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The Sports Report: Should the Lakers reunite with Dwight Howard?

Lakers’ Dwight Howard working on outside shot
Dwight Howard with the Lakers.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Lakers

Lakers fans are aghast, or thrilled, by the spreading rumor that the team is interested in reuniting with Dwight Howard. Several emails were sent praying that it won’t happen (it won’t), and a few were sent hoping it would (it won’t). Arash Markazi takes a look at Howard’s reputation:

When rumors were floated recently that Dwight Howard might be a fit for the Lakers, the reaction of Los Angeles fans was predictable.

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Seven years after he spurned the team’s billboard campaign begging him to stay in purple and gold, he remains, arguably, the most vilified former player in Lakers history.

However, that anger is misplaced. Howard isn’t nearly the villain he’s been made out to be . He actually saved the Lakers from themselves.

Let’s go back to 2012. The Lakers had Andrew Bynum, who was the starting center for the West at the NBA All-Star Game, but they had their sights set on Howard, who was the starting center for the East. Bynum was 24 and coming off a career season where he averaged 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game after being the team’s starting center for back-to-back championships. Bynum had one year left on his deal and was in line to get a maximum five-year, $101.9-million contract.

As good as Bynum was, Howard was one of the best players in the league. At 26 he was a five-time All-NBA First Team selection and was named Defensive Player of the Year three times. So the Lakers completed a blockbuster four-team deal to acquire Howard, Earl Clark and Chris Duhon from the Orlando Magic and traded Bynum, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga and a protected first-round pick in 2017.

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We all know how Howard’s lone season with the Lakers played out, but it’s important to note that Bynum missed that entire season and would only play 26 more games in his career after the trade. He has been out of the league since 2014. Howard not only saved the Lakers from potentially signing Bynum to a big contract before his career petered out, he did them a favor by turning down their offer of a maximum five-year, $118-million deal.

The Lakers traded for Howard thinking he would become the franchise’s next great center, following in the footsteps of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. Howard, however, had back surgery prior to the trade and was never the same player again. Even though he was a shell of his former self, the Lakers were still committed to making him one of the highest-paid players in the league. Howard passed and Lakers fans should be thankful he did, not resentful.

Sports poll

So, I want to hear from you. Do you think the Lakers should reunite with Dwight Howard? Click here to vote in our poll or email me your answer.

Dodgers

The Dodgers had a chance to acquire closer Felipe Vazquez at the trade deadline, but refused to part with top prospect Gavin Lux. Which caused some fans to wonder, “Who the heck is Gavin Lux?”

Jorge Castillo explains:

Gavin Lux, a left-handed-hitting middle infielder, is a captivating talent riding a meteoric rise fitting in with his older teammates as much as he’s standing out on the field since making his triple-A debut June 27.

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He spent the next month razing the opposition, amplifying the hype surrounding him with each performance while impressing peers with his behind-the-scenes work ethic. By July 31, Lux was batting .465 with eight home runs, four triples and 12 doubles. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage was a bloated 1.443. He recorded a hit in 23 of his 24 games, reached base in all 24 and cemented his status as one of baseball’s premier prospects with a dose of subtle swagger.

“He could be something really special,” said Dodgers outfielder Kyle Garlick, who was with Oklahoma City for Lux’s first seven weeks with the club. “Not just like an everyday big leaguer, but possibly an All-Star. I mean, a Hall of Famer. I don’t know. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but I think that’s something you can see right now that’s evident.”

Other organizations saw that too, so when the Dodgers scoured the trade market for a shutdown reliever to strengthen the back end of their bullpen — and obtain perhaps the final piece to a championship club — they found teams demanding Lux. Speculation whirled as the July 31 deadline approached, but the Dodgers didn’t budge. The deadline passed at 1 p.m. Pacific time, and the Dodgers emerged without a premier pitcher.

Lux heard all the rumors. He read the tweets and watched the TV segments. Teammates playfully teased him. It was surreal, it was stressful, and it was a stark reversal from where Lux found himself just a few months earlier in spring training, when the yips plagued his throwing during his first major league camp.

Now, after overcoming failures, he is on the cusp of the major leagues, where grand expectations, buoyed by the Dodgers’ insistence on keeping him, await in Los Angeles.

“I think you use it as a little bit of motivation,” Lux said. “But I don’t really see it as pressure. I’m kind of a low-key guy where pressure doesn’t really affect me like it used to. So I’m just going to go out and play and do my thing, and I’m not going worry about anything else.”

Bill Plaschke

Bill Plaschke wrote a wonderful column on the Paradise High football program that you simply must read. Here’s an excerpt:

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The scruffy bear of a man pulls his sunglasses tight so his football team can’t see his tears.

Andy Hopper, an assistant football coach at Paradise High, has a story to tell. On this August morning in a cluttered school gym, he is telling it to a group of 37 boys wearing baggy shorts and weary smiles.

They are the Paradise Bobcats, teenagers who have stubbornly returned to the mountain to sift through the ashes in search of a football season.

Nine months after the most destructive wildfire in California history turned their town into scorched metal and dust, they are embarking on training camp for an autumn that is as much about healing as winning. They are charged with the rebirth not only of football, but community. Their childhood sport has become a sacred mission and one of the biggest challenges of their young lives.

One month from their first game and three days before their first padded practice, they have gathered to listen to the heartbeat of Coach Hopper.

