign of bad news for the Lakers’ latest crack at a title?
“Maybe you view DeMarcus Cousins signing late in free agency as a lottery scratcher — a low-risk investment that if it hits, great, and if not, you’re only out a couple of bucks.
“You probably felt counting on Cousins — and specifically, counting on Cousins’ body — after an Achilles tendon injury was such a risky bet that the Lakers weren’t making any plans for him in pen.
“How could he headline this team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis unless you can rewind time and un-tear those tendons. Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups (and maybe Kevin Durant next), were not the same after an Achilles tendon tear.
“Maybe this makes this all easier to swallow.
“Or maybe it doesn’t because you knew that bet was more important than just a throwaway scratcher .
“Maybe, you know losing Cousins to a torn ACL is really going to matter.
“In addition to the gut-wrenching ramifications of the injury — a player who has seen his prime and two massive paydays hijacked by a series of injuries to his left leg — it has to change the Lakers’ plans for their upcoming season.
“In the Lakers’ perfect world, Cousins would’ve become the team’s go-to center, a player whose offensive skills would complement James and Davis, a player who can stand beyond the three-point line and shoot or pass with as much comfort as he can in the post.
“Luckily, the Lakers have the perfect center to replace him on their roster. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s skilled. He’s athletic.
“It’s just too bad he doesn’t want to play the position.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” the 6-foot-10 Davis said on the day he was introduced as a Laker, “I like playing the 4.”
“But what Davis wants and what the Lakers need are two different things.
High School football
Times High School football columnist Eric Sondheimer is counting down to the season by picking the top players at each position. Today, he moves on to wide receiver. Take it away, Eric.
Offensive lineman AJ Vaipulu, Corona Centennial
Imagine the audacity of starting a 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman at left offensive tackle against Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1 playoff semifinals?
Corona Centennial offensive line coach Kunane Burns offers no apology for inserting 15-year-old AJ Vaipulu into the starting lineup last season. He lacked experience. He lacked size. And yet, with each week, through the Big VIII League games and three Division 1 playoff games, Vaipulu got better and better.
“We brought him up originally as a backup and as it proceeded, AJ started to make an impact and we gave him an opportunity to compete for playing time and it evolved into him winning the competition,” he said. “As a freshman, he had a unique sense of toughness.”
Maybe he learned toughness from wrestling his now 300-pound older brother, Solo, at home or watching Solo block for the Huskies.
“You get to hit somebody and not get into trouble for it,” AJ says of his love for football.
He’s moving to center this season at 6-2, 235 pounds, and the Huskies will have the rarest of the rare by 2021 — a four-year offensive line starter.
“It’s a big difference being in a freshman game vs. a varsity game, but it was constant growth we saw week to week,” Burns said. “He’s eventually going to fill into his body.”
Vaipulu loves competition, plus he’s athletic — he also plays rugby — and backs down from nobody. During the spring, he went up against a senior nose guard. It got a little heated.
“He held his ground,” Burns said of Vaipulu .
Vaipulu learned plenty from the weekly challenges last season, whether taking on future college players at Harbor City Narbonne or Mater Dei, or when facing off against future Trojan Drake Jackson in practice.
“It was a challenge and it was different,” he said. “It was competing at a different level. It was constantly learning on the go.”
Top offensive linemen
Player, School | Ht. | Wt. | Yr. | Comment
Angel Hernandez, Mayfair | 6-3 | 295 | Sr. | Has gotten stronger, more physical
Tai Marks, Mater Dei; 6-3 |313 | Sr. | Don’t let his smile fool you how nasty he can be
Drake Metcalf, St. John Bosco | 6-3 | 270 | Sr. | Stanford commit is relentless
Myles Murao, Mater Dei | 6-3 | 280 | Sr. | Washington commit is back from injury
Jeffrey Persi, JSerra | 6-7 | 265 | Sr. | Michigan commit has size to dominate
Jacob Nunez, Lompoc | 6-4 | 285 | Sr. | He’s a four-year starter
JaCobe Simms, Gardena Serra | 6-2 | 305 | Jr. | Made huge strides in off season
Nofoafia Tulafono, Oak Hills | 6-1 | 305 | Sr. |Offensive guard with strength
AJ Vaipulu, Corona Centennial | 6-2 | 235 | So. | Started at left tackle as a freshman
Justin Williams, Tesoro | 6-4 | 270 | Sr. | One of the best blockers in Orange County
Today: Offensive lineman AJ Vaipulu, Corona Centennial
Saturday: Tight end Jake Overman, Servite
Sunday: Running back Anthony Spearman III, Notre Dame
Monday: Defensive lineman Jordan Berry, Narbonne
Tuesday: Linebacker Mister Williams, Oaks Christian
Wednesday: Defensive back Mason White, Birmingham
Thursday: Kicker Josh Bryan, Sierra Canyon
And now for something completely different
Triathlon is a sport that tests the ultimate in human endurance. You swim until your lips are chapped, ride a bike until your lower back is thrashed, run until your legs are on fire. But there’s one thing you should never, ever do: hold hands.
