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The Sports Report: Paul George overlooks boos to lead Clippers past Pacers

Los Angeles Clippers v Indiana Pacers
Paul George dribbles the ball during Monday’s game.
(Getty Images)

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

CLIPPERS

In the eyes of the Indiana fans, former Pacer star Paul George is now a villain as a member of the Clippers.

They booed George from the time he was introduced as a starter and throughout his time on the court Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, even chanting derisive comments about him.

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The unpleasantries George had to endure only seemed to fuel him to push the injury-depleted Clippers to a 110-99 win over the Pacers before 14,644 fans.

George was lively in responding to the boos with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

“Nah, I’m not surprised,” George said when asked about the boos for the third time since he left the Pacers. “That’s Indiana for you. It’s a Hoosier thing.”

George blossomed into an NBA All-Star over his time from 2010-17 with the Pacers.

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But when he requested a trade and was eventually shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder during the summer of 2017, the lovefest between George and the Pacers’ faithful quickly dissolved.

George was booed when he came back with the Thunder the last two years and he got the same treatment in his return with the Clippers, who acquired him over the summer from Oklahoma City.

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana. And I promise you I’m not the one to boo,” George said.

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DODGERS

Free agent Anthony Rendon, a slugging third baseman who helped lead the Washington Nationals to their first World Series title last season, has attracted strong interest from several clubs, including the Dodgers. He reportedly declined a seven-year offer worth about $215 million from the Nationals near the end of the regular season.

Last week, Washington owner Mark Lerner said that signing both Stephen Strasburg and Rendon would be too expensive. Bringing the band back together to defend the title suddenly appeared very unlikely. On Monday, however, after the Nationals re-signed Strasburg, general manager Mike Rizzo walked back Lerner’s assertion and insisted they could retain the 29-year-old third baseman.

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“Anthony Rendon is, again, one of the players that is most near and dear to my heart,” Rizzo said. “A guy we’ve drafted, signed, developed, watched turn into a superstar, playoff success, and a huge part of the world championship run that we went on. So he’s a guy that we love.

“The ownership has always given us the resources to field a great team, and we’re always trying to win, and we’re going to continue to do so.”

Besides the Dodgers, who have met with Rendon, the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly also interested.

They are vying for an elite defender who batted .319 with 34 home runs, a 1.010 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and a league-leading 126 runs batted in during the 2019 regular season. The performance was good enough for a third-place finish in National League MVP voting. In the playoffs, Rendon hit .328 with five home runs, eight doubles and 21 RBIs to fuel the Nationals’ improbable championship run.

Josh Donaldson, the second-most coveted third baseman on the free-agent market, could be a consolation prize for a team that misses out on Rendon.

Accommodating Rendon or Donaldson would require the Dodgers moving Justin Turner, their incumbent third baseman, to another position. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, said he has spoken with Turner about the possibility and Turner is on board. He would likely move to first base, though he could also see time at second.

ANGELS

Just a few weeks after declaring they felt comfortable with their catching contingent, the Angels have changed their tune. They are in active pursuit of a new catcher to pair with Max Stassi, a move that comes on the heels of their decision to move on from Kevan Smith. General manager Billy Eppler said Monday at baseball’s winter meetings that he has homed in on six to seven potential targets, including two on the trading block.

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New Angels manager Joe Maddon was instrumental in shifting the team’s focus.

In his first news conference since being introduced at Angel Stadium in October, Maddon espoused the virtues of having a solid backstop. Like Mike Scioscia and Brad Ausmus before him, Maddon is a former catcher. He believes catchers provide the foundation for a team’s pitching staff.

“You don’t really have good pitching staffs without good catchers,” Maddon said. “It’s almost incongruent.”

A few proven catchers remain on the market, including former Angel and Gold Glove winner Martin Maldonado and former Minnesota Twins catcher Jason Castro.

Possibilities on the trade market include the Cincinnati Reds’ Tucker Barnhart, who is 28 and has two years and a team option remaining, and the Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras.

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MLB winter meetings: Angels face steep competition from Yankees to sign Gerrit Cole

RAMS

Cooper Kupp caught four passes, one for a touchdown, in Sunday night’s 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. That kind of performance has come to be expected from the Rams’ leader in targets and receptions.

But Kupp’s production was noteworthy: He did it while playing only 20 snaps, 37 fewer than he played in the previous week’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Kupp is not the only receiver to recently experience large fluctuations in his playing time.

