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The Sports Report: Dwight Howard speaks

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Dwight Howard
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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

LAKERS

On Wednesday, Dwight Howard spoke about rejoining the Lakers, but said he’d rather let his actions do his talking.

“I’d rather show you guys than say it,” Howard replied when asked what he’d learned about himself this summer. “So, I’d rather my actions be something you can critique instead of just on words. I’ve always said a lot of words, but I’d just rather show you guys.

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Some other highlights:

“It’s a very big blessing to be able to come back here and play. Not too often in life you get a second chance or anything like that. This is an awesome experience. I’m looking forward to just being the best teammate, the best person in the community, the best I can be for this franchise. This is going to be an amazing time. Six years ago doesn’t seem like a long time, but a lot of things have happened.”

“We’re trying to win a championship. And you know, I think that everybody wants to know what level of commitment that I have, and what everybody else on the team has. So, I definitely understand it. I’m very committed to helping this team win a championship. It’s not just an interest of mine. It’s something that I’m super-committed to. And I’d rather just let my actions speak louder than any words that I can tell you. Let me kind of keep it short and sweet.”

Like Howard said, actions will indeed speak louder than words, one way or the other.

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Bill Plaschke offers his thoughts on the whole thing:

Howard re-introduced himself Wednesday during a 14-minute conference call in which he said all the right things.

But, for the Lakers, this was still the wrong move.

“I think we all have a fresh start,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having a fresh start with the fans … show them my only dedication is to putting another banner up here in Los Angeles.”

Howard is 33 now, clearly more mature and introspective, and he answered questions with some smarts.

But this was still a dumb signing.

“I never had any ill will toward any of the fans here in L.A.,” he said, later adding, “I love this city. I love playing in L.A. I’m back here, so none of that stuff in the past even really matters to me anymore.”

First off, he never loved this city. He was completely miserable playing under the pressure of the Hollywood spotlight; it was one of the main reasons he didn’t stay here. Second, while that stuff in the past might not matter to him, it should matter to the Lakers, whose newfangled front office clearly suffered from a lack of institutional knowledge in making this move.

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Was nobody there alive from 2012 to 2013?

TENNIS

Rafael Nadal defeated Diego Schwartzman, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open, where he will play Matteo Berrettini on Friday.

Nadal, who counts two U.S. Open titles among his 18 Grand Slam singles event titles, has never played Berrettini, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist. Berrettini, seeded No. 24, pushed past his nerves to take a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5) decision from No. 13 Gael Monfils.

When it was over, Berrettini dropped to the court on his back and covered his face in disbelief. “It’s my first semis. I never won a match here in the U.S. Open, so it’s my second year in the main draw. I didn’t expect that,” he said. “I’m pretty excited for that. I was tired and I felt to just leave myself on the court. “

Bianca Andreescu defeated Elise Mertens 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to Thursday’s women’s semifinals of the U.S. Open, Andreescu was struck by the happy absurdity of what has happened to her in the past 12 months.

Andreescu will face Belinda Bencic, who pulled away from Donna Vekic for a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory.

Thursday’s women’s semifinal schedule

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TV: ESPN

4 p.m. PT: No. 5 Elina Svitolina vs. No. 8 Serena Williams

6 p.m. PT: No. 13 Belinda Bencic vs. No. 15 Bianca Andreescu, 9 p.m. ET

Friday’s men’s semifinals schedule

TV: ESPN

1 p.m. PT: Grigor Dimitrov vs. No. 5 Daniil Medvedev

4 p.m. PT: No. 24 Matteo Berrettini vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal

RAMS

Dylan Hernandez on the new contract quarterback Jared Goff received:

Maybe the suspicions are true, maybe the criticisms are accurate and maybe the Rams just guaranteed $110 million to a system quarterback.

So what’s the problem?

Jared Goff will remain with the Rams for the foreseeable future, but so will the system under which he became a Pro Bowl player. Before they extended Goff’s deal, they lengthened coach Sean McVay’s.

When his record contract is finalized, Goff, 24, will be signed through the 2024 season. McVay’s agreement expires only a year earlier.

At this point, what matters isn’t what or who is responsible for Goff’s ascent. What counts are the results. The McVay-Goff partnership has produced them.

No quarterback selected No. 1 overall has required less time to become a Super Bowl starter than Goff, who earned the distinction as a third-year player.

