<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.comen-usSat, 30 Apr 2016 19:28:35 -0700Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:28:35 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Dodgers' Teammates Feud on Twitter]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:07:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/Dodgers+teammates+Twitter.png

LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers are no stranger to drama, but bad blood between two teammates could be brewing inside the team's clubhouse.

Last weekend, as Los Angeles was in Denver taking on the Colorado Rockies, teammates Kiké Hernandez and reliever Josh Ravin got into a bizzare and heated exchange on Twitter.

For backstory, Ravin was injured in Spring Training when he was involved in an auto accident that left him with a broken left forearm. Ravin shared the gruesome photos of the accident and his arm on his Twitter account, and underwent surgery the next day to repair a broken left radius bone.

Prior to the injury, the Southern California native played appeared in nine games last season with the Dodgers, going 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA with 12 strikeouts and four walks.

Last year, just days after Ravin made his Major League Debut, his brother was shot five times outside of his Los Angeles-area home. Thankfully, he survived the attack.

Ravin is currently on the Dodgers 60-day disabled list and was at home recovering last Saturday while Kenta Maeda and the Dodgers had a no-hitter against the Rockies through four and 2/3 innings.

In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs, Hernandez made a leaping catch at the warning track to preserve the no-hitter, and possibly, a Dodgers victory.

Maeda would eventually allow a hit in the sixth inning, but after the game, Ravin took to Twitter to comment on the catch:

"Yess! You made it look a little more difficult than it should have been but yessss!!!" Ravin said to Hernandez and the Dodgers. 

Clearly, the right-handed relief pitcher was excited and happy for his teammate for making the no-hitter saving catch, but noticeably he could not comment without a slight dig at the degree of difficulty on the catch itself. 

Hernandez read the tweet, and no stranger to social media himself, decided to respond with some humor and a dig of his own:

"I'd say it was better than your driving…" he said back to Ravin.

Hernandez deleted the tweet shortly thereafter, but the gauntlet had already been thrown and Ravin took offense to the joke that was directed at the reason why Ravin was on the DL and not with the team.

"Karma is a biotch… Enjoy her while she's gone, Keke… ;)" he replied back.

The exchange didn't stop there as five minutes later, Ravin sent another message to the Dodgers super-utility player. 

"You learn a lot about a person when they bang on someone who's in a lower position of them…"

Fans took notice of the exchange and the hashtags #TeamKike and #TeamRavin were born as Dodger fans debated on whether it was Ravin who started it with the dig at the difficulty of Kiké's catch, or Hernandez himself who was to blame by bringing up the car accident.

Regardless of what side you're on, things got testy, and Ravin ultimately deleted the tweets and made his account private so that fans could not see his tweets anymore unless they were pre-approved by Ravin.

On Friday, before the Dodgers three-game series against the San Diego Padres, NBC LA, caught up with Kiké to ask him about the situation with Ravin.

"I haven't talked to him. Why would I talk to him?" Hernandez said when asked if he and Ravin have spoken to clear the air. "I'm not going to comment any further on that."

As far as we know, the front office has not stepped in on the exchange, and we were unable to reach Ravin for comment. For now, the feud is a non-issure as Ravin is not with the team. However, Ravin is expected to return this season, and based on the 8-12 week timetable given by the team, that could occur between May and June.

Provided that Ravin is able to work his way back onto the roster once he returns to the Dodgers, things in the clubhouse could get pretty interesting when the two teammates meet face to face for the first time since their heated Twitter exchange.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Make Trade, Pick Offensive Weapons]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 11:03:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/LA-Rams-Draft-2016.jpg

On Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Rams selected a couple of offensive weapons for quarterback Jared Goff, who was the 2016 NFL Draft's no. 1 pick. But first, the team shook up its fourth round selections by agreeing to a trade with the Chicago Bears.

The LA Rams traded their 113th overall pick to the Chicago Bears for the 117th overall pick and the 206th overall pick, the latter of which falls in the sixth round. Prior to the trade, LA's newest football team had already selected tight-end Tyler Higbee from the University of Western Kentucky. With the newly acquired 117th pick, the Rams picked up Pharoh Cooper, a wide receiver out of South Carolina. Cooper and Higbee join Goff and 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley as part of a young offensive core that is beginning to take shape.

