<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Triple Threat]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/blogs/triple-threat http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:40:02 -0700 Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:40:02 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Dodgers' Haren to Start Weekend Series Versus Padres ]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:07:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/162*120/dharen+.jpg

Dan Haren’s 11-10 record this season epitomizes the Jekyll and Hyde-type pitcher he’s been the last few years.

At times this season he’s been awful. In 23 ⅓ innings pitched from July 5 to August 1 Haren compiled a 10.13 ERA, batters hit .308 against him and he went 0-5.

Most recently, he’s looked like a frontline starter. In his last 23 ⅓ innings pitched, the 33-year-old has a 2.73 ERA, he’s held hitters to a .189 batting average and he’s 3-1.

The Dodgers are hoping the latter Haren shows up Friday night in the first of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

“I have to be able to step up,” Haren told MLB.com. “I’ve been one of the five guys all year and however many starts I have left, they need to be as good as they can be.”

With Josh Beckett on the disabled list, Hyun-Jin Ryu working to return from a bum buttocks muscle and Zack Greinke pitching with elbow issues, the Dodgers needs the wily veteran more than ever.

He’s 1-1 with a 4.14 ERA in three starts against the Padres this season, but his ERA at Petco Park is only 2.41.

Haren will square off against Andrew Cashner and his 2-6 record and 2.43 ERA.

In his only start against the Dodgers this season on March 30 Cashner went six innings, he only allowed one run on four hits in a 3-1 Padres win.

Greinke (13-8) and Ian Kennedy (10-11) are the scheduled starters for game two. Eric Stults (6-14) will go for the Padres in game three. It was thrown around that Ryu could make his first start Sunday in his return from the disabled list, but, as of now, Kevin Correia (7-14) is scheduled to start game three of the series for the Dodgers.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers: Spotlight Still on Kobe Bryant]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:51:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/469794469.jpg

For nearly two decades, Kobe Bryant has created headlines as the star of the Los Angeles Lakers, and even a season on the sidelines has not dulled the spotlight on the five-time NBA champion.

Whether watching the World Cup in Brazil, spending a vacation in France, touring China with Nike or simply working out in Orange County, a global following desperately yearns for news, any news, related to 36-year-old entering his 19th season in the NBA.

Recently, Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated spent time with Bryant on a trip to China and wrote a detailed piece describing Byrant’s global popularity and reverence. Ballard’s glimpse behind the curtain revealed interesting surprises like Bryant's appreciation for Katy Perry as a businesswoman, Wesley Johnson being a consistent workout partner in Orange County and Bryant’s competitive spirit showing in the form of cheating in a meaningless one-on-one competition with Chinese game show contestants.

Add in an ice bucket challenge that featured Bryant going head deep in an ice bath, and the Lakers’ summer headliner is the same guy who has demanded the spotlight since 1996--way back when Bryant entered the NBA.

Following his lengthy account, Ballard took a moment to share further notes he gathered hanging around the global sports icon. Particularly of note, Bryant was learning to adjust his game in order to be more effective. Inglewood-native and long-time Boston Celtic Paul Pierce, in particular, had become a point of focus for the shooting guard. Seeing as Bryant seemed to have perfected Michael Jordan’s style of play early in his career, the Lakers’ legend had now moved on to studying the “efficient” movements of the similarly aged Pierce, who was never known as a high-fly act or a particularly speedy player.

On the topic of efficiency, Bryant again offered high praise for fellow teammate Steve Nash, calling Nash's play “cunning” and referring to Nash’s play in Phoenix as “outrageous.”

With only two years remaining on his contract and, conceivably, in his career, Bryant still managed to qualify his plans for retirement from the NBA.

“If something inside of me changes and I want to play some more, and go after it some more…,” Bryant trailed off when responding to a question asking if two years would mark the end of his historic career. “Yeah. But where I sit right now, I don’t know if I want to do that.”

Whether analyzing his ice bucket challenge or his personal challenge against a kid in China, Bryant’s actions and quotes point to the famous flame of fight and competition burning bright. Whether his body can match his will, however, remains to be seen.

Considering the subject, every move, minute and matchup of Bryant's final two seasons with the Lakers will be magnified and studied to no end. After nearly 18 years in the spotlight, though, what's another two years?



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Beat D'Backs Behind Kershaw Performance]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:42:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/kenley+milestone.jpg

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Clayton Kershaw dominates in a Dodger win.”

Well, it happened again Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kershaw went eight innings, allowing six hits, one unearned run, he struck out 10 hitters and walked two, in a 3-1 victory at Chase Field.

He picked up his Major League-leading 16th win. The left-hander also lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 1.73 and, for the third straight start, he struck out at least 10 batters.

It wasn’t as smooth sailing as his pitching line suggests, which Kershaw even admitted.

"It was a bad start really. I felt like guys were on base the whole night," Kershaw said afterward.

"But, I was fortunate to get some outs when I needed them, and after about the fourth or fifth inning I settled in a little bit and I was able to make it through eight, which is good."

He was mostly right about the guys on base part. 

Arizona had runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and they made the lefty face a bases-loaded situation for the first time all season.

Wait.

Let’s pause...

Did you get that?

In his previous 153 ⅓ innings pitched this season going into Wednesday, no team had loaded the bases against Kershaw…not one.

That’s insane.

"I didn’t know that," a stunned Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when he heard the stat from SportsNet LA reporter Alanna Rizzo.

"Does it surprise me? Yeah, that he never had the bases loaded all year but nothing too much surprises me with him anymore."

Arizona had the bases juiced in the third inning with one out, but Aaron Hill popped out to second and Mark Trumbo flied out to left to end the inning before a run crossed the plate.

The Diamondbacks got their only run in the fourth.

Alfredo Marte led off with a double to left. Jordan Pacheco followed with a single to center that kicked away from Yasiel Puig who failed in his dive attempt to try and catch it. Scott Van Slyke backed up the play, but twisted his ankle going for the ball and went down like a ton of bricks. His throw back to the infield allowed Marte to score making it, 3-1, Dodgers.

Van Slyke was charged with an error, thus the run was unearned.

The Diamondbacks only mustered two hits the rest of the game.

Van Slyke’s right ankle did a nasty roll, but Mattingly said the X-rays came back negative.

 

 

Before the injury, Van Slyke got the Dodgers an insurance run in the third with a home run to left off Arizona starter Wayne Smiley.

Four of Van Slyke’s 10 homers this season have come off Smiley, who took the loss to fall to 7-10.

For the second night in a row Matt Kemp was the offensive hero. He doubled home Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig to get the Dodgers on the board, 2-0, in the third. Although, Kemp was thrown out at third on the play trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

Ender Inciarte went 2 for 3 with a triple and a stolen base for the Diamondbacks.

Kenley Jansen closed it out in the ninth to pick up his 100th career save, and after the game he got some hefty praise from his catcher A.J. Ellis.

“It’s another guy we take for granted, because when you see those bullpen gates open and you got a lead in the ninth you start packing things up because you feel like the game’s over,” Ellis told SportsNet LA.

The win gave the Dodgers their ninth consecutive road series win against teams in the National League West.

 

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Ryu Could Return This Weekend ]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:49:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/ryu+healed.jpg

The strained right gluteus muscle that has kept left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu on the disabled list is healing well enough that he could be back on the mound for the Dodgers on Sunday against the San Diego Padres.

He’s eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but Mattingly already has Dan Haren slated to start that day and Zack Greinke on Saturday. Roberto Hernandez will get the start Sunday if Ryu is pushed back another day.

He was placed on the retroactive disabled list August 14th after injuring himself against the Atlanta Braves

Multiple reports say Ryu’s throwing session Tuesday went well in Arizona and he’s expected to throw a simulated game Wednesday.

Ryu talked with reporters following his bullpen.

“Mostly the rehab is just a lot of resting. The muscle just needed to heal. So, I kept doing upper body workouts and I just tried to do as much as I can in the lower body without giving the hip too much strain,” Ryu said through his interpreter.

As part of the Dodgers big three in the starting rotation along with Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, Ryu is 13-6 on the season with a 3.28 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Timely Reviews Help Dodgers beat D'Backs]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 05:29:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/cc+scores+.jpg

Don Mattingly made the replay staff in New York earn their money Tuesday night.

The Dodger manager's decision to challenge two plays in the fourth inning, that were overturned in his favor, allowed his team to blow the game open en route to a 9-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The first came when A.J. Ellis singled to center with two runners on and one out. Carl Crawford ran through a stop sign at third on the hit and was called out at home on catcher Miguel Montero's tag. But, on replay, it was clear that although Montero tagged Crawford with his glove the ball was in his hand, which didn't touch Crawford until he touched the plate.

Mattingly shrewdly called for a challenge to Montero blocking the plate. The umpire review crew in New York overturned the play based on the missed tag. Either way, Crawford was ruled safe and the Dodgers took a 5-2 lead.

"He wasn't 100 percent if the guy was set up properly. So, to me, if I can get him to look at the play at the plate than they end up looking at everything and that's what ended up happening there," Mattingly told reporters after the game.

The second pivotal challenge came the very next batter. Robert Hernandez's sacrifice bunt ended up as a bang-bang play at first. Hernandez was called out. Mattingly quickly came out of the dugout to challenge that call. After a short review, Hernandez was ruled safe. The reversal also meant that Justin Turner's run counted, which put the Dodgers up, 6-2.

If those two plays stand as outs, at best the Dodgers only score two runs and the Diamondbacks escape the inning down a manageable margin at, 4-2.

Instead, the Dodgers ended up sending 11 men to the plate and scored six runs on five hits.

Hernandez (8-9) went six innings to pick up the win.

Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill (3-9) only lasted 3 1/3 innings and took the loss. He allowed six earned runs on six hits, including Matt Kemp's two-run home run in the first inning.

The Dodgers improved their road record to a Major League best 41-26.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[VIDEO: Mets Turn Triple Play Against Dodgers]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 09:04:51 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*201/mets+copy.jpg

In the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against the Mets, Matt Kemp hit a routine double-play grounder to the shortstop with runners on first and second and no outs.

The play should’ve ended once Kemp was thrown out at first, with the Dodgers having a runner on third with two out. 

That’s the outcome 99.9 percent of the time.

However, the 0.1 percent variable in this scenario is Yasiel Puig.

He was the runner on second base when Kemp hit the grounder and because he’s not normal, Puig thought he could score from second base.

He didn’t. He wasn’t even close.

So, a benign 5-4-3 double-play turned into a 5-4-3-2 triple-play, and another "what-in-the-world-was-Puig-thinking" moment. 

Lorenzo Bundy’s only in the video for a couple of seconds but the reaction from the Dodgers third-base coach is classic. It's the type a dad gives when his kid misspells a word during their fifth-grade spelling bee.

Next time instead of giving the stop sign to Puig, Bundy might just put up a brick wall to stop him. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Puig to Play on MLB All-Star Team in Japan]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:30:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/173*120/yp+face.jpg

Yasiel Puig might be brushing up on how to use chopsticks.

The Dodgers outfielder is among the first group of Major League all-stars named to the team that will travel to Japan for a five-game series against Japan’s National Team - "Samurai Japan" - in November.

He’ll be joined by Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners, Adam Jones from the Baltimore Orioles, and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Others will be named later, and I suspect a certain shaggy-haired, Cy-Young winning, Dodgers left-hander will be added to the squad. But, we'll have to wait and see. 

The team will be led by Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.

The series started in 1908, and this year will mark the 36th time that big leaguers have traveled to Japan for exhibition games.

The last time MLB sent a team of all-stars was in 2006, which was also the first time the five-game format was used. The U.S. went 5-0. Shocker.

