The Sports Report: The one where Doc Rivers quit as Clippers coach
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Doc Rivers nearly became the shortest-tenured head coach in Clippers history after then team owner Donald Sterling decided to nix a three-team deal to bring JJ Redick to the Clippers in 2013.
“I was on the job for six days and I quit,” Rivers told Arash Markazi. “The deal went through and everyone said it was a great deal. I flew back home to Orlando for a couple of days and I got a call from [former Clippers president] Andy Roeser saying Donald Sterling decided he didn’t want to do the deal. I said, ‘What do you mean? The deal is already done. JJ is a free agent. He backed out of a deal to sign with us. If we don’t do this deal we’ll never get another free agent. It’s our word.’”
Redick had been acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks in a sign-and-trade after agreeing to a four-year, $27-million deal with the Clippers. Redick turned down similar offers from teams that were no longer available. Rivers, who was also the vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers, thought he had ultimate authority over the roster.
“I got on the phone with Donald and he was telling me how great his word was,” Rivers said. … “I was in the airport parking lot screaming, ‘No, no, no, no! You’re not going to do this! This is my reputation!’ He just went on and on about his reputation and how great it was.
“Finally at the end of it I said, ‘If you don’t do the trade, I quit.’ He said, ‘You can’t quit, you signed a five-year deal, I’ll make sure you don’t coach anywhere!’ I said, ‘I’m fine with that. I’ll find a job. I’ll do something, but I’m not going to do this. I gave the guy my word. I shook his hand.”
The next morning, Roeser told Rivers the deal was done. “I still have no idea what happened,” Rivers said. “I guess Donald just changed his mind, but I had quit.”
Running back Melvin Gordon will end his holdout and report to the team’s Costa Mesa training facility today.
Gordon has been away from the team since minicamp in June because of a contract dispute.
In the final season of his rookie deal, he’s scheduled to be paid $5.6 million in 2019. He is seeking an extension that would put him closer to what the NFL’s highest-paid backs are receiving, something in the $13-million range annually.
The Chargers (1-2) are at Miami (0-3) on Sunday, but Gordon is not expected to play. They face Denver at Dignity Health Sports Park on Oct. 6.
With Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson filling in for Gordon, the Chargers have averaged 111.7 yards rushing per game, ranking 13th in the NFL.
Bill Plaschke on the Rams: This might seem like a crazy thing to write about an unbeaten football team.
This might appear nonsensical considering this team has the NFL’s most brilliant young head coach, its most productive running back, and a talented maturing quarterback.
This might sound nutty, but it’s true, and those who have watched three games with a gnawing sense of unfamiliarity and uncertainty know it’s true.
The Rams offense isn’t right.
The Rams offense has lost its swagger, misplaced its mojo, forgotten its identity.
The Rams are 3-0, but it’s a defensive 3-0, a trudging 3-0, a really weird 3-0.
They won their first game against an injured quarterback, their second against a backup quarterback, and their third with a goal-line stand.
The Rams offense didn’t win any of those games. The offense just sort of showed up, made a handful of big plays, and scurried away in the shadow of Aaron Donald.
Last season their attack was so powerful, everybody wanted to imitate their game plan and clone their head coach. For much of this season, they’ve been just another high-priced huddle.
Corey Seager flied out in his second at-bat of the Dodgers’ 6-4 win over the San Diego Padres. Minutes later, the Dodgers announced Seager exited the game with left hamstring tightness. The club emphasized the departure was precautionary. There’s plenty of reason to practice precaution.
The left hamstring is the one Seager strained in mid-June. It put him on the injured list for a month, mounting another obstacle in the 25-year-old Seager’s trying path since the beginning of last season. The Dodgers cannot afford a setback close to that severity for one of their best hitters, not with the start of the postseason a week away while Max Muncy and Justin Turner, two other essential players, are working back from recent injuries. So Seager watched as the Dodgers slugged to their 102nd victory with four games remaining.
“Nothing alarming,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We just wanted to get ahead of it, get him out of the game.”
Mike Trout talks about an emotional season for the Angels.
“It was obviously a tough year for the whole club, the whole team,” Trout said Wednesday. “Losing Tyler [Skaggs] was tough. … The time when Tyler passed, that was the time for me to step up and take that [leadership] role.
“I think Tyler would want that. We were going through something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. We were going through tough times, and I felt like the team needed it and needed that guy to come out there and talk.”
Yet Trout could at least feel positive about his campaign, which was strong enough to make him the favorite for a third most valuable player award. In the first year of his 12-year, $426.5-million contract, Trout hit a career-high 45 home runs, drove in more than 100 runs (104) for the first time since 2016 and batted .291 in 134 games. Entering Wednesday, he led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.438), owned the highest AL on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.083) and was tied for the AL lead in home runs despite not having played since Sept. 7.