NFL.com originally projected Cooper as a third round pick, so the 5-foot 11-inch wide-out appears to be a good value pick in the fourth round. The 21-year-old's draft profile listed his ability to accelerate off the line as one of the North Carolina native's strengths.

Higbee is a slightly more complex pick. The tight-end was arrested only weeks prior to the draft for a physical altercation that left a man unconscious and eventually hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. The 6-foot 6-inch, 249-pound tight-end has big hands and is a former wide receiver. He only had one drop in his final collegiate season, according to his official NFL.com draft profile.

If Higbee can stay out of trouble and stay healthy, as he had a knee injury in college, he can quickly become a major target for Goff. With Cooper in the frame, the Rams have seemingly put a young offensive core in place.

After the trade with the Bears, the Rams have three picks remaining in the 2016 NFL Draft, and all three of those picks will arrive in the sixth round: no. 117; no. 190; and no. 206.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tunsil Declines to Address Past]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:11:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/042916+laremy+tunsil+presser.jpg

The Miami Dolphins think they got the second best player in the NFL draft with the 13th pick. But there's a catch. A big, bizarre, controversial catch.

Just before Thursday's NFL Draft, a video was tweeted from the official account of Ole Miss Offensive Linemen Laremy Tunsil. The video shows him smoking from a gas mask bong.

The tweet and account were subsequently deleted, and Tunsil's agent has stated that the OT's account was hacked.

As the video went viral, team after team passed on drafting Tunsil, who was previously projected to be the first overall pick by some analysts. It's estimated the drop cost him millions in salary.

That is, until it was the Dolphins' turn. The Fins selected Tunsil with the 13th overall draft pick.

Miami said they were comfortable with Tunsil's character, saying they'd researched him and had him take personality tests.

"We did not expect him to be there (at #13)," said Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier.

At the Dolphins official draft party at Nova Southeastern University, fans were stunned they got Tunsil too. But many of them didn't realize why he slipped until we showed them the gas mask video.

He was asked if he has a drug problem he said no. And to those who question if the Dolphins can trust him? "Don't question my character," Tunsil said. "You can't judge a book by its cover. I'm a good person"

Tunsil said he was hacked on Twitter and did not specify who did it, adding he does not intend to press charges.

At a Friday press conference where the Dolphins were expected to introduce him, Tunsil was a no-show. Team officials said he couldn't attend due to an allergic reaction.

"There were some mistakes he had made in his past, we were comfortable with that, all the research we had done," Dolphins VP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. " We are comfortable with his character, very comfortable with Laremy, the player and the person."

Tunsil attended a later press conference where he said he was feeling better.

"The doctors took care of me so I'm good," he said.

Tunsil mostly avoided questions about the controversy surrounding the video.

"I'm excited to be here, it's a blessed opportunity just to be in the NFL, just to be a part of the Miami Dolphins organization," he said.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Kemp, Padres Hand Dodgers 5th Straight Loss]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 00:05:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/187*120/Matt+Kemp.png

LOS ANGELES – Matt Kemp hit a three-run home run off Chris Hatcher in the eighth inning and the San Diego Padres defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 on Friday night for the team's fifth consecutive loss.

Kemp scored the Padres first run against the Dodgers in 2016 when Melvin Upton Jr. singled up the middle in the fourth inning. The run ended San Diego's 31.2 scoreless inning streak against L.A. to start the season.

Kemp continued to do damage against his former team, as he broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth inning with a three-run blast into the Dodgers' bullpen.

"I think anybody would get extra satisfaction playing against their old team," Kemp said. "Honestly, I just felt like we needed that win as a team. That's the most important thing."

The Padres would tack on another run off Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth. It was the first run allowed by Jansen all season.

Yasmani Grandal provided the Dodgers only offense on the night with a solo homer in the sixth inning.

Alex Wood pitched well for the Dodgers, but did not factor in the decision allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings. 

"Me and Honey [Rick Honeycutt] found something in my delivery that might be an easy fix to get my timing right," Wood said of why he believed he pitched well on Friday night. "Hopefully I can continue to build on it."

San Diego starter, Cesar Vargas, made just the second start of his career and was dominant on the mound, throwing 5 and 1/3 innings of shutout ball striking out a season-high six batters.