MLB also announced the schedule:

Tuesday, Nov. 11:       Exhibition Game vs. Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants at Koshien
Wednesday, Nov. 12:  Game #1 at Kyocera Dome, Osaka
Thursday, Nov. 13:      Travel Day
Friday, Nov. 14:          Game #2 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
Saturday, Nov. 15:      Game #3 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
Sunday, Nov. 16:        Game #4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
Monday, Nov. 17:        Travel Day
Tuesday, Nov. 18:       Game #5 at Sapporo Dome, Sapporo
Wednesday, Nov. 19:  Travel Day
Thursday, Nov. 20:      Exhibition Game vs Team Japan, Okinawa
 



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<![CDATA[Nationals' Harper Uses Puig's Bat During Game]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:29:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/WEB_STEINER_DODGER_CALL_1200x675_318356035603.jpg

It doesn't get much better than when two of the best athletes in any sport come together.

Bryce Harper brought us such a moment in Thursday's game against the Diamondbacks.

The Nationals slugger would agree that he's had a pretty rough year. Injuries, swirling rumors he may be shipped out to Triple-A and and horrid hitting slumps.

So, where did he turn to to help get himself in gear? Yasiel Puig's bat.

MASN's cameras used the extra zoom to get a great shot of Harper using one of Puig's sticks Thursday.

 

 

How many times he used the "Pro Maple YP 66" model? We don't know, but Harper surely doesn't have it for safe keeping while his season spins out of control.

It seemed to work. Harper went 2 for 4 in the game and the Nats won their 10th game in row, in a 1-0 walk-off.

I'm just sayin'.

We'll check to see if Puig returns the favor tonight and breaks out a Harper special against the Padres.

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<![CDATA[Dodgers' Greinke Pushed Back with Sore Elbow]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:09:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/zgreinke+toss.jpg

The Dodgers have elected to hold Zack Greinke out of his scheduled start Thursday to allow the ailing elbow on his throwing arm to rest.

Clayton Kershaw will take the mound against the San Diego Padres in Greinke’s place. The day off Monday means Kershaw will throw on his normal rest schedule.

Greinke’s dealt with the elbow issue for the last few weeks, but has optioned to pitch through it.

“It’s nothing wrong with the ligament. It’s just something that comes and goes,” he told reporters following a bullpen session Wednesday.

The team doesn’t expect the injury to land Greinke on the disabled list. He has compared his discomfort to that of a runner racing with a sore foot - it’s pain he can manage.

“I can pitch at 100 percent level but I don’t expect to feel 100 percent while doing it,” Greinke says.

The right-hander wouldn’t blame the injury on his recent struggles, where he’s lost four of his last seven starts. And, while he hasn’t pitched as well in the second half of the season as he did in the first, Greinke still have a very good 2.75 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 157 ⅓ innings.

He expects to start Saturday, and says he won’t treat it any differently than his previous starts this season.

“I can’t guarantee it’ll be good for here on out, but I don’t plan on having an issue with it,” says Greinke.


 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Recall Arruebarrena, Option Triunfel]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:38:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*240/arru.jpg

The Dodgers' injuries have forced them to push prospects to the big leagues faster than they'd like.

With Juan Uribe on the disabled list, the Dodgers recalled infield prospect Erisbel Arruebarrena from Triple-A Albuquerque to not only add another solid defensive glove, but strong bat off the bench.

Infielder Carlos Triunfel was sent back down to Albuquerque to make room on the roster.

Arruebarrena joins the big league club from the Rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers where he was rehabbing a sore right shoulder.

In two previous stints with the Dodgers, the 24-year-old is hitting .313 (5 for 16) in eight games with two RBIs.

Arruebarrena made the most noise this season as the key cog in a bench-clearing brawl while playing with Albuquerque earlier in the season. 

The Dodgers signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract in February.

 



 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers’ Mattingly, Colletti Accept ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge ]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:33:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*123/matt+ned+talk.jpg

Everybody and their mom is taking on the Ice-Bucket Challenge.

But, ALS is a disease I wouldn’t put on my worst enemy, so if taking buckets of water to the head leads to a cure, how can you say no? 

Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly and General Manager Ned Colletti joined Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon as the latest members of the Blue Crew to take an ice waterfall for the cause.

Maybe, it’s to shed the embarrassment of being swept by the Brewers over the weekend. Either way, they’re doing their part.

Colletti went first and dropped the challenge on radio personalities Petros and Money, Dodgers legend Orel Hershiser and Mattingly, who must not have seen it coming, given the “What?!” he shouted off camera when Colletti called him out.

But, payback is sweet. Just watch Mattingly as he’s about to drop the bucket. His look says, “This is for not getting my a number-four starter before the trade deadline.”

Then it was the skipper’s turn. He called out Dodgers Video Coordinator John Pratt, Dodgers radio reporter David Vassegh and UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford.

What’s great in the video is how Mattingly braced himself to be doused, but gave the most disgusted look when the vertically-challenged Colletti only reached his shoulders.

“My shoulders are freezing,” Mattingly says.

I probably shouldn’t be getting such a kick at how awful that pour was, but it’s LA. They should know that in this town you’ve got to have some style with the substance.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers’ Ellis Blogs on Pitching Staff, Strategy]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:51:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/aj+kersh.jpg

All week ESPN’s Buster Olney has let guest writers take over his blog.

Thursday was Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis’s turn

It’s pretty great.

It’s widely known that he and Clayton Kershaw are best friends. They’ve even developed an Orel Hershiser, Mike Scioscia-type working relationship. So, Ellis used his post (a.k.a. his audition for a big league manager job when his career ends) to wax poetic on the behind-the-scenes prep work he and Kershaw go through before each start.

And, what he basically let everyone know is that Kershaw has a team beat when he gets to the clubhouse that day.

Ellis says before a start the lefty does the requisite study of film and scouting reports. Then the lefty, Ellis and pitching coach Rich Honeycutt will meet two hours before the first pitch and create a game plan for the night.

Those pre-game meetings are not democratic filibusters. Kershaw flat out runs them. Ellis says he’s serious, keeps his answers short and expects the catcher to remember his orders like they’re nuclear missile codes.

Oh, and don’t dare question the boss.

           “In the three years I have been humbled to catch Kersh, I‘ve learned to keep my mouth shut and not offer up information that goes against his typical arsenal of pitches. Even though the stats may lead me in a different direction, we are both keenly aware that his strengths are what separate him from the rest.”

I can see how that conversation would go.

Ellis: “Hey, 22, why don’t we back-door the slider on McCutchen when the count…”
(Kershaw gives the death stare)
(Ellis drops his eyes)
Ellis: “I know what to do. You’re right. We’re good.”

I guess, when you have two Cy Young Awards (and will likely add a third this season) you’re not called a dictator but, rather, Sergeant of Arms.

Kershaw’s known to ooze intensity on the mound. So, it’s fascinating to hear that at 26 years old he approaches his craft with that same Hall of Fame-type fire.

If I was a National League hitter knowing the game’s best pitcher goes that hard and has me figured out, I might call in sick the next time he’s in town.

Ellis on Zack Greinke:

          "He, especially, wants to know, and avoid, the specific areas where each hitter’s power is located. Zack is the most inquisitive student of the game I’ve ever met, and he breaks downs video as well as anyone I’ve caught."

On catching Dodger relievers:

           “Most relievers don’t offer up a bid variety of options in their repertoire but they do make up for it with the velocity and movement of the pitches that they throw. These last few crucial innings of a game usually turn into a battle of my best against your best. We don’t over think it. Even if the best fastball hitter in the game is in the box with the game on the line.”

So, there you have it from A.J. Ellis. Catcher. Blogger. Cultural Anthropologist.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers’ Ryu Removed from Start with Injury]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:43:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*223/hyu.jpg

You knew something was wrong when a pitcher as accurate as Hyun-Jin Ryu walked strikeout maven B.J. Upton.

After missing with a slider to Upton during Wednesday’s start against the Braves, Ryu called out the training staff, grabbed his right leg and knelt down in pain.

But, Don Mattingly can put the panic button away. Ryu didn’t snap a hamstring, instead the team says the lefty pulled a muscle in his backside. 

 

 

To add insult to injury, he took the loss in a 3-2 Dodgers defeat.

The good news for the club is the injury is not disabled list worthy, because they can’t afford to lose Ryu. Other than ace Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers rotation has become a bit of a mess lately.

Zack Greinke has lost four of his last six decisions, Dan Haren’s ERA has ballooned to 4.50, Josh Beckett is out with a bum hip.

With another Dodger pitcher nursing an injury, the move by General Manager Ned Colletti to pick up two band-aids in the form of Kevin Correa and Roberto Hernandez seems like a smart move right about now.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers 2014-15 NBA Schedule]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 15:42:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-2014-15-NBA-Schedule.jpg

For the 2014-15 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers schedule calls on the purple and gold to feature on the NBA’s opening night, Halloween, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Christmas.

To say that Kobe Bryant’s return is not meaningful is to utterly ignore the marketing impact of having no. 24 back on the court wearing purple and gold. He’s back, and as long as the Black Mamba is bouncing a ball for the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA will continue to spotlight the team on the biggest basketball days of the season. In all, the Lakers are nationally televised on 28 occasions.

Opening night pits Bryant against former teammate Dwight Howard. The game will take place in Los Angeles, and that should make for a frenzied fan atmosphere. Howard’s every action will predictably draw jeers, and every Bryant jump shot will warrant loud applause. Although Howard’s time in Los Angeles is long gone, fans will never forget the disappointment of Howard’s wholly worthless season wearing purple and gold.

Howard provided the perfect example of a polar opposite of Bryant. Bryant’s time in Los Angeles is nearing two full decades. Howard barely made it one season. Bryant is the personification of the Lakers’ brand--a jersey in the rafters and a statue out in front of Staples Center. Howard bailed after one season and left anyone who compared the center to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain shivering at the thought of uttering those words. Ultimately, Los Angeles hates Howard as much as it loves Bryant, and that sentiment should be clear on Oct. 28.

Opening night cannot come soon enough.

After playing the Suns on Oct. 29, the Lakers will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Halloween. That budding local rivalry will repeat on three different occasions. The Lakers will again play hosts on Apr. 5, and the Clippers will paint the floor red and blue for the LA-only affair on Jan. 7 and Apr. 7.

Other dates to circle on the calendar are Nov. 14, when the world champion San Antonio Spurs come to visit Los Angeles, and Jan. 15, when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers march into Staples for their only visit to Lakerland.

Of course, the Lakers and Celtics rivalry is worth noting, as well. The Lakers will play hosts to the green leprechauns on Feb. 22. Meanwhile, the trip to Boston will come about the usual time: Dec. 5.

The Lakers’ longest road trip of the 2014-15 season comes in March when the Lakers take off on a five-game trip through Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Toronto, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. The Lakers are not plagued by a marathon Grammy road trip like seasons past. In the two previous seasons, the Grammy trip was seven straight games away from home in February. The longest road trip in February of 2015 will be four games.

However, the Lakers do play 16 back-to-backs, so this schedule is hardly a walk in the park. Scrutinizing 82 games, though, every NBA schedule contains obstacles.

To wrap up the season, the Lakers will play a home and away set with the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers’ 2014-15 regular season will conclude on Apr. 15, 2014 at Staples Center (Click For Lakers' Full Schedule).



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Schedule: Rockets, Clippers, Bulls]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:42:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lakers-Schedule-2014-15.jpg

The NBA is not good at keeping secrets.

Ahead of announcing the NBA schedule at 3 p.m. PT on Wednesday, reports emerged regarding key aspects of the Los Angeles Lakers' 2014-15 regular season schedule.

