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The Sports Report: Yankees (not Dodgers or Angels) sign Gerrit Cole

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three
Gerrit Cole
(Getty Images)

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

BASEBALL

Fans of the Dodgers and Angels were anticipating an early Christmas present this year. One group of fans would be disappointed, but surely either the Dodgers or Angels would sign Gerrit Cole, right? Wrong.

Cole, the NL Cy Young Award runner-up, reached agreement with the New York Yankees on Tuesday night for $324 million over nine years, according to people with knowledge of the development.

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It is the largest contract given to a pitcher in major league history, eclipsing the seven-year, $245 million deal the Washington Nationals gave Stephen Strasburg on Monday. Cole’s deal includes a full no-trade clause.

Cole spurned his hometown Angels for a team better positioned to return him to the playoffs. He ignored overtures from the Dodgers, too, instead signing with the Yankees, whose deep pockets and stacked roster appealed to Cole. It didn’t hurt that Cole’s favorite team growing up in Orange County played 3,000 miles away in the Bronx.

The Angels and Dodgers must now turn their attention to other free agents and trade targets. Both teams are pursuing third baseman Anthony Rendon, the premier free-agent position player, and fallback third baseman Josh Donaldson. Starting pitchers still available include World Series veteran Madison Bumgarner, and Cole’s fellow Scott Boras clients, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel.

The Dodgers reportedly could turn to Bumgarner next, while Angels general manager Billy Eppler said he could spend more than $20 million a year on two different pitchers, or on a pitcher and a position player.

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LAKERS

Of the high-powered duos in the league today, including those in Houston, Portland, Dallas, Milwaukee and L.A., LeBron James and Anthony Davis have quickly become one of the most effective.

They account for 45.7% of the Lakers’ points scored this season, the second-highest percentage for a duo entering Tuesday’s games behind only Houston’s James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Reunited in Houston, the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates have scored 48.5% of the Rockets’ points this season.

Harden and Westbrook have also accounted for the highest percentage of their team’s assists in the league (64.8%) with James, the league’s individual assists leader, and Davis ranking third with 52.2% of their team’s assists. James and Davis are second among the top duos in percentage of team’s rebounds behind only Dallas’ oversized partnership of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Among scoring, rebounding and assists percentages, James and Davis are the only duo of the six that rank in the top three in all three categories.

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Lakers first-year guard Quinn Cook, who spent the previous three seasons with the Warriors, said he sees similarities with the dynastic Warriors and this year’s Lakers.

“They’re like the most unselfish people ever,” Cook said of James and Davis. “They have a relationship with everybody. It’s infectious.”

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CLIPPERS

Kawhi Leonard, who returns to Toronto on Wednesday for his first game since leaving the Raptors in free agency for the Clippers, did not spark a basketball boom. It had been building in Canada for decades. Sixteen Canadians were on opening-night rosters this season in the NBA, the most for any non-U.S. country.

But numerous basketball figures in the country credit the superstar forward’s championship in his lone season with the Raptors as amplifying the game’s reach and creating a new wave of interest.

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“He’s a legend now, forever,” said Chris Boucher, the Montreal-raised Raptors forward.

Said Dwight Powell, a Dallas forward who grew up in Toronto: “As a kid, if I were watching, I would remember this past summer for the rest of my life.”

When Leonard threw his fists into the air following Toronto’s title-clinching Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, Raptors broadcaster Leo Rautins watched the team climb to the top of the NBA from his courtside seat. He viewed it as a new era as well as the culmination of decades of momentum.

“I’m a Toronto boy, I played ball when nobody cared when that was,” said Rautins, who played at Syracuse and was a first-round draft pick in 1984. “To see where we’ve gone from that point where you just had some closet basketball happening — and it was good, but such a small amount — to what we have now, it really was emotional.”

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Raptors built last season a mentality for winning without Kawhi Leonard

KINGS

Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, and the Kings ended a four-game losing streak by beating the New York Rangers 3-1.

Dustin Brown also scored, Adrian Kempe added an empty-net goal and the Kings won for the third time in 10 games (3-6-1). Jonathan Quick made 29 saves.

DUCKS

Rickard Rickell and Max Comtois scored in the shootout for Anaheim, and the Ducks fended off the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Tuesday night for their first win in their last six road games.

Rakell and Cam Fowler scored for the Ducks in a dominant first period during which they had a 14-1 advantage in shots on goal and the Wild lost center Eric Staal to an injury.

USC FOOTBALL

Michael Pittman Jr. waited patiently for his breakout. The USC receiver struggled to fit in as a freshman, then bided his time as a sophomore and junior before emerging as one of the nation’s best pass catchers in his final season.

After such a long wait, he has no intention of ending his last ride prior to bowl season.

“Just in case y’all wondering,” Pittman wrote on Twitter, “I am playing in the bowl game.”

Though many top prospects have recently begun to consider skipping bowl season to protect from injury, Pittman will play for the Trojans one last time when they take the field against Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.

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 Duane Norris of Carson:

I moved to California with my single mom in 1958 from Indianapolis. We lived near Manual Arts High, a couple of blocks from the Coliseum, Sports Arena and Olympic Pool.

Back in those days the Dodgers, Rams, Bruins, Trojans and Lakers played in those venues. In early 1959 I began to sell the old Scripps-Howard Los Angeles Herald Express on the Northwest corner of Santa Barbara (now King Blvd) and Figueroa in front of National Trade Technical Institute for extra money. For events featuring those teams the afternoon edition of the major newspapers, including the Mirror (published by the Times) created special editions for the games with lineups and statistics and hired local boys to peddle them.

I recall selling papers for not only those games, and other events such as the ’60 Democratic National Convention where future President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was nominated. The Dodgers had a policy of allowing us into the venue after the seventh inning, Lakers during the late third quarter. For Bruin and Trojan games we learned how to sneak into the Sports Arena and for football it was really easy. I cultivated my love of all L.A. sports during that time. Although I am a die-hard Laker, Dodger and Trojan fan (on the weekend we paperboys used to go to fraternity row and sell papers to the frats) I still root for the Bruins and Rams.

I fondly remember those days as some of the best of my new life in L.A.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Lakers at Orlando, 4 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, ESPN 710

Clippers at Toronto, 4 p.m., ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

BORN ON THIS DATE

1927: Skier Stein Eriksen (d. 2015)

1942: Tennis player Karen Susman

1962: Swimmer Kim Linehan

1971: Football player Willie McGinest

1976: Basketball player Shareef Abdur-Rahim

DIED ON THIS DATE

1959: Baseball player Jim Bottomley, 59

2015: Basketball player John “Hot Rod” Williams, 53

AND FINALLY

Tour USC with former Trojan Willie McGinest. 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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