November 8 was hard!” he says, and the gym goes silent. “You lose everything; you think it’s the end of the world!”

Sprawled across the hardwood floor, fidgeting just moments earlier, the boys are motionless. They stare at the coach as a trickle leaks from behind those glasses.

“November 13, I got the first opportunity to sneak in,” he says. “I went to look for my grandma’s ashes. I didn’t find them. I keep sifting through that, and you start feeling sorry for yourself and you start thinking nothing is going to be right again.”

As the coach speaks, he is being watched closely by the defensive back who was cornered by the fire before driving himself through hell to safety. And the running back whose mother told him they were going to die in the flames. And the other running back who ran from the blaze carrying only his equipment bag.

Read the whole thing by clicking here. You’ll be glad you did.

Angels

The Angels returned to Arlington, Texas this week, which is where pitcher Tyler Skaggs died earlier this season. It hasn’t been easy.

The return drudged up emotions the players had suppressed. It caught some off guard. Pitcher Andrew Heaney does not typically shy from sharing his thoughts, but he could not summon words to describe his emotional state.

“It’s hard to explain that,” he said. “Honestly, I can’t give you a good answer.”

Mike Trout said it was jarring to be back. Not even knowing the Rangers will play in a new stadium next year helps.

“Every time we come back here, it’s always gonna bring up the memories,” Trout said. “This city brings up bad memories because this is where he passed.”

Said Kole Calhoun: “It’s definitely a little different. Takes you back to an empty feeling.”

The Angels have stayed afloat by drawing comfort from each other.

“It’s been a whirlwind of a season just from a clubhouse standpoint,” Calhoun said. “But one thing that’s been consistent has been that mentality in here, that togetherness that we’ve had and being there for each other. I think if you’re speaking to something about this clubhouse, I think it’s a pretty relentless group of guys.”

High school football

Times high school sports columnist Eric Sondheimer is counting down to the season by picking the top players at each position. Today, he moves on to linebacker. Take it away, Eric.

Linebacker Mister Williams, Oaks Christian

When fans first hear the public address announcer at an Oaks Christian football game mention that the tackle was made by Mister Williams, the Lions’ star linebacker, the inevitable reaction is, “What?”

When it happens again, then they ask, “Did he really say Mister?”

“I love my name,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. My dad said he gave it to me so that if anyone called me out by my name, they’d still have to respect it because my name is Mister.”

So everyone must be polite in addressing Williams, though most can’t believe his first name is Mister.

“Teachers who first see my name, they say, ‘Mister? That’s a very unique name.’ Or they’ll be like, ‘Oh, give me your real name.’ I’m like, ‘That is my real name, madam.’ ”

Running backs better address him as Mister because of the way he uses his closing speed and aggressive tackling skills to make an impact on defense at the Westlake Village school.

“He’s explosive,” coach Charles Collins said. “He plays with great eyes, great anticipation. Being a running back, he also covers well. He’s what I would call a poor man’s Myles Jack because he’s not Myles Jack yet, but he could be.”

Top linebackers

Players, School |Ht. | Wt. | Yr. | Comment

Raesjon Davis, Mater Dei | 6-1 | 210 | Jr. | A tackling machine

Justin Flowe, Upland | 6-2 | 225 | Sr. | Sets the standard for excellence

Josh Henderson, Grace Brethren | 6-2 | 215 | Sr. | He makes tackle after tackle

Justin Houston, Gardena Serra | 6-4 | 210 | Sr. | Four-year varsity standout

Caleb McCullough, Oxnard Pacifica | 6-3 | 215 | Sr. | Averaged 16 tackles a game

Jake Moore, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame | 6-1 | 210 | Jr. | Makes big plays

Niuafe Tuihalamaka, Bishop Alemany | 6-3 | 230 | So.; Has size, toughness to be standout

Nick Veloz, L.A. Cathedral | 6-0 | 210 | Sr. | Lots of mobility and versatility

Kourt Williams, St. John Bosco | 6-1 | 215 | Sr. | Ohio State commit made major jump in offseason

Mister Williams, Oaks Christian | 6-1 | 225 | Sr. | Can accelerate quickly to bring down ballcarriers

Odds and ends

UCLA hopes a fondness for chess will help checkmate the competition.... Jim Hardy, USC football star and former general manager of Coliseum, dies at 96.... Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is back from injury and hoping to make Rams’ linebackers crew.... Can Troymaine Pope finally cut it with Chargers after years of falling short in NFL?.... College football 2019: Which teams will test Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence?.... Jack Whitaker, Hall of Fame sports broadcaster, dies at 95.

Today’s local major sports schedule

All times Pacific

Toronto at Dodgers, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, AM 570

Angels at Texas, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., FSW, 830 AM

Cruz Azul vs. Galaxy (Leagues Cup match), 7:30 p.m.

Born on this date

1908: Baseball player/manager Al Lopez (d. 2005)

1931: Boxing promoter Don King

1944: Baseball player Graig Nettles

1954: NBA player Quinn Buckner

1957: Volleyball player Mike Dodd

1960: Former Angel Mark Langston

1973: Baseball player Todd Helton

1976: NHL player Chris Drury

Died on this date

2008: NFL player Gene Upshaw, 63

And finally

Game 6 of the 1981 World Series. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me by clicking here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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