First reported by ESPN Los Angeles, the Lakers will start the season against the Houston Rockets. Yes, that is Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. New Lakers' point guard Jeremy Lin will immediately face his former teammates. If all goes according to plan, Kobe Bryant will be in the lineup to face Howard for the first time since the center shunned LA for Houston. The game will also serve as Head Coach Byron Scott's regular season debut with the Lakers.

As an encore, the Lakers will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Halloween. The "battle for LA" will have its first round early in the season, and with new owner Steve Ballmer having taken official control, the Clippers will look to begin the process of dethroning the Lakers in the hearts and minds of Angelinos.

Apart from those two games, the schedule has been kept relatively quiet save for one other game: Christmas Day. The Lakers have played on the December holiday 15 straight years. More often than not, Los Angeles provides a visitor sunshine and warm temperatures during the frigid winter holiday.

This year, however, the Lakers will take a trip to the frozen tundra that is Chicago to face longtime Laker Pau Gasol as he lines up in his new colors. Presumably, Bryant will shower Gasol with warm embraces that hold longer than most NBA Christmas Day embraces. Although those embraces may highlight the poignancy of the relationship Gasol and Bryant shared, they also probably help provide that added body heat that is required during Christmas time in Chicago.

The remainder of the Lakers' schedule will be unveiled at 3pm Pacific Time on NBATV.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Place Beckett on Disabled List]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 06:11:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/jb+hurt.jpg

You can only pitch on one good leg for so long.

Josh Beckett did it for a couple of weeks with a torn labrum in his left hip. But, the Dodgers thought it best to shut him down, rather than pump him full of Cortisone so the right-hander can stay in the rotation.

The team placed Beckett on the 15-day disabled list.

(Side note: In his first start for the Dodgers on Friday against the Brewers, Hernandez tossed six innings, allowed two earned runs on three hits. He struck out five and got a no decision. The Dodgers lost, 9-3.)

OK, Back to Beckett.

He just didn’t look right once he hurt the hip. His mechanics were off. He didn’t pitch with the same level of confidence, and it showed.

In his first 17 starts the 34-year-old went an average of six innings. He made four starts after his return from the DL and didn’t go more than 4 ⅓ innings in any of them.

His pre-DL ERA: 2.26. His post-DL ERA: 7.88.

Dodger manager Don Mattingly told MLB Network Radio there’s a chance Beckett could return this season.

We’ll have to wait and see.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Ethier Accepts Diminished Role]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 09:36:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/ethier+swing+.jpg

In 2010, Andre Ethier was selected by fans to start in the National League All-Star Game.

These days he shows up for work just hoping to get selected by his manager to start a game, period.

Ethier started in right field Wednesday against the Angels, which was his first, anywhere, since July 22.

The two-time All-Star really hasn’t been an everyday player all season and, recently, has been relegated to pinch-hitter or defensive replacement status.

“It’s tough,” Ethier said after hitting a walk-off fielder’s choice Tuesday against the Angels. “You come to the field every day and just check the lineup card and see if you’re in there, and as of late it hasn’t been. So, it’s one where you kind of have to scale back and figure out what you’re going to do that day to get on the field and help the team win where you’re needed.”

He’s, essentially, been phased out of the mega-millions outfield that general manager Ned Colletti has assembled. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp have played themselves into starting roles, and if Carl Crawford can stay healthy, it seems, he’ll be the everyday left fielder.

Understandably, Ethier hates the setup. He’s an elite athlete. He’s uber prideful. Make no mistake about it, though, he believes he’s one of the three best outfielders on the team, and he should. That mindset not only got the 32-year-old to the big leagues, it got him a five-year, $85 million contract.

Dodger manager Don Mattingly, is a former All-Star himself. He’s not ignorant to the mindset. Mattingly likes Ethier. He’s talked openly about the compassion he has for what Ethier’s going through.

“We’ve also talked about with Andre that he’s a really good teammate and handled this very well. I know I appreciate that, the way he’s handled it, professionally,” Mattingly said.

But, the skipper’s not being paid to play Dr. Feelgood. He’s paid to win, by any means necessary.

“We’re at the point where we’ve kind of thrown all the egos out the door, and just try and win games. We’re in a pennant race.”

As an eight-year veteran, Ethier gets it. He may not like it, but he gets it.

“We’ve got a team that could possible do something special at the end of the year and that personal stuff definitely goes away when you realize you got the opportunity to do that.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ethier Provides Walk-Off Win for Dodgers ]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 23:57:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/dap.jpg

The headline to this story tells you what happened.

The Dodgers beat the Angels, 4-3, Tuesday, with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium.

As far as the how...let's just say it won't be in the team capsule. 

With the game tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Andre Ethier came to bat with runners on first and third, and a chance to be a hero.

On a 3-2 pitch, against the Angels drawn in infield, Ethier hit a chopper to third baseman David Freese.

His first thought: “I cursed in my head. I said, ‘Oh, s--t’,” Ethier said in the locker room after the game.

Juan Uribe was three-quarters of the way home when Angels third baseman David Freese bare-handed the ball and fired a missile to the plate. The throw beat Uribe, but his thick thighs knocked it out of catcher Chris Iannetta’s mit. Uribe scores. Game over. The crowd goes wild.

“I waited for the crowd to react and they did,” Ethier said, with an embarassed chuckle. “It’s not the prettiest out of all of them, but it feels just as good.”

Ethier hasn’t seen much of the field lately and seemed reserved in relishing the moment.

Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw avoided a loss with the last inning theatrics. The lefty didn’t factor in the decision, and hasn’t lost since May 28, spanning 12 outings.

He went seven innings but actually looked human at the start.

The Angels jumped on Kershaw early, scoring three runs on seven hits the first three innings. He settled down after that. In his last four innings, Kershaw didn’t allow a hit, though he walked two batters.

“He didn’t seem to be in the kind of rhythm he’s normally in the first two or three innings. Then, all of a sudden, something must’ve fell in place for him because it got more smoother and easier,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said afterward.

In his much publicized matchup with all-world Mike Trout, you’d have to say Trout won on the scorecards.

Trout got the first jabs in, hitting a single and double off Kershaw his first two at bats. But, the lefty hit back in Trout’s third at bat, throwing three straight fastballs. Trout watched them all and just as fast as he was announced as the hitter, he walked back to the dugout with a strikeout.

Matt Kemp manufactured a run in the sixth to put the Dodgers up, 4-3. He reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on Scott Van Slyke’s sacrifice fly.

But, that was wiped out by one swing of the bat by Albert Pujols. He launched a Brian Wilson fastball into the Dodgers bullpen in left field for a home run that tied the game, 4-4.

Angels started Hector Santiago looked just as shaky as Kershaw the first few innings. His biggest mistake was the fastball that Uribe hit out to left for a three-run homer in the third. But, they would be the only runs the 26-year-old surrendered in his 5 ⅓ innings of work.

Kenley Jansen (2-3) hurled a scoreless ninth for the Dodgers to pick up the loss.

Kevin Jepson (0-1) suffered the loss for the Angels.

The two teams will wrap up the Freeway Series with two games at Angels Stadium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Bullpen Injuries Pile Up ]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 18:53:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/bullpen+copy.jpg

The Dodgers have lost yet another reliever.

This time it’s left-hander Paco Rodriguez, who the team placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a Teres Major strain.

Carlos Baez has been called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to take Rodriguez’s spot on the roster.

Rodriguez was most recently called up to replace another lefty reliever, Paul Maholm, who the Dodgers transferred to the 60-day DL with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Basically, Maholm's season is over.

The last 72 hours have been rough for the Dodgers who've placed Rodriguez, Maholm and righty reliever Chris Perez (right ankle bone spurs) on the DL the past three days.

As far as Maholm and Perez, it's not like they were setting the world on fire (combined 4.91 ERA in 110 innings), but it still doesn’t bode well for the Dodgers who decided to pass on adding bullpen help, especially a much needed southpaw, before the trade deadline.

Granted, they can still make a move through waivers but it’ll need to happen before manager Don Mattingly waves the white flag.

“I’m sure Ned [Colletti] is scouring, he’s talking to people all the time to make sure we’re in the best position,” Mattingly says.

J.P. Howell is the only lefty Mattingly has at his disposal at this point in the pen. Thankfully, for the Dodgers, he’s been the most reliable reliever this season. Howell’s only surrendered five earned runs in 38 2/3 innings, and batters are hitting a measly .156 off of him. His workload is about to get real heavy.

Jamey Wright’s not a left-hander but he’s given Mattingly another stopper against left-handed hitters. The 18-year veteran has held lefty’s to a .167 avg and one extra-base hit.

Mattingly says he’s keeping the faith that the Dodgers can work with the arms they have, though he’s not the best at showing it.

“On the field level it’s about winning games, being ready to play, taking the team we have now and being ready to play,” he says.

Spoken like a man who would like some bullpen help.

 


 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Kemp Named NL Player of the Week]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:36:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/mkepm.jpg

The move to right field seems to have straightened Matt Kemp out.

He’s raked since Dodger manager Don Mattingly put him there, and his resurgence is recognized with the NL Player of the Week Award for the period ending August 3.

In six games, the 29-year-old hit .409 with five homers, nine RBIs, a 1.091 slugging percentage and a .458 on-base percentage.

Kemp's not only playing well, he's playing like he's got a point to prove. 

In 2011 when he came one home run short of a 40-40 season, Kemp was considered the best player in the game. But, boy has it been a downward spiral the last two-plus years. I guess the pressures of a mega contract, major injuries and dating Rihanna will do that to you.

But, Kemp’s finally healthy, he’s at the age when baseball players hit their prime and, thanks to Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw, he no longer has the pressure of being the guy.

So, really, we may have yet to see the best of Matt Kemp. I sure hope so, because like he’s shown the last few weeks, when he’s on, he shines bright like a diamond.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Kershaw Wins Second Consecutive NL Honor ]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 09:27:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/left+throw.jpg

Clayton Kershaw is hoarding NL Pitcher of the Month Awards in case the world comes to an end.

He picked up his second straight award for July, in further showing he owns the league. He’s also the first Dodger pitcher to do that since April-May 1975 when Hall of Famer Don Sutton did it.

Kershaw now has four. He won the honor in 2011, 2013 and in June. Looks like he decided to win this latest one to make up for the gap in 2012.

The stats, of course, are impressive: 4-0 record, NL best 1.07 ERA, three complete games, opposing hitters had a .165 AVG, he struck out 43 batters in 42 innings and walk only four. And, his last three starts came against the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves, three teams they could face in the playoffs.

I hope Kershaw has mantle space left, because we’ve still got two months left in the season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Puig, Trout on Center Stage in Freeway Series ]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 09:29:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/slide+ypp.jpg

We’ve got the best baseball player in the world, Mike Trout, and the most exciting player on the planet, Yasiel Puig, within 30 miles of one another and it could be that way for the next decade.

Let that sink in for a minute.

By themselves Trout and Puig have made the Freeway Series, the next installment of  which starts today at Chavez Ravine, worth watching. Sure, their respective teams the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I still can’t believe that name is allowed to exist) and the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing well but, let’s be real, without them, a Josh Hamilton-Hanley Ramirez showdown is not selling out any stadiums.

Trout and Puig are pay-per-view worthy.

Puig has killed it all season. He’s second in the National League in batting average (.323), second in triples (nine), second in slugging percentage (.551), second in OPS (.959) third in on-base percentage (.407) and just to show he’s actually human, Puig’s been caught stealing seven times, sixth most in the league.


With Troy Tulowitzki hurt, Puig has quietly taken over front-runner status in the NL MVP race, but when does the Wild Horse do anything quietly. I mean, he had Dodger Stadium buzzing Friday when he scored from second base on a fielder’s choice, and with a slide that left Chicago Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo grabbing for air.