As the Rams prepare for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, coach Sean McVay is evolving an offense that has mostly displayed a productive rhythm the last two games.

McVay as of late has reintroduced star running back Todd Gurley as the focal point of the offense. With tight end Gerald Everett sidelined because of a knee injury, McVay also increased the role of tight end Tyler Higbee — who has produced two consecutive career-best performances — and incorporated tight end Johnny Mundt into the scheme.

“You go into a the week with a game plan, and the game plan needs to be whatever it takes to win the game,” Kupp said. “Whatever it takes is what it needs to be.

“And everyone in this locker room is going to embrace that your role changes week to week — but your job doesn’t.”

CHARGERS

Linebacker Thomas Davis has been around the NFL so long that his experience is even helping the Chargers on offense.

A 30-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to an uncovered Hunter Henry on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars was the result of a suggestion the 15-year veteran gave coach Anthony Lynn in advance of the game.

“He told me from a defensive perspective how he would view that play and what we could do differently to make that play work,” Lynn said. “I thought about it, thought, ‘You know, sometimes we don’t give defensive players enough credit.’ ”

So the Chargers tweaked the play in practice in part by motioning offensive lineman Ryan Groy from the left side of the line to the right.

From his spot at tight end, Henry started on the right side and ran across the formation to the left and no Jacksonville defender picked him up.

When he caught the pass, the closest Jaguar was nearly 10 yards away. Henry wasn’t hit until he was at the goal line and about to score.

“He’s been around for so long that he can pick up on things, especially tendencies,” Henry said of Davis. “He helps all of us out. If we raise up or do something different on pass or run, he always can spot little tendencies to help you out.”

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your all-time favorite local sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why, and it could appear in a future Sports newsletter.

This moment comes from Jack Shepard:

One of the major track & field events on the local sports calendar in the 1940s and 50s was the Coliseum Relays, where the best in the U.S. came to run. In its heyday of the 50s, the Los Angeles City track championships were held in conjunction and many of the high school finals were interspersed with the invitational races. What a thrill for the local preps to have the chance of running in front of the often 40,000-50,000 fans.

I can remember stadium announcer Dick Nash getting the high school crowd excited for what was to come by asking- “is there anybody here from Jefferson?” An entire section of the north stands, clad in green and gold, would rise and give a huge shout. “Is there anyone here from Manual Arts?"- and the next section, all in purple would give their loud rebuttal. “How about Dorsey” and “Washington” and so on until all the major City high schools had been recognized and the north side of the Coliseum was a sea of noise.

My favorite moment of those meets was the mile relay in the 1950 meet. Among the entries were local small college track power, Occidental College, and another small college power from Baltimore, Morgan State, with Olympian and NCAA 440 champ, George Rhoden on anchor. The Oxy team was Walt McKibben, Ted Ruprecht, John Barnes and Bill Parker.

What made the race so exciting was that Oxy and Morgan State left the rest of the field (teams like Rice and Michigan State) in the dust and it was a two-team battle to the finish. At the end of the first leg, Oxy led by a yard, after the second it was Morgan State by two yards. The third lap saw Barnes take back the lead to give Parker a two-yard lead over the powerful Rhoden. Rhoden made several attempts to pass, but Parker never let up and crossed the finish line, up by over a yard. The winning time of 3:10.1 (Morgan State in 3:10.2) was the third fastest ever run. Only the great California-USC dual in the Coliseum in 1941, which produced a world record 3:09.4 for Cal (USC also 3:09.4), was faster.

Pretty heady stuff for a 15-year-old at the time and it whet my appetite for track & field. Since then I have stayed involved for almost 70-years as an official, various aspects of the media, and as a statistician.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

NY Rangers at Kings, 7:30 p.m., FSW

Ducks at Minnesota, 5 p.m., PRIME

BORN ON THIS DATE

1907: Soccer player Lucien Laurent (d. 2005)

1933: Football player Larry Morris (d. 2012)

1959: Basketball player Mark Aguirre

1969: Former King Rob Blake

1982: Archer Matt Stutzman

DIED ON THIS DATE

1946: Baseball player Walter Johnson, 59

1977: Basketball coach Adolph Rupp, 76

2015: Basketball player Dolph Schayes, 87

AND FINALLY

HBO’s RealSports segment on Matt Stutzman, “The Armless Archer.” 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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