Consider how Goff’s NFL career began, with an 0-7 starting record under then-coach Jeff Fisher.

When speaking to reporters Wednesday at the Rams’ practice facility, Goff opened his remarks by thanking owner Stan Kroenke, members of the front office and his agents.

“Then,” Goff continued, “I’d like to thank Sean. I think I can’t overstate what he’s meant to me and my career. You guys obviously know how it went the first year and then how it’s gone since he got here.”

Under McVay, Goff is 24-7. He has completed 64% of his passes over the last two seasons, 65 for touchdowns. He has reached the postseason twice and was twice selected for the Pro Bowl.

Goff should have five more seasons with McVay, if not more.

“He joked that I’m stuck with him,” Goff said.

This was always McVay’s publicly stated plan, for them to remain linked indefinitely. McVay recalled how Goff made an impression on him when he interviewed with the Rams.

“When you talk to him, what I loved more than anything is even though the season didn’t go the way they wanted it to as a team, all he did was look inward and take accountability for what he can do to be better,” McVay said. “When you’re mentally tough like that, when you have the natural inclination to look inward before you look to blame someone else, I think that sets you up for success.”

RAMS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: 710 ESPN, 93.1 JACK FM

Sunday at Carolina, 10 a.m., Fox

Sept. 15 vs. New Orleans, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Sept. 22 at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Sept. 29 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 3 at Seattle, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Oct. 13 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 20 at Atlanta, 10 a.m., Fox

Oct. 27 vs. Cincinnati, 10 a.m., CBS (in London, counts as home game for Rams)

Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Nov. 17 vs. Chicago, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Nov. 25 vs. Baltimore, 5:15 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 1 at Arizona, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 8 vs. Seattle, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 15 at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Dec. 22 or 23 at San Francisco, TBD

Dec. 29 vs. Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Fox

CHARGERS

In all the turmoil the team has faced in the off-season, with the holdout of Melvin Gordon topping the list, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers says he finds something else the strangest: No more Antonio Gates at tight end.

For the first time in a career entering its 16th season, Rivers is about to open a season without Gates.

“That’s probably more weird for me, personally,” he said. “I’ve checked in with him a few times … I think he’s doing good. I’m sure it’s weird for him, as well. His body clock’s probably telling him, ‘I need to go run a corner route.’ ”

Starting in San Diego and ending in L.A., Rivers and Gates formed one of the greatest quarterback-tight end connections in NFL history.

With Hunter Henry returning healthy, the Chargers decided against re-signing Gates.

Rivers is entering the final year of his contract and has said he plans to play at least one more season after this one.

“I’m thankful to be trotting out there for another opening day,” he said. “Just excited about this team. Excited about this season. We got a good group.”

CHARGERS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: KFI-AM 640, KFWB-AM 980

Sunday vs. Indianapolis, 1 p.m., CBS

Sept. 15 at Detroit, 10 a.m., CBS

Sept. 22 vs. Houston, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Sept. 29 at Miami, 10 a.m., CBS

Oct. 6 vs. Denver, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 13 vs. Pittsburgh, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Oct. 20 at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 27 at Chicago, 10 a.m., Fox

Nov. 3 vs. Green Bay, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Nov. 10 at Oakland, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Nov. 18 vs. Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., ESPN (at Mexico City, counts as home game for Chargers)

Dec. 1 at Denver, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Dec. 8 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 15 vs. Minnesota, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Oakland, TBD

Dec. 29 at Kansas City, 10 a.m., CBS

USC FOOTBALL

Defensive lineman Drake Jackson, who has earned rave reviews since his arrival in the spring, is still prone to overthinking.

“I know my brain can take over at times,” Jackson said. “I just need to shut everything off and play.”

It took him almost a quarter to do so against Fresno State on Saturday, but when he did, the impact was immediately apparent. Jackson routinely overpowered the linemen in front of him, forcing Fresno State on more than a few occasions to send double teams in his direction.

In response, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast played with different ways of deploying him. Late in the third quarter, Pendergast called a twist, with Jackson darting inside and defensive tackle Jay Tufele going outside. The stunt left Jackson completely uncovered with an unimpeded path to the quarterback.

Still, he couldn’t wrap him up. Jackson would be credited with half a sack for his initial contact, but it was defensive tackle Brandon Pili who finished the work he started.