I'm still trying to figure out how in the world Puig pulled it off.

Puig's counterpart, and equal, in the ridiculously-fast-and-absurdly-strong category, Mike Trout, is making a run at an MVP Award, which we've become accustomed to in his short big league career.

Three years in the majors, Trout's been MVP runner-up twice. He could, in all likelihood, win it this season. Stop and think about that for a minute. Who does that? Really?

But, he's had to work to get on track this year.

On May 18, Trout went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. His batting average dropped to .263, he was striking out a ton and it seemed as though pitchers had found his kryptonite -- high fastballs. It didn't help that he dealt with Tiger Woods-like back issues.

I don't know what happened, but something clicked. Trout got hits in 24 of his next 25 games and, voila, Superman was back tearing up the American League. Now, he's second in runs scored (76), second in on-base percentage (.394), second in OPS (.979) third in slugging percentage (.585), fourth in RBIs (80) and fifth in homers (25).

Not bad.

Puig is only 23 years old and Trout turns 23 on Thursday.

I chuckle with sympathy for pitchers in both leagues because they won't have a chance when these guys turn 25.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Pass on Big Splash Trades Before Deadline ]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:26:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/186*120/ned+.jpg

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly made it clear as the trade deadline approached that he couldn’t care less if the team made a move, or not.

About a week ago he told reporters he was confident the team he had was good enough to win. He didn’t say that directly to his boss Ned Colletti, but he might as well have.

The deadline came and went Thursday and the Dodgers general manager sat back and watched his counterparts around baseball use their players and prospects in the annual game of Battleship, and go trade crazy. 

That meant Matt Kemp was spared the awkward we’re-pulling-you-out-of-the-game-in-the- middle-of-an-inning-in-the-middle-of-an-opponents-at-bat-because-you-just-got-traded moment, that should from now on be referred to as getting "Austin Jacksoned."

It also meant that the Dodgers top three minor league prospects, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias, are still in the organization but the team still needs bullpen help.

And, most of all, it meant that Colletti has supreme confidence that the 25-man roster he assembled at the end of Spring Training is good enough to win a World Series.

In the hours leading to the deadline, Colletti told reporters the club was in the John Lester David Price sweepstakes but the asking prices were too high.

Lester was eventually sent to the Oakland A’s in a two-month rental deal and the Price went to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners, thus the reason why Austin Jackson got Austin Jacksoned.

With an overloaded, overpriced outfield, prospects that other teams would’ve parted with All-Star caliber players for and a bottomless bank roll, to hold firm against making a blockbuster move is a bold one by Colletti.

Dodger fans are just hoping no moves was the right move.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Vin Scully to Return for 66th Season With Dodgers ]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:47:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/edt-71463699_10.jpg

Vin Scully brought Christmas in July to Dodger Stadium.

In the second inning of Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, several players popped up on the Jumbotron to announce that the greatest broadcaster to ever sit behind a microphone will be back in the Dodgers broadcast booth in 2015.

“It is very difficult to say goodbye,” said Scully in a statement released by the club. “God willing I will be back next year. Over the years I have been blessed to have so many friends including those that sit in the stands and listen as well as those at home, who listen and watch. It is just too hard to say goodbye to all these friends. Naturally there will come a time, when I will have to say goodbye, but I’ve soul-searched and this is not the time.”

Now, if that’s not enough ammunition for LA and Time Warner Cable to get their act together, then Dodger fans are screwed.

Scully will maintain his current schedule. He’ll call all Dodger home games on SportsNet LA and the first three innings on radio. Scully hasn’t gone on the road for a few years, so it’s doubtful he’ll start doing that again next year.

Let me just say that it's not just Dodger fans who should be jumping around like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch, giddy about the news. Tuesday was a win for baseball fans of every generation.

It’s another year for those who were in LA during the 1959 World Series to reminisce about where they were when Scully called Larry Sherry getting White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio to fly out to left to end Game 6, and bring the Dodgers their first title on the West Coast.

It’s another year for those who, like me, sat as a wide-eyed eight-year-old glued to the TV set during the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 Series. When I’m at Dodger Stadium now I can’t look at right field without hearing Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run:

                     “High fly ball into right field, she is gone.”

Those nine words defined my childhood growing up in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

So, having said that, I’m most thrilled for the eight-year-olds who will hopefully have their own Vin Scully moment to carry them through their teenage years.

Plus, we get another year of Scully telling timeless story after story, like he’s sitting next to the fireplace in his favorite rocking chair, a flannel blanket covering his lap, a bit of scotch in his right hand.

You can listen to them for hours.

Take this one, for instance, when Scully talked about the time he raced Jackie Robinson ice skating, with Robinson's pregnant wife Rachel also on the ice.

There’s plenty more where that came from. You just watch, next season.

 

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Legends Return For Byron Scott]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:22:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Byron-Scott-Lakers-Head-Coach-7-29-14.jpg

Byron Scott hit the right notes in his first press conference as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers: "We'll play hard every single night and we'll come ready to defend--every single night."

On Tuesday, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak introduced Scott as the Lakers' "first choice" despite the process taking nearly two months since Scott first interviewed with the team. Before the three-time champion as a Lakers' player was afforded the microphone as the Lakers' coach, however, the team surprised the audience with three Lakers legends: Jamaal Wilkes, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The larger-than-life figures and personalities sat in the front row in support of the hire during Scott's press conference. However, before Johnson and the gang took their seats, they took a moment to sing words of encouragement for their former teammate.

"We wish we could put on the uniform for you and help you, but we're here supporting you and will support you throughout," Johnson said to Scott, whom he regularly works out with. When the former band of Laker teammates took a moment to pose for pictures with Scott, Johnson exclaimed, "Boy, Showtime's back, baby!" to capture the excitement and jubilant energy of the reunion.

Then, Scott explained what this moment meant for him: "This has been a dream of mine for so long. It's a dream come true to be sitting here talking to you guys (the media) today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers."

"The passion and love I have for this organization is second to none, and the only thing I regret is that Dr. Buss is not here today," Scott said with his eyes watering up at what the Lakers and Dr. Buss had meant to his life.

Scott admitted that he had to hold back tears while meeting with Jeanie Buss and reminiscing about the Lakers' late owner. The coach who prides himself on toughness, though, was doing his best to control his emotions since his children and grandchildren were present.

With regard to the length of the hiring process, Scott explained that he had always been a patient guy, so he insisted the length of the hiring process did not bother him. However, Scott did take a trip to the Bahamas to get away from fans constantly pestering him about when he would be hired and whether he would be hired. Scott admitted that the fans' questions took a "toll after a little while."

Scott insisted, however, "The waiting really didn't bother me."

The newest Laker coach insisted that the team had a competitive roster, but he had plenty of work to do, especially on one side of the ball.

"The main thing I have to do right away is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team," Scott said. "First thing Magic taught me when I got into this league is that we win championships by defending every single night. That's the one thing we can control."

Asked how he would hold players accountable, Scott offered a simple explanation of what made him so effective as a disciplinarian coach.

"They don't it, I take them out the game. It's pretty simple," the coach explained his method of accountability. "Again, you get beat on the defensive end--and I've don't this my whole career--guys, they understand, you're not doing what you're supposed to do out there, there are consequences. The only thing you can really control with players is their minutes. That gets their attention."

For a team that was constantly criticized and ridiculed for its inability to play defense a season ago, the message Scott delivered struck a chord. After two years under Mike D'Antoni, who was widely considered a one-dimensional coach, Scott's defensive emphasis was a welcomed return to values the fan base has been yearning for.

As if Scott had not already played the correct notes to reignite fans' passions, Scott also took a jab at the crosstown rivalry brewing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I don't think LA has gone to the Clippers yet, anyway. This is still a Laker town--period," Scott emphasized. "We have two teams now, one that has about 17 banners and one that doesn't have any yet, but the rivalry is getting pretty good. But this is still a Laker town."

Above all, the message Scott delivered in his first press conference as Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers was defense. After two seasons of D'Antoni, Scott sang the perfect tune to get fans excited. Unfortunately, the season does not start for another three months.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Video: Dodgers' Kershaw Throws Baseballs at Jimmy Kimmel’s Head]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:27:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/dodgers2014-30.jpg

Okay, so the baseballs Clayton Kershaw tossed were only the cushiony type used in t-ball but it was still Clayton Kershaw throwing them from 10 feet away. It’s like a muffin being shot out of a cannon, it could get ugly.

And, it got ugly, right on Jimmy Kimmel’s face:

 

Technically, Kershaw did knock the apple off Kimmel’s dome. And, just like he does on the mound, the lefty got the job done while making the other guy suffer in the process.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Make Statement in Sweep of Giants ]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:04:02 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/sf+sweep.jpg

On May 7, the Dodgers hosted the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium in a four-game series with a chance to move up from third place and erase their rivals 2 1/2 game lead in the NL West.

The season was barely 35 games old but, even then, Dodger manager Don Mattingly felt the need to prove a point.

"We have to establish that we can play with them. They have a good club and we knew they were going to be tough," Mattingly said before the May series.

They didn't.

The Giants won three out of four, left town with a 4 1/2-game lead in the division and buried the Dodgers deeper into their third place hole.

The Rematch

The Dodgers went to AT&T Park July 24 for a three-game series trailing the, then, first place Giants by 1 1/2 games and their big three starters lined up: Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The closed-door, early season "come-to-Jesus" team meeting, Mattingly calling out his players for being soft and their warp speed erasing of a nine-game Giants division lead before the All-Star break would mean nothing if they couldn't stand up to the bully on the block. 

They did.

The Dodgers not only swept the series to reclaim first place and a 1 1/2 game lead, they won each game in a different, equally impressive manner.

Game 1 was the offense. The Dodgers pounded out 15 hits, including a franchise record tying five triples, and scored eight runs in a dominating 8-1 victory. Greinke (12-6) went seven innings, only allowed four hits and struck out 10 to pick up the win. 

Game 1 was Kershaw (12-2). On Saturday, the fastball, the curve, the devastating slider, all of it worked. He tossed a complete game, three-hitter. The one shocking moment came in the bottom of the fifth when he walked Michael Morse. He has 15 all season in 112 1/3 innings. Kershaw also lowered his Major League leading ERA to 1.76 and joined Greinke in the 12 win club. He got some help from Adrian Gonzalez who went 3 for 5 with an RBI. 

Game 3 was the complete package. Down, 2-1, in the fifth the Dodgers went to work. Gonzalez swung and missed at a ball in the dirt for strike three, which was also the second out in the inning. But, he was smart enough to run to first base and force a throw to get him out. Giants catcher Buster Posey obliged and made the throw. Problem for him was, Dee Gordon was on third. As soon as Posey released the ball to first, Gordon raced home. If the return throw to home beat him, the inning was over. Instead, Gordon slid in safely to tie the game, 2-2.

His teammates then clutched up. Hanley Ramirez singled home Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford followed with a triple to score Ramirez, which gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. The Dodgers have come up big in those spots all season. As a team, they're hitting .261 with runners in scoring position and two outs, that's tops in the majors.  

Posey hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth to close the gap to, 4-3.

But, Dodger relievers J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and closer Kenley Jansen picked up Ryu, who went six innings and allowed three runs on six hits. They combined to shut the Giants out the last three innings to preserve the win. Jansen provided the exclamation point by striking out Brandon Crawford on a 96 MPH fastball. Ryu joined Greinke and Kershaw by picking up his 12th win and Jansen got his 30th save, good for second in all of baseball.  

You’d have to say it was the first series that LA's record-setting $234 million payroll earned their money. Sure, the club has won games but in that series, in that environment and against that team, they earned it.