British triathletes Jessica Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown were disqualified Thursday for holding hands to cross the finish line together in a test event for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who finished third behind the pair, was elevated to first in the race that also doubled as an Olympic qualifier. Learmonth and Taylor-Brown will have to wait until May to find out whether they will be chosen for their Olympic team.
International Triathlon Union officials said Learmonth and Taylor-Brown were in breach of rules that state athletes must not “finish in a contrived tie situation where no effort to separate the finish times has been made.”
However, British triathlon’s national performance director, Mike Cavendish, praised the performances.
“It’s obviously disappointing to have Jess and Georgia disqualified,” Cavendish told the British newspaper the Guardian, “but it’s a testament to the depth of our female squad that we still have another athlete on the podium,” he added.
Silly International Triathlon Union. Don’t they know the old sports adage “Tie goes to the runner”?
Your favorite sports moment
What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment?, and it could appear in a future newsletter. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.
Today’s moment comes from Peter Romero:
“It was a Chicago Cubs-Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game, May 14, 1978. Dave Kingman of the Cubs hit three homers and the Dodgers lost in 15 innings. I had taken a neighborhood friend and his little 9-year-old brother. Before the game started a Dodger player threw a baseball over the dugout, and my friend, Charley, got the ball among a group of 10 or so youngsters. In a last-second decision, after the game we waited out by where the Dodgers parked, and saw Tommy Lasorda enter his vehicle and start to drive away. I put my hand on his windshield and he stopped. Rolling down his window, he asked how he could help, we asked him if he would sign the ball, he did, and drove away. He did all of this in an incredibly kind way.
“The real shock here is how I later learned he had gone on one of his most raucous rants to a journalist who had asked him what he thought of Kingman’s performance, a recording of which is available in many places on the internet. In my heart this turned out to be one of the great moments. What a man, he should have driven right past me, but he didn’t. Sometimes life lessons aren’t always between the lines.”
Odds and ends
Column: USC’s renovation of the Coliseum is dazzling. Can the same be said of the Trojans?.... Alix Klineman’s transition to beach volleyball has been everything she and April Ross could have hoped for.... Holdout is a battle the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon can’t win; just hope he finds peace.... NFL preseason: Raiders roll past Cardinals; Ravens beat Packers.... Anthony Lynn hopes the 2019 Chargers can be as resilient and as focused as 2018 team.... Revitalized Mike Thomas hopes to catch on with Rams receiving corps.... College football 2019: Will conferences rue their transparency on officiating?.... UCLA’s 31-year-old punter Wade Lees continues his life journey in Westwood.... Hapless Marlins unload on Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and bullpen.... Clippers add forward Patrick Patterson on one-year deal.... Soccer on TV: What to watch this weekend.... Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family are OK after plane crash.... Banc of California Stadium evokes site’s Sports Arena past to host its first boxing match.... Mike Trout hits his 40th homer in Angels’ victory.
Today’s local major sports schedule
All times Pacific
Dodgers at Atlanta, 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570
Chicago White Sox at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, 830 AM
Sparks at Chicago, 5 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet
Born on this date
1862: Football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (d. 1965)
1930: NFL player/sportscaster Frank Gifford (d. 2015)
1930: Tennis player Tony Trabert
1961: NFL player Christian Okoye
1964: Tennis player Jimmy Arias
1966: NHL player Ed Olczyk
1974: Former Dodger Roger Cedeno
Died on this date
1948: Baseball player Babe Ruth, 53
2002: Former Dodger John Roseboro, 68
2010: Baseball player Bobby Thomson, 86
2018: Gymnast Yelena Shushunova, 49
Babe Ruth takes batting practice. Watch it here.
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