Jackson was hardly the only USC defender who let sack opportunities slip through their grasp. The Trojans finished the game with three sacks, but Pendergast said Wednesday that the defense could’ve had at least five more, given how much pressure the front created.

“We have to do a better job of locating the quarterback in the pocket, taking the blinders off as we rush, and anticipating his potential possibility of stepping up,” Pendergast said. “I think that’s the hardest thing for a defensive lineman to do.”

USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: 790 KABC

d. Fresno State, 31-23

Saturday vs. Stanford, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 14 at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN or ESPN 2

Sept. 20 vs. Utah, 6 p.m., FS1

Sept. 28 at Washington, TBD

Oct. 12 at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m. NBC

Oct. 19 vs. Arizona, TBD

Oct. 25 at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Nov. 2 vs. Oregon, TBD

Nov. 9 at Arizona State, TBD

Nov. 16 at California, TBD

Nov. 23 vs. UCLA, TBD

UCLA FOOTBALL

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had four turnovers in the season-opening loss to Cincinnati, but he thinks he knows why.

“I think I got a little too excited,” Thompson-Robinson said Wednesday, noting that he was in a rush because he was enticed by the open receivers. He finished the game completing only eight of 26 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

“This team, and this coaching staff and everybody around here, they have great support for me, and they’ve all been encouraging me this week,” Thompson-Robinson said. “ … A lot of people outside this building won’t obviously have your back when things go bad, so to have them is really good.”

Thompson-Robinson said the Bruins had adopted a more businesslike approach heading into their home opener against San Diego State (1-0) on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

“Guys aren’t all about talking, it’s more about actually putting in more work, and really just I think amping up everything, amping up accountability, amping up the intensity at practice,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Not to say that wasn’t there before, but it’s definitely up to a new level now that we have had the eye-opener [in] Week 1.”

UCLA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: AM 1150

Cincinnati 24, UCLA 14

Saturday vs. San Diego State, 1:15 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Sept. 14 vs. Oklahoma, 5 p.m., Fox

Sept. 21 at Washington State, TBD

Sept. 28 at Arizona, TBD

Oct. 5 vs. Oregon State, TBD

Oct. 17 at Stanford, 6 p.m., ESPN

Oct. 26 vs. Arizona State, TBD

Nov. 2 vs. Colorado, TBD

Nov. 16 at Utah, TBD

Nov. 23 at USC, TBD

Nov. 30 vs. California, TBD

DODGERS

The Dodgers set the NL record for most home runs in a season, but Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s struggles continued in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. After carrying a league-best 1.45 earned-run average through his first 22 starts, Ryu has allowed 21 runs in 19 innings — a 9.95 ERA — over his last four outings. His ERA has climbed a full run during the span as his stock for the National League Cy Young Award has sunk.

ANGELS

The Angels lost to the Oakland A’s, 4-0.

KINGS

The Kings signed forward Adrian Kempe, who turns 23 next week, to a three-year deal worth about $2 million annually, locking up a member of their young core.

“It makes sense for him and it makes sense for us,” Kings President Luc Robitaille said. “We think he’s a great young player. Plays with a lot of pace, plays the way we want our players to play.”

Kempe had just 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) and a minus-10 rating last season, a step back from a solid 2017-18 season.

“[This deal] gives him a chance to get another kick at the can,” Robitaille said. “Every player deserves that.”

NFL

The season officially kicks off tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Bears in Chicago (5:15 p.m. PT, NBC). Our NFL columnist, Sam Farmer, says the final score will be Bears 27, Packers 23.

In other league news, running back Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys agreed on a $90-million, six-year contract extension that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid running back and end a holdout that lasted the entire preseason.

Amazing how it came to an end right as the season starts, isn’t it? The breakthrough was finalized the morning of the team’s first full workout before Sunday’s opener at home against the New York Giants.

Elliott will get $50 million guaranteed.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Angels at Oakland, 12:30 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Seattle at Sparks, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sportnet

BORN ON THIS DATE

1874: Baseball player Nap Lajoie (d. 1959)

1936: Baseball player Bill Mazeroski

1960: NFL player Willie Gault

DIED ON THIS DATE

1992: Former Dodger Billy Herman, 83

AND FINALLY

Bill Mazeroski hits a walkoff homer to win the 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 at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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