However, there are a couple of points Dodger fans need to be aware of before they consider the Giants done. First, they beat newly acquired Jake Peavy, who came into the start with a career 14-2 record and 2.21 ERA against the Dodgers. He wasn't bad in Sunday's outing but he'll likely be better the next time around.

Second, the Giants are not the same team without center fielder Angel Pagan. It's clear they miss his speed and precense at the top of the order, much like the Dodgers would without Gordon. They'll be a much improved team once he returns The Dodgers can count on it.

The Dodgers left Los Angeles two weeks ago as the hunter. They return to Chavez Ravine Monday as the hunted.

We’ll see if after a couple of home cooked meals they’re still hungry for October.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Triple-A Prospect Ignites Brawl ]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:53:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/aebb.jpg

The Albuquerque Isotopes and Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliates for the Dodgers and Rockies, respectively, rumbled on Saturday in a bench-clearing brawl.

It got ugly and spilled into the first couple of rows behind home plate.

See for yourself:

 

What you don’t see in the video are the minutes before the chaos began. Multiple reports say Isotopes shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena didn't appreciate being brushed back by pitcher Mike Bolsinger early in the at bat. 

It, apparently, started Friday night when Arruebarrena, who the Dodgers have signed to a five-year, $25 million contract, took nearly 40 seconds to cross home plate after hitting a three-run homer. 

Ten were ejected and the Aces won the game 7-3.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Scott Coaching Lakers]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 22:36:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Hire-Byron-Scott.jpg

After three interviews, fan frustration, wild speculation and a drawn out coaching search that resulted in unbelievable rumors, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly agreed to terms with Byron Scott to become the team's head coach.

The deal is for four years and $17 million, ESPN Los Angeles reported.

The Lakers told NBC4 an announcement would be made when the deal was struck.

The calendar read April when Mike D’Antoni vacated the position, but the Lakers immediately made it clear that they were in no hurry to find a replacement. Nearly three months later, however, fans were losing patience and some NBA analysts were simply losing their heads.

In the week leading up to Scott being offered the Lakers’ coaching gig, ESPN’s Bill Simmons went on a national radio show and proclaimed that it was “obvious” that the Lakers were waiting around to see whether Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers would step away from that franchise’s toxic ownership situation.

Not for the first time, a baseless story about the Lakers found legs and garnered national media attention.

More likely, the Lakers’ front office maintained a consistent dialogue with Scott as it worked to fill out the Lakers’ roster. With a parade of Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer contract signings and media presentations complete, the Lakers’ roster was all but set when news of Scott being offered the vacancy seeped through the cracks and onto the scrolling headlines at the bottom of the screen.

On Friday, ESPN was first to report that Scott and the Lakers were engaged in negotiations. The LA Daily News then reported that Scott was offered the position late Thursday night.

With the Lakers’ roster almost set—rookie Jordan Clarkson and swing man Wesley Johnson remain the only players not yet signed—the front office methodically moved forward from the roster to the coach. Scott, who was portrayed as the front runner for the months leading up to the announcement, finally received the expected phone call and appeared to move quickly to accept the position and begin negotiating terms.

Worth mentioning, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne earlier reported George Karl earned a great deal of consideration from the Lakers’ front office. Ultimately, Scott was the Lakers’ top choice, and they got their man.

Previously, Scott led the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals twice and received NBA Coach of the Year honors with the New Orleans Hornets. As a player, Scott was a notable member of the “Showtime” Lakers and won three championships in the 1980s.

In his final NBA season, Scott served as Kobe Bryant’s rookie mentor, and Bryant explicitly endorsed Scott when asked whether he would like to see the 53-year-old patrolling the sidelines at Staples Center.

With Scott agreeing terms, the Lakers now have a near complete roster and a head coach.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Show They're a Triple Threat in Win Over Giants ]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 03:47:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/hanpg+copy.jpg

If Yasiel Puig performs like he did Friday night, he may stay in center field permanently.    

He started there for the first time this season and responded by going 4 for 5 with a double and three triples in an 8-1 win against the Giants at AT&T Park.

“It’s a really good stadium, actually, to hit triples, just hit them into right-center. You hit them, basically, where they can’t get them,” Puig told SportsNet LA afterward.

The only other Dodger player to get three triples in a game is Jimmy Sheckard in 1901.

Puig also scored two runs and had two RBIs.

The team hit five triples in the game, three coming in the fifth inning when they blew the game open by turning it into their own track meet.

Dee Gordon hit the first triple to drive in Zack Greinke and gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Puig followed with a triple to drive in Gordon. After singles by Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp hit a 3-0 fastball off the wall in the gaping hole in right-center field putting the Dodgers up, 6-0.

“It was fun to watch,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the game.

The Dodgers knocked Giants starter Tim Lincecum (9-7) out in that fifth inning after he looked sharp through the first four, striking out six batters. But, in the end, he only went 4 ⅓ innings, allowing six runs on nine hits to take the loss.

His counterpart Greinke went seven innings, gave up four hits and struck out 10 to pick up his NL tying 12th win of the season.

Puig was one of five Dodgers with multi-hit games.

Adrian Gonzalez went 2 for 4 with two RBIs to retake the NL lead with 67.

The Giants got on the board in the ninth against Paul Maholm.

Tyler Colvin drove in Joaquin Arias with a bases loaded single to make it 8-1, but Tony Abreu followed by flying out to Puig to end the game.

Despite the loss the Giants still hold a 1/2 game lead in the NL West. 
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Scott Offered Job, Lakers Busy Friday]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:23:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-sign-Xavier-Henry-7-18-14.jpg

Friday was a busy day for the Los Angeles Lakers.

First, the team introduced two-time NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer. Boozer was awarded to the Lakers after the team made a successful bid to claim the former Chicago Bulls forward off waivers. The 32-year-old described himself as a “spring chicken” and appeared energized by the move to Los Angeles.

Boozer said he was working out in the gym when he learned he was going to LA, and the “spring chicken” began to jump around. Boozer said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the news and said he “absolutely” expected to be a starter.

“‘Come ready. Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people,’” he described the message Kobe Bryant delivered after Boozer was assigned to the Lakers. “His drive to win is contagious.”

Shortly after Boozer’s press conference wrapped up, ESPN reported that the Lakers were negotiating with Byron Scott, whom was the leading candidate, for the Lakers’ vacant coaching position. Scott had previously met with the Lakers on three occasions, but the team had balked at making a decision on the coaching vacancy for nearly three months.

On Friday, however, several sources confirmed that Scott had been offered the position and both sides were working and negotiating the terms. With the coaching search drawing to a close, the final contracts needed to be signed, and the Lakers’ front office did not waste much time.

Late Friday afternoon, the Lakers officially re-signed Xavier Henry. With Henry’s contract signed, the Lakers officially had 11 players on contract. The team reportedly already agreed terms with Wesley Johnson, so the roster should be at 12 sooner rather than later. Rookie Jordan Clarkson is expected to corner out the roster at 13, but the team can carry as many as 15 players.

After Johnson and Clarkson, the Lakers do not expect to sign any more players until training camp or beyond.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Puig Experiment Could Work for the Dodgers ]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:39:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/179*120/yp+as+game.jpg

I was all set to write about Don Mattingly’s foolish move Wednesday against the Pirates putting Yasiel Puig in center field for an inning.

Why take the all-star right fielder out of his comfort zone and open the possibility that he’s the answer to the Dodgers center fielder problem.

It was Mattingly who told ESPN that Puig plays "out of control most of the time," and "scares the other outfielders," because he goes so hard (No ambulances were called Wednesday, so you’d have to consider it a success).

And, since I said Matt Kemp is the team’s best option at that spot, surely the skipper wouldn’t go completely the other direction and put the glove-totting battering ram in center, risking the lives of his other outfielders.

Then I remembered I could watch videos on the very medium this story is posted on.

I’ve seen Kemp and Puig play just about every game this season, but I also looked at last year’s games to do an eye test on the two.

Kemp is a great athlete. When healthy, he moves his 215 pound frame gracefully, like he did making a game-saving catch last season against the Giants. But, when Kemp sees he can’t get to a ball, he looks like he’s jogging on the sands of Hermosa Beach.

For Puig, not getting there is not an option.

Case in point, the catch at Citi Field in New York earlier this season. Puig had no business catching that ball. If anyone should’ve, it was the center fielder but Puig has shattered the logic of conventional baseball thinking.

Puig goes after balls like there’s a plane ticket back to Cuba waiting if he doesn’t make the catch. He’s just a better athlete than Kemp, Ethier and Van Slyke put together. I still don’t think he’s the Dodgers long-term solution but it’s July 25th. Their season ends in two months, the club has five outfielders but nobody to play center.

Maybe the Puig experiment could work.

I doubt Mattingly will send him back out there anytime soon with an actual game on the line, especially with a pivotal three-game series starting today against the San Francisco Giants.

But, the "wild horse" may be seen running around the middle of the outfield again before the season ends.  
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jeremy Lin Wearing Lakers' No. 17]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:48:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jeremy-Lin-Joins-Lakers-7-24-14.JPG

Although the Los Angeles Lakers officially acquired Jeremy Lin on July 14, 2014, the point guard was locked up with a basketball tour in China and could not immediately make his presence felt in the southland.

“I'm seeing it as a new start, a fresh start, and it’s good to be back in the state of California. I was born in Torrance, so not too far away from here,” Lin opened his press conference with the LA Lakers on Thursday.

In his first official appearance with the Lakers, Lin came off as charming, humble and often humorous.

At one point, a Chinese reporter asked Lin when he would be able to play for the Lakers. After confirming the start date of the preseason, Lin answered the question and said he was ready to go. However, the Lakers’ point guard went on to confirm whether he had properly answered the reporter's question and appeared to be genuinely concerned about whether he had satisfied the reporter. He did not sound like a global superstar who had already achieved greater levels of fame than the vast majority of players in the NBA.

Looking to the court, Lin said he looked forward to learning for Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. From Bryant, Lin was hoping to take away bits from the Bryant's famous workouts. From Nash, Lin was a bit more technical about refining his point guard skills and playing in “control,” using "angles" and improving "footwork."

With the Lakers, Lin will wear no. 17. The point guard wore the no. 7 in Houston and was asked why he had changed. Naturally, he pointed to Xavier Henry currently holding the no. 7 with the Lakers. When asked about the controversy surrounding his former team, the Houston Rockets, mocking up graphics for Carmelo Anthony wearing his occupied no. 7 in an attempt to woo the Knicks free agent, Lin gracefully avoided conflict.

“I just felt like [the Rockets] could have maybe kept it internal,” he said. “It wasn’t a big thing for me.”

Lin was also asked about comments made by former teammate James Harden dismissing Lin’s importance to the Rockets. Again, Lin balked at being confrontational and spoke highly of his personal relationship with Harden.

On the court, the Lakers gained a player that should help them at a position that has been lacking for several years. Off the court, however, the Lakers appear to have picked up a character individual that knows how to speak to the media and value fans.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Ed Davis Signs With Lakers]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:17:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Ed-Davis-Lakers-7-23-15.jpg

“It’s tough to say that without a coach,” Los Angeles Lakers’ newest signing Ed Davis responded when asked about what role he would play on the team.

Ten minutes after signing his contract with the Lakers, Davis walked into an overcrowded media room that was uncomfortably hot. He held up and posed alongside a gold No. 21 jersey.

“That’s my college number at North Carolina,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said as he joined Davis in the photo opportunity.

When asked about the significance of the number, Davis said, “That was my number in high school, in my ninth grade year.”

So who is Davis and what does he bring to the 2014-15 Lakers?