“Just offensively in the box, this is the best I’ve [ever] felt,” Trout said.
Trout has kept close tabs on the MVP race. He knows many support the case of Astros infielder Alex Bregman, against whom Trout competes in a fantasy football league. Bregman entered Wednesday with a .295 average and 1.009 OPS. He had career highs in home runs (40), walks (112), runs batted in (109) and runs (118).
“He’s having an unbelievable year,” Trout said. “I feel like this is my best year. Obviously, it sucks I’m not playing the last few weeks.”
Cristian Pavon and Zlatan Ibrahimovic each scored a second-half goal and the Galaxy edged Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Wednesday night for the Galaxy’s first playoff berth since 2016.
Ibrahimovic has scored 28 goals this season, one behind Carlos Vela’s league-leading 29 for LAFC.
Pavon struck first for the Galaxy (16-13-3) in the 50th minute with a shot 17 yards out from the left side of the penalty box, assisted by Ibrahimovic. Los Angeles went ahead 2-0 in the 80th on Ibrahimovic’s shot 13 yards out from the center of the box, assisted by Pavon.
In only its second season in Major League Soccer, LAFC secured the Supporters’ Shield — awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the best record.
LAFC made that a mathematical certainty and ended its five-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo. Winning the Shield secures home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for LAFC, which owns the best home record in the league at 13-1-2.
Helene Elliott, on former Kings player Tom Laidlaw: Tom Laidlaw’s hockey instincts weren’t much help when he was dropped into an isolated part of Fiji and thrown together with 17 other contestants on “Survivor: Island of the Idols,” the new version of the long-running CBS reality TV show that tests social skills and endurance under harsh conditions.
If someone angered him during a 10-year NHL career that included stints with the New York Rangers and the Kings, Laidlaw had a perfect outlet for his emotions. “You get mad, you go hit somebody,” he said.
But hip-checking an opponent wasn’t a good option on “Survivor,” in which castaways form alliances before competition ratchets up to a cut-throat level for the title of Sole Survivor and a $1-million prize.
“Out there, we had to deal with a lot of different personalities and backgrounds, and if you do something like get into an argument, then you’re putting a target on your back,” Laidlaw said. “So, it’s like you accept the fact that people are going to be different and that’s it. I felt like I was prepared and I really enjoyed playing the game. It was a blast. I probably enjoyed it more than I realized I was going to.”
Laidlaw’s easy-going nature made him a leader during his hockey career, and he was respected as a rugged defenseman who patrolled the ice with a snarl.
He contributed 45 points and 156 penalty minutes in 195 games with the Kings over four seasons, a term that ended when a back injury kept him off the ice and the team bought him out.
He was with the Kings long enough to figure in two footnotes in their history: He came to Los Angeles with Bobby Carpenter in the monumental and stunning trade that sent Marcel Dionne to New York in 1987, and he had an assist on the play in which Wayne Gretzky earned his 1,850th point and tied Gordie Howe’s scoring record on Oct. 15, 1989.
YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT
What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at email@example.com and tell me what it is and why, and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.
This moment comes from Mike Ritto:
“My Dad announced that we were going to a drive-in movie, which was great news except for one thing: Sandy Koufax was pitching for the Dodgers that night. No way I was missing that, so I brought my trusty transistor radio with earplug along. During intermission, I went to the playground next to the snack bar where I saw some friends and told them Sandy was pitching a perfect game. No reaction.
“I returned to the car and never took that earplug out. Inning after inning I tried to interest my family in the event, but of course, they were watching the movie and did not want the interruption. I finally just tuned out the movie and Vin Scully pulled me into the action. I felt like I was watching the game because he excelled at the “theater of the mind.” I could see the action, the clock on the scoreboard, the crowd, the tension in Sandy’s face as he threw the final pitch in the ninth inning.
“ ‘Swung on and missed, a perfect game!’ Yea, that’s my favorite sports moment.”
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
Dodgers at San Diego, 12:30 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570
Houston at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830
BORN ON THIS DATE
1925: Baseball player Bobby Shantz
1947: Swimmer Dick Roth
1966: NFL player Craig Heyward (d. 2006)
1974: Swimmer Gary Hall Jr.
1979: Gymnast Jaycie Phelps
1982: Tennis player Serena Williams
DIED ON THIS DATE
2006: Golfer Byron Nelson, 94
2008: Race car driver/actor Paul Newman, 83
Match point for Serena Williams’ 23rd Grand Slam singles title. Watch it here.
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