“I can play both positions--the four and the five,” Davis said. “What I bring: Athleticism, defend, rebound—all the little things.”

Davis was the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. After spending two and a half years with the Toronto Raptors, Davis was a part of the Rudy Gay trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and ended up as a backup to Zach Randolph, also known as “Z-Bo,” and Marc Gasol.

“It was great playing behind both of them,” Davis said about Gasol and Randolph. Defensively, Davis targeted Gasol to study under, “picking his brain.” From Randolph, Davis said he learned “every night” and pointed to the “intangibles” that coaches cannot teach.

In his only full season with Memphis, Davis started four games and played 15.2 minutes per game. He averaged 5.7 points, 4.1 rebounds on 53.4 percent shooting from the field. Playing the power forward and center positions, Davis is not a player designed to stretch the floor. In fact, he has never attempted a three-point field goal over his four-year career.

Joining the stable of Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Julius Randle in the front court, Davis will again have to fight hard to earn time of the floor.

“I think he’s going to be a real good player in this league,” Davis said about Lakers’ rookie Randle. “He kind of reminds me of a ‘Z-Bo’ a little bit, but he can put it on the floor a little better than ‘Z-Bo.’”

Several sources reported that Davis agreed to a two-year $2 million contract with the player holding an option on the second year.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Tough Guy Beckett Returns from DL]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:20:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/451779698.jpg

Josh Beckett's in the wrong sport.

He should be a football player. They're the only athletes I can think of who could suffer the same physical ailments Beckett has dealt with the past two years and still perform at a high level.

The right-hander's fortitude is unquestionable. He already proved his mettle by returning this year from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Now, he's dealing with an injured left hip. And, it's not just the type of soreness that makes your face scrunch when getting out of bed. According to MLB.com, the hip has a torn labrum and two cysts. For most normal human beings that would require a cane just to get from the couch to the bathroom. For Beckett, one good Cortizone shot and he's ready to take the mound Tuesday against the Pirates and throw 90-plus MPH fastballs to guys who make a living swatting at them.

He'll return from the 15-day disabled list with a chance to give the Dodgers a series win against a potential playoff team. It's a series they need to win, for a number of reasons. Manager Don Mattingly will turn to Beckett to get it done.

But, here's the thing: He's not healed. The former World Series MVP has decided to pitch through the pain for the rest of the season.

"Hopefully, I can make it through. I think here in another month I can get another shot if I have to. I'm not really looking forward to that, but if that's what I have to do, that's what I have to do," Beckett told Dodgers beat writer Michael Lananna.

No big deal. He's already down a rib from his thoracic surgery.

Ok, so Beckett lost the rib, but he gained a no-hitter. He doesn't throw as hard, but he's fourth in the NL with a 2.26 ERA. He won't win a Cy Young, but he's won respect around the league.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Gordon Joins Hall-of-Fame Company]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:58:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/182*120/dg+as+game.jpg

So, the video below is all about Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig video bombing Dodgers reporter Alanna Rizzo.

I’m around the team a lot. That stuff happens all the time. Those two have yet to find a practical joke opportunity they don’t like.

What you’re really seeing, though, is how players can be like attention needy five year olds when they’re not in a game, always getting into things they’re not supposed to. In this case, it’s a national broadcast that affects Rizzo’s career, which you can clearly see they’re concerned about.

But, Dodgers fans don’t laugh. Puig and Han-Ram are only able to pull off their stunt because they’re both nursing left hand and left wrist injuries. Neither suffered broken bones but both have battled nagging injuries all season. That's a big concern, especially since they’re, arguably, the two most important position players in the team’s push for a repeat division crown.

Anyway, despite the clowning session at her expense Rizzo plows through her liveshot and 22 seconds into the video she presents this obscure, yet amazing, nugget about Dee Gordon. Check it out.

To put that in perspective, Rickey Henderson is a Hall-of-Famer, Raines and Lofton could one day land in Cooperstown, Coleman was, but the numbers, the best base stealer in baseball for six seasons and then there’s some guy named Gerald Young.

It’s still up in the air whether Gordon’s career will go the path of the former four, or the latter but it's pretty impressive any way you slice it.

Respect to Gordon for the accomplishment and to Rizzo for not throwing the microphone at Ramirez and Puig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe's Back: The 2014-15 LA Lakers]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 06:48:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-Lakers-2014-15.jpg

Kobe Bryant will be back. Is that positive enough for you? It’s time to push aside the negativity and promulgate the truth about the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers.

The biggest difference between the 2013-14 Lakers, which finished with the worst record since the team moved to LA, and the 2014-15 Lakers is a man that goes by one name: “Kobe.” Yes, one of the best players in the history of the game may be 35-years-old (and turning 36 before the season starts) but the last time no. 24 actually played a season, he averaged 27 points, six rebounds and six assists.

To put those numbers in perspective, Nick Young led the laughingstock Lakers with 18 points per game. The last time Bryant averaged 18 or fewer points in a season, Del Harris was still the coach and Eddie Jones was starting at shooting guard. To what extent Bryant’s knee fracture and Achilles injury have hampered the superstar remains to be seen, but his intellect, knowledge and experience are ineluctable.

As much as the season of failure was pinned on former coach Mike D’Antoni, the 2014-15 Lakers had more wins than losses a month after opening night. Then, the injuries hit. Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti still probably wakes up in a cold sweat from nightmares of players queuing up for treatment. At one point during the injured season, the Lakers’ medicine man turned to reporters as they received one of the never-ending injury updates and joked with a look of genuine disbelief that the only people not on the injury table were media members (I promptly told Vitti about my ankle/Achilles injury which didn’t make him feel any better...p.s. follow me @shahanLA).

Okay, so a healthy Bryant alone is a massive improvement from the season to forget. However, he is not alone.

The Lakers have not had a consistent point guard worth talking about since Derek Fisher, who truthfully was more of a leader than a traditional point guard. The 2014-15 Lakers have Jeremy Lin, who can handle the ball, shoot from the outside and score the basketball. With Steve Nash aging (already aged is likely more accurate), Lin’s inclusion automatically improves that position and gives the Lakers another backcourt scoring threat.

Rookie Jordan Clarkson also seems like he was an intelligent pick-up, and the young point guard with a Filipino following stood out during the Lakers’ involvement in the NBA Summer League.

Yes, the Lakers lost Pau Gasol. However, at his age and with his weakened knees, Gasol was visibly slower and less effective on both ends of the floor. Gasol remained a champion and a true professional even after he announced his departure to Chicago, but the Lakers’ acquisition of Carlos Boozer is not nearly as significant of a drop-off as many made it out to be. Boozer also cost the Lakers a whole lot less money.

With rookie Julius Randle adding tenacity and fresh hunger to the team, the Lakers could easily argue that they have upgraded the front court from a season ago. For anyone wishing to point to Chris Kaman’s departure as a downgrade, the bearded giant spent as much time lying across the bench as he did running up and down the floor.

Jordan Hill, who will likely see time at center if not start there, should actually earn consistent playing time to finally prove his true value. With big power forwards helping on the boards and in the lane, Hill’s undersized stature may not be as exposed as one would think. Worth remembering, the 2013-14 Lakers ranked sixth from the bottom in rebounding and defense was non-existent. Honestly, how can they possibly be worse?

Young played well and entertained fans in a painful season, but Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly also provided brief sparks of electricity. Having all three players back is a positive move. Assuming all three can stay healthy and show improvement, the Lakers can look to build on the few bright spots in the darkest of seasons.

Wesley Johnson played out of position for the vast majority of his lone season in LA, but his athleticism still shone through. Like Hill, Johnson will finally get the opportunity to prove what he can do without being undermined by the coach’s philosophy. Can he be the defensive specialist he was meant to be? Playing small forward is already an improvement on Johnson being constantly outmatched at power forward.

Also worth mentioning, the 2014-15 Lakers will likely practice and play something resembling defense. D’Antoni is gone (hold for applause). For all his flaws (and there were many) it is impossible to blame D’Antoni for the injury curse that took hold of the Lakers.

The 2014-15 Lakers may not look like they’re built to contend for a title, but they don’t look like a team contending for last place either. Hopefully, the injury spell is broken, the Lakers are no longer an embarrassment and, most importantly, “Kobe” is back.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Crawford Selected to AFL Hall-of-Fame]]> Sun, 20 Jul 2014 21:18:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/166*120/cc+dugout.jpg

Carl Crawford’s a long shot to make the big league Hall of Fame but he can now count himself among the best to ever play in the Arizona Fall League.

Crawford and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday were selected Sunday as the 35th and 36th members of the AFL Hall of Fame, as reported by MLB.com.

They’ll be inducted in November.

In 2001, the current Dodgers left fielder was a young, up-and-coming speedster playing for the Maryvale Saguaros in a league known as the stomping ground for future major league stars.

Crawford balled out. He hit .386 with nine stolen bases in 17 games before joining Team USA in the World Cup in Chinese Taipai.

He’s done pretty well since making his Major League debut in 2002. in 12-plus seasons, the four-time All-Star is a .291 career hitter with over 1,800 hits and his 118 triples lead all active players.

He also holds company with Ty Cobb as the only players to hit over 100 triples and steal 400 bases before their 30th birthdays.

Holliday went through the league in 2002 and 2003 and killed it both times.

In 35 AFL games he hit .316 with four homers 21 RBIs and 20 runs scored. In the majors Holliday’s has made six All-Star teams. He’s also hit 258 career home runs and holds a .309 career average. Holliday won a World Championship with the Cardinals in 2011.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Xavier Henry Returning, Kendall Marshall Waived]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:28:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-sign-Xavier-Henry-7-18-14.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers approached the weekend with a bit of good news and a bit of bad news. First the bad news, point guard Kendall Marshall was waived by the team on Friday morning. Then the good news, versatile guard Xavier Henry agreed terms to return to the team for another season.

Reluctantly, the Lakers waived Marshall on Friday morning. Yahoo! Sports first reported the move and stated that the team was hopeful that Marshall would clear waivers, as the Lakers would likely offer the point guard a minimum contract at that point.

After a disappointing first year with the Phoenix Suns, Marshall went to the NBA Development League, and the Lakers scooped up the point guard midseason after injuries hit the back court. Marshall performed well as a starter but often struggled to find his rhythm off the bench.

The Lakers’ winning bid for Carlos Boozer complicated matters, and the team would have had to renegotiate the contract that it had verbally agreed to with Nick Young in order to sign Marshall. With plenty of cover at point guard, the Lakers released Marshall on Friday morning.

In an unrelated move, the Lakers signed Henry to a one-year minimum contract. Henry, not alone in this by any means, was plagued with injuries during the 2013-14 season. The left-handed fan favorite underwent surgeries on his wrist and knee before the season ended, but he continued to be a fixture in the Lakers’ facility while undergoing rehab.

On the court, Henry thrilled fans with his high-flying dunks and attacking style of play. The athletic shooting guard played point guard when the Lakers were short at the position and often slotted into the small forward role. Considering the Lakers still appear pretty stacked at point guard and thin at small forward, Henry will likely find himself playing on the wing again this season.

In his lone season with the Lakers, the four-year professional out of Kansas averaged 10.0 points, 1.2 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game—all career highs.

With the Marshall move and the Henry signing, the Lakers will likely look to seek signatures from rookie Jordan Clarkson and second-year Ryan Kelly.

As it stands, the Lakers officially have Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre, Julius Randle, Steve Nash and Boozer on the books. Also, the team has reportedly agreed verbally with Young, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Henry. Clarkson is expected to be signed at some point, and Kelly would be a welcomed addition.

If everything goes as expected, the Lakers would stand at 12 players.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Gear Up for Pennant Push]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:24:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/452084572.jpg

The All-Star break is done.

Vacations, for those who didn’t make the team, are over. The chase for a playoff spot is on.

The Dodgers start the second half riding a two-game winning streak and a one game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

It's fitting that their first post-break opponent is the Cardinals, the same team that gave LA a 9-0 spanking in Game 6 of the NLCS last year to end their season.

A rematch would be great for baseball and both teams are expected to provide it.

But, if the Dodgers plan on making it back, their general Ned Colleti and manager Don Mattingly will need to get under the hood and do some tinkering to get their blue hot-rod of a team running smoothly.

There are some areas in the motor they should pay special attention to.

Center field: The Dodgers need a center fielder. Badly! Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke are fine athletes and certified big leaguers. But, running down balls in the gaps is not their strong suits. Yasiel Puig is a ball hog in the greatest sense but watching him track a fly is similar to Google maps being confronted with road closures. It’s all over the place. The good news for the Dodgers: they already have a center fielder in Matt Kemp. The bad news: most defensive stats show he’s been awful this year. According to FanGraphs advanced metrics, Kemp’s last in range runs (-14.5) and ultimate zone rating (-16.4). Basically, both stats say his defensive woes have led to approximately 14 to 16 more runs being scored by Dodger opponents than if he wasn’t out there. Still, Kemp’s their best option. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner for a reason. He may have lost a step but he’s looked healthy and more confident with more playing time. If the Dodgers don’t trade his $160 million contract to another team, then the move should be to put their best center fielder back in center field.

Left field: If Kemp moves then Mattingly’s back to his juggling act with what to do there. Carl Crawford is back, so it adds to the suspense of who will win the job. It was essentially Crawford's until an ankle injury knocked him out for awhile. He'll get another shot at it but don't be surprised if Mattingly settles on a Crawford-Ethier-Van Slyke combo.

Starting Pitching: We already know how ridiculously good the front three of the rotation are. Josh Beckett and Dan Haren are the wildcards. If Becket can return from the disabled list and be his first half self, and Haren can keep the homers he likes to give up to solo shots, the back half of the Dodgers staff will keep them sailing even with an inconsistent offense.

Bullpen: Kenley Jansen is still the man at the end of games. What the Dodgers need is a setup man who can hand a game over to their closer. Chris Perez and Brian Wilson have both been given chances, but they’ve both blown them. Brandon League, on the other hand, may be the guy. He’s only given up one earned run since June 16. He has a 2.09 ERA in 38 appearances and Mattingly's confidence in him is at an all-time high.

The Dodgers are also in the market for another left-handed reliever, although J.P. Howell has been dynamite. In 34 innings he’s only given up 17 hits and five earned runs. Paul Maholm has stepped up to provide long relief when called upon. The addition of another lefty will give the skipper options in the seventh or eighth inning of a one-run game in September.

The Bench: Like every team, the Dodgers have dealt with injuries and disabled list casualties. But, their bench has helped keep the team afloat. The part-timers have been led by Justin Turner. He’s been a Godsend for the club this year. Turner stepped in at third when Juan Uribe went down for an extended time, and he’s done duty at shortstop and second base. At the plate is where Turner has really come through hitting .302 (48 for 159), with three home runs and 21 RBIs. He’s been dealing with some napping leg injuries, but they shouldn’t be enough to keep him from answering the bell when his number is called.

The bright spot nobody saw coming has been Miguel Rojas. Forget the .208 batting average. The 25-year-old has dazzled with the glove. The unbelievable defensive play he made to save Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter is just one in a growing highlight reel. Rojas and Dee Gordon have become one of the most exciting double-play combinations in baseball. Even as regulars have returned from injuries Rojas hasn’t gone anywhere. He'll have to get better at the plate. At times he looks lost. If he can get that together, Rojas could turn out to be an unsung hero when the season is all said and done.

Health is the variable factor every team deals with, so no need to go there.

Watching how the season plays out should be fun, that is, if you have Time Warner Cable. But, that's whole other story in itself.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carlos Boozer Adds to Lakers' Front Line]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 02:39:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Boozer-Lakers-7-18-14.jpg

In a shrewd business move, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired two-time NBA All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer, the team announced on Thursday. The Chicago Bulls released Boozer via the amnesty provision, and the Lakers made a $3.25 million bid, which proved to be the best offer in the blind bidding process.

Boozer’s contract guaranteed the 32-year-old $16.8 million for the 2014-15 season, so the Bulls will still be on the hook for $13.55 million of Boozer’s salary per reports by ESPN and the Los Angeles Times. Putting the technicalities and the salary cap talk on hold for the moment, Boozer solidifies a Lakers’ front line that was chronically lacking at the start of the week.

On Wednesday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the Lakers had agreed terms with 6-foot 10-inch power forward Ed Davis, who played 63 games for the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2013-14 season. Davis’ deal was reported to be for two years and $2 million, with the player holding an option on the second year.

Along with Boozer and Davis, the projected Lakers’ front line includes rookie Julius Randle, third-year Robert Sacre and 26-year-old Jordan Hill. Hill has not yet signed his contract, but the power forward, who also doubles as an undersized center, reportedly agreed terms for a two-year contract worth $18 million, with the team holding an option on the second year.

As Basketball Insiders salary cap expert and LA Times Lakers’ blogger Eric Pincus pointed out, Boozer’s addition creates a bit of a conundrum for the Lakers. Pincus wrote on his Twitter account, “The Lakers can only pay Nick Young a 4-year $18.2 million deal with Boozer amnesty [without] cutting (Kendall) Marshall or losing Ryan Kelly.”

The Lakers reportedly agreed to pay Young $25 million over four years, but due to the nature of the NBA salary cap, the team has not officially signed Hill or Young in order to fully maximize its free agency spending power. Kelly showed promise in his rookie season, and the team expected to bring the lanky forward back for another season.

With Marshall, the picture becomes murkier.

The recent trade with Houston brought Jeremy Lin to Los Angeles, and Lin would expect to be the starter. Also, the team paid a pretty penny to draft Jordan Clarkson, and the rookie point guard has already displayed promise during the Lakers’ Summer League campaign. Along with Marshall, the Lakers also still have Steve Nash on the roster, so the point guard position is rather stacked. Of course, the Lakers have the option to waive Nash and spread his salary over three seasons using the stretch provision.

Needless to say, the Lakers still have decisions to make.

Brushing aside the numbers and attempting to regain some semblance of reality, the Lakers have added Boozer and bolstered the front line at a serious discount without taking on a long-term contract. Ultimately, Boozer was expected to be the primary piece coming to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal for Pau Gasol, but that deal never came to fruition.

So, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak can view Boozer’s capture as a massive victory considering the Lakers will only pay a fraction of Boozer’s salary, gain a front-court player that can contribute and maintain the long-term goal of financial flexibility.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mostly Positive Showing by Dodgers All-Stars ]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 05:30:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/all+star.jpg

The Dodgers quartet of Clayton Kershaw, Dee Gordon, Zack Greinke and Yasiel Puig all played in the 5-3 win by the American League in the All-Star Game Tuesday night in Minneapolis, but not all of them showed up. 

Kershaw was in the running to start the game but NL manager Mike Matheny instead went with his guy Adam Wainwright. How you felt about the decision depends on whether you bleed Cardinal red or Dodger blue. But, Wainwright balled out the first half of the season, so it wasn’t exactly a Charlie Sheen-like situation.

Matheny might be reconsidering the pick after witnessing Wainwright’s one inning of work. It went like this: double, triple, strikeout, home run, strikeout, ground out -- 3-0 deficit. He didn't help himself by telling reporters he served one up to Derek Jeter:  

It was Kershaw's turn in the second inning. His appearance went like this: foul out, strikeout, ground out.

So, basically, the lefty made it clear that in next year's game, he's taking the mound first.

Even AL manager John Farrell was impressed.

"I think anytime you can see Clayton Kershaw pitch it's certainly a treat," he said during the FOX telecast.

One of the good moves by Matheny came in the fourth when he sent Dee Gordon in to pinch run for Chase Utley.

Jonathan Lucroy hit a double off the right field wall that bounced cleanly to Jose Bautista but it's not like it mattered. Flash scored and there wasn't really a legitimate play on him at the plate.

Gordon followed that up in the sixth with a nice defensive play robbing Michael Brantley of a hit. It's a play that only two or three other second basemen make, and they've been retired for 10 years.

Zack Greinke was so efficient that you almost forgot he pitched. He only needed 12 tosses to get a ground out and two strikeouts. It was so quick that Greinke might have even landed at LAX before the game ended.

When it comes to Puig I'm kind of glad he doesn't have a full grasp of the English language yet, so he doesn't have to answer the question: "Where is Yasiel Puig and what did you do with him?"

He had a horrble two days.

After his power outage in Monday's Home Run Derby you thought the Cuban Comet would come out and do some damage. But, he struck out three times and looked completely out of his depth at the plate.

The good news for Puig is that if he stays healthy he'll have many more chances to erase the memories of this one. And, he did get a picture with Jeter.

Puig should be cut a little slack considering in all the previous all-star games he played in before coming to the states, Puig played with half his focus on the field and the other half trying to escape a Socialist regime.

 


 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Yasiel Puig Disappoints in Homerun Derby]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:05:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/yp.jpg

There's not much to say about Yasiel Puig's performance in the Home Run Derby.

He went 0 for 7. He was shut out. He pulled a Piazza, as in Mike's back-to-back homeless performances.

It was like watching a Ferrari rev up, go two feet and sputter out. There were a lot of we-paid-to-see-that looks in Target Field.

Matt Kemp even cringed.

In the bracket format of this year's derby, Puig did have his one shining moment. Too bad it didn't count.

So, of course, tonight he'll hit one 450 feet in the actual game, polish it off with his patented bat flip and the Derby disaster will be forgiven.


 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lin Joins Lakers, Randle Signs, Gasol Gone]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 08:08:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-acquire-jeremy-lin-7-2014.jpg

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers provided a bit more clarity into the upcoming season.

On Sunday, the Lakers officially announced the arrival of Jeremy Lin along with a future first round draft pick and a second round draft pick in 2015 via a trade with the Houston Rockets for the rights to Sergei Lishchuk.

"This trade allows us to acquire a solid player who will make us a better team, as well as draft picks to improve our team in the future, while at the same time allowing us to maintain financial flexibility," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "In addition to what he'll bring us on the court, we think Jeremy will be warmly embraced by our fans and our community."

Although the trade was reported on Friday, the Lakers waited until Lin was able to complete a medical examination before announcing the deal on Sunday. Due to prior commitments, the newest Lakers' point guard flew in from China for the physical examinations before taking a flight back to Asia to complete his prior commitments.

Also over the weekend, two-time champion Pau Gasol announced that he would be signing with the Chicago Bulls via his Twitter account and personal website. Gasol, who spent seven years in Los Angeles, appeared to have made the decision with a heavy heart.

"Although the future is bright for me in Chicago, deciding not to return to Los Angeles was an extremely difficult decision," Gasol wrote on his website. "It is also difficult to leave Los Angeles, a city that I have come to love and a place where I was able to develop many close friendships and relationships. Despite the move, I intend to maintain close ties with the Los Angeles community, which will always feel like home to me."

With Gasol officially leaving, the Lakers did not need to wait any longer to sign rookie Julius Randle. On Sunday, the team announced the signing of the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and the rookie immediately took the floor for the Lakers' NBA Summer League game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

In 21 minutes, Randle scored 10 points and pulled down two rebounds. The former Kentucky Wildcat revealed that he signed the contract 20 minutes before tipoff and had not taken part in five-on-five basketball since the NCAA Championship game.

With Gasol gone, Lin’s trade official and Randle signed, the Lakers’ roster is beginning to fill out, but that should not slow down the Lakers’ front office activity.

After all, the team still needs to name a head coach.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers: Nick Young, Jordan Hill Sign]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:58:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/480591029.jpg

Once LeBron James made his decision to return to Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers did not take long to start making deals, and two of the primary targets were players that gained cult followings despite one of the worst seasons in the history of the historic franchise: Nick Young and Jordan Hill.

Numerous sources reported that the Lakers and Nick Young agreed to a reported four-year $21.5 million on Friday. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Young had a player option on the fourth year. The player’s agent confirmed the option to Dave McMenimen of ESPN Los Angeles shortly thereafter.

"God is great," Young tweeted shortly after the news broke on Friday afternoon.

Young appeared to be ecstatic with the deal and took to social media to share his thoughts. Young continued, "Thank you LakerNation for all your support, I’m very happy to say, 'I’m Home!'"

With the Lakers having already captured Jeremy Lin via a trade earlier in the day, Los Angeles now had three proven scoring guards in Young, Lin and Kobe Bryant. With Bryant expected to be healthy, Young would expect to be a scorer off the bench, as he has been for much of his career. The Lakers’ roster was far from complete, but the guard positions appeared to be filling up quickly.

Still with the team, Kendall Marshall and Steve Nash also play in the back court. Also, rookie Jordan Clarkson expected to be on the roster considering the Lakers paid a pretty penny to draft the oversized point guard out of Missouri.

Then, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that Hill reached terms for a two-year $18 million contract. Along with Hill, the Lakers only had Robert Sacre and rookie Julius Randle as front court players. With the signings of Young and Hill, however, the likelihood of signing Carmelo Anthony dwindled, as Lin, Young and Hill ate up the cap space that had been on hold for Anthony if he had opted to come to Los Angeles. Also, the signings signaled the end of Pau Gasol's time in Los Angeles.

For the Lakers, the signings of Young and Hill should kick off an aggressive push to start filling out a bare roster. Also, the Lakers need to fill the vacancy at coach, but most expect that role to go to Byron Scott. After all, no major free agents are expected at this point, and Bryant endorsed Scott earlier in the week. It would appear Scott should be offered the position sooner rather than later.

On Friday, though, the Lakers got their "Swag" back and added another player that can start in the upcoming season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Linsanity" Coming to LA, Lin To Lakers]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:05:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jeremy-Lin-joining-Lakers-7-11-14.jpg

On Friday, Jeremy Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers according to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Along with Lin, the Lakers will receive a future first round pick, but the arrival of Lin was an indirect result of the bigger news of the day: LeBron James’ move back to Cleveland.

With James announcing his return to Cleveland, the Miami Heat "Big Three" project evaporated. The Houston Rockets had already aggressively targeted Chris Bosh, but Bosh was holding out on making a decision until James had made his future known. With James picking Cleveland on Friday morning, Bosh’s return to Miami was far less likely.

As such, the Rockets did not wait around. They began to clear the cap space required to sign the two-time champion power forward. With reports of Carmelo Anthony close to a decision and having eliminated the Lakers from the running in the background, the Lakers appeared willing to accept Houston’s offer as long as a draft pick was included.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who first broke the story, the Lakers sent cash and rights to an overseas player in exchange for Lin and the Rockets’ first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

For the Lakers, the salary cap hold for Lin is $8.4 million and the team will pay the point guard $15 million for the final year of his contract. Lin, who was born in Los Angeles, made waves with his stellar play with the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 season. Famously, his stretch of standout performances was dubbed “Linsanity.”

With James Harden playing as an on-ball point guard in Houston, however, Lin only started 33 of the 71 games he took part in during the 2013-14 season. In his last season with Houston, Lin averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.

With the Lakers, Lin automatically jumps to the front of the line and would expect to be a starter. Also, his contract fits in line with the Lakers’ strategy to remain financially flexible going forward. Even with the signing of Lin, the Lakers have enough space to sign Anthony, should the star power forward have a last minute change of heart.

In any case, “Linsanity” is coming to Los Angeles.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers First Half Ends With Padres Series]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:46:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*131/don+matt.jpg

93 games down, 69 to go.

And, the Dodgers will knock out the last four to close out their first half starting Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers have managed to get out of their way enough to compile a 51-42 record and a half-game lead on the Giants in the NL West.

The Padres will be in town, which bodes well for LA. They’ve beaten San Diego in four of their six matchups this season. Clayton Kershaw and Odrisamer Despaigne will square off in game one of the series.

The Dodgers problem so far this season hasn’t been the Padres of the world, it’s been the teams with winning records. The club is 14-19 against clubs over .500. And, while that won’t keep manager Don Mattingly from going on his morning runs in the sands of Manhattan Beach, if it keeps up he might make him grow back his legendary mustache for good luck.

The Tigers became the latest potential post-season squad to dispose of the Dodgers, beating them in a quick two-game set Tuesday and Wednesday. They did it by knocking off the LA’s two best non-Kershaw pitchers, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke. It was the second time the two lost back-to-back starts this season. The other time came against the Reds who hold a 48-42 record.

The Dodgers should look to accomplish two things in these four games. 1) The obvious. Extend their division lead over San Francisco. The Giants have five left at home before heading into the All-Star break. The Athletics are helping them out, having already taken two in AT&T park with two more to play. 2) Get over .500 at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers are a mind boggling 22-23 and home. The Dodgers! The first team to pass two million in attendance this season. The Dodgers! The team that’s supposed to play for a World Series. The Dodgers! The team that plays in the Louvre Museum of baseball stadiums.

Maybe they’re just doing what the Miami Heat did. You know, play just well enough to not jeopardize a playoff spot, but not burn themselves out when they’ve still got two months left to play. Give some key guys a day off here and there. Play some youngsters because, like Miami, they’ll turn it on when it counts and win a championship. Perfect plan, right?!

Ask the Spurs how well that worked out.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Talks Carmelo Anthony, Lakers]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:51:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-Lakers-7-9-14.jpg

"This is a legacy defining moment. This is the decision."

On the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Kobe Bryant spoke about Carmelo Anthony’s upcoming decision on whether he should join the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We’ve clicked since 2008," Bryant said referring to the 2008 Olympics in China. "I would love to see him out here."

Bryant did not dodge questions and touched on a variety of topics of interest during his time with the media.

"Yeah," he answered point blank when asked if he would like Byron Scott to be the next coach of the Lakers. Scott is the leading candidate and most likely person to fill the open post.

"He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league," Bryant explained his special relationship with Scott went back to buying donuts and running errands. "We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years."

Asked about his fitness and whether he was feeling good enough to play pickup basketball, Bryant was not amused.

"It seems like if I want to sports source now--accurate sports source--I have to go to TMZ because ESPN got (it wrong). I wasn't even there. I was in Orange County," Bryant berated an ESPN Los Angeles reporter about false reports of him playing pickup basketball with Anthony and Minnesota Timberwolves’ star Kevin Love at UCLA a few days earlier.

Getting back to the point, Bryant said he was lean and felt like he was in midseason form.

"I’m at 218," he said. "Physically, I feel great. I don't think about the knee at all when I train. I don't think about the Achilles at all when I train. I feel sharp, crisp."

Moving back to talk of free agency, Bryant was asked about his conversations with Pau Gasol. Bryant said the Spaniard was "loyal" by nature, so if the Lakers land Anthony, Gasol’s decision would be much simpler.

"It’s a very tough position for him to be in," Bryant said about Gasol. "My biggest message to him was 'dude, make sure you enjoy the process. Don’t stress yourself out. The ball’s in your court. It’s your decision to make.'"

Bryant then touched on the Lakers’ ownership, direction of the franchise and the Buss family. The lifelong Laker spoke highly of the two family members most involved with the team.

"Jim (Buss) and Jeanie (Buss) are on the same page. They're ready to go," Bryant said without hesitation. "They both understand what they need to do individually and how that works together as a unit to turn this organization around. I think you’ll see some changes that will really fall in line with the history and the culture of the organization."

"They’re pulling out all the stops to ensure that we put a contender on the floor next year."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Puig to Slug it Out in Home Run Derby]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 08:57:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/yp.jpg

Yasiel Puig only has 12 home runs this season, but Troy Tulowitzki is smart enough to know that when it comes to the Tasmanian Devil, numbers don’t matter.

He added him to the National League bomb squad for this year’s Home Run Derby so fans who’ve never seen him can experience what all the hype is about.

Puig’s infectious personality and gaudy power should be on full display, as long as he doesn’t get any advice from Mike Piazza. Two derby’s, zero homers. The man who hit 427 career round trippers in the PED golden era couldn’t hit one 75 MPH hit-me-ball over the fence.

A fight that broke out during his interview at last year's derby is the only excitement Piazza’s ever been able to muster at one of those things:

 

 

I digress.

I fully expect one of two scenarios to play out for Puig.

He could go all 2008 Josh Hamilton and turn Target Field into his personal driving range like Hamilton did to Yankee Stadium.

 

 

Or, he could pull a 2012 Matt Kemp and get geeked after going yard that one time. 

 

 

Either way, given where Puig's come from, he should soak up every minute of it. He deserves it.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Introduce Rookie Jordan Clarkson]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:04:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-Lakers-Filipino-7-7-14.JPG

On Monday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers invited reporters to meet Jordan Clarkson and the remainder of the Lakers’ Summer League squad. Clarkson figures to make the Lakers’ regular season roster considering the team shelled out $1.8 million to the Washington Wizards to make the 46th overall pick.

Clarkson, who is half-Filipino, has already gained a strong following in the Pacific islands, and several reporters of Filipino decent and related to Filipino media outlets helped welcome the rookie to LA. However, rumors of the 22-year-old being born in the Philippines were greatly exaggerated, as the junior out of Missouri explained that he was born in the United States, but his mother was from the Philippines.

Prior to being bombarded with questions of heritage, Clarkson held his no. 5 Lakers’ jersey and posed alongside Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak for a couple minutes. With free agency rumors setting fire to the news wires, Kupchak quickly excused himself and left reporters to vet the rookie.

“I’m just going to come in here and work hard, try to be the best that I can be,” Clarkson said in his first in-person press conference with the LA media. “This is a blessing. I couldn’t tell you how I’m feeling right now.”

When asked about his Filipino heritage, Clarkson took it to be a source of inspiration.

“I got the country (The Philippines) behind me. It feels great,” Clarkson said as he stood on the Lakers’ practice court surrounded by reporters. “That’s also driving me, to be one of the first (Filipinos in the NBA).”

Beyond Clarkson, the Lakers’ Summer League squad also included the no. 7 pick Julius Randle and returning point guard Kendall Marshall.

“It’s been a long offseason,” Marshall said on Monday. “I feel like I still have a lot to prove.”

When asked about the lack of clarity regarding a head coach entering the Summer League, Marshall expressed his personal frustrations with the uncertainty. “One thing I take pride in as a point guard is knowing my offense and my defense like the back of my hand, but it’s kind of hard to do that right now.”

Randle, who did not take part in Monday’s scrimmage, also met with reporters at the facility.

“It’s not an issue at all,” Randle repeated a couple times when asked about his foot.

The 19-year-old explained that he felt no pain and had absolutely no discomfort during his college career. The Lakers sent Randle to multiple specialists who all cleared the young prospect. Randle said he was surprised that his foot had even been a story entering the draft, but the story may have ultimately played a factor in the talented forward being available at the no. 7 spot.

The Lakers will play their first NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas on July 11. Randle said he was unsure if he would be playing, as it was the coaches’ decision. The Lakers’ Summer League team will be coached by Mark Madsen and Larry Lewis.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>