Players of the Game:

Matt Kemp: 3-run home run and two runs scored.
Yasmani Grandal: Solo home run in the 6th.

Three Takeaways:

1. Five Hole: The Dodgers dropped their fifth game in a row, their longest losing streak since August 18-23, 2015, and longest at home since May of 2013.

2. San Diego Snap: The Padres snapped their own five-game losing streak on Friday and more importantly, a nine-game losing streak against the Dodgers dating back to last season.

3. Purple Rain: The Dodgers hosted a Friday night Fireworks special dedicated to the late singer, Prince. DJ Severe created an eight-minute long Prince tribute track that played with the fireworks and had fans in tears as the purple fireworks rained down upon Dodger Stadium as the legendary track filled their eardrums.

Up Next:

Padres (8-15): Colin Rea makes his second start of the season against the Dodgers when he takes the mound for San Diego on Saturday.

Dodgers (12-12): Rookie Ross Stripling will head to the mound in search of his first career win as first pitch is scheduled for 6:10PM.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blazers Deliver Knockout Blow to Clippers in Game 6]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:46:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Austin+Rivers+eye.png

LOS ANGELES – Damian Lillard scored 28 points and the Portland Trail Blazers ended the Los Angeles Clippers season with a 106-103 victory in Game 6 to win the first-round playoff series 4-2.

Portland will meet the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in the second round, without their star and MVP Steph Curry on Sunday.

The Trail Blazers had five players score in double figures as they closed out the Clippers, winning the final four games of the series after trailing 0-2 after the first two games at Staples Center.

C.J. McCollum was the Robin to Lillard's Batman with 20 points. Maurice Harkless had 14, Allen Crabbe had 13, and Al-Farouq Aminu chipped in 10.

Jamal Crawford scored a postseason career-high 32 points off the bench in what could be his final game in a Clippers uniform. 

"I've been around a long time, but what I love about this group is they never look for an excuse, they never doubted themselves," Rivers said of his team. "That team had more heart than any team I've ever seen. It was amazing to coach them."

The Blazers bloodied up Clippers' guard Austin Rivers when Al-Farouq Aminu elbowed the son of Doc Rivers in the eye, cutting him in two different places.

Rivers headed to the locker room, where he was attended to by the Trail Blazers medical staff for more than thirty minutes before he came back out onto the court looking like a boxer who just went through a 15-round prize fight.

"It looked like a boxing match," his father and Head Coach said. "He's a baller."

Rivers received four stitches on a cut above his eye, and seven stitches to repair a cut below his eye.

Playing with one eye, Rivers rallied the Clippers in the second half, scoring 21 points and dishing out eight assists as he left everything had on the court.

"We left it all out there," Rivers said. "Obviously I'm sad. We put it all out there. We tried our best."

Portland dominated the first half with 15 second chance points, but the Clippers adjusted at half time and reversed the trend, scoring 13 of their own in the third quarter only.

The game was tied at 103-103 with thirty seconds remaining. McCollum missed a jumper in the key, but Mason Plumlee was fouled on the rebound. The Portland center knocked down both free throws, and a Crawford miss on the other end sealed the Clippers fate.

Perhaps, their fate was already sealed when the team lost All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Game 4 of the series. Ultimately, the team was cursed from that point on, and their four-game collapse was imminent.

"People don't know how hard it is to win a title," added Rivers. "If you don't win a title you have a speech, and I don't know if I've ever been in a locker room where that's easy. It's emotional and there's a lot of tears.

Paul broke a bone in his right hand that ended his season, and minutes later, Griffin re-aggravated a left quad injury also put an end to his.

The Clippers have now lost in the first or second round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and join the Boston Celtics as the only other team in NBA history to be eliminated from four straight playoff series after holding a series lead.

"Every year I tell our team that you have to be willing to get your heartbroken to be a champion," Rivers concluded.

Players of the Game:

Damian Lillard: 28 points, 7 assists.
Jamal Crawford: 32 points, three steals.

Three Takeaways:

1. Bye, Bye, Big 3?: The disappointing season could mark an end to the "Big 3" of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. After five consecutive first or second round playoff exits, Doc Rivers could opt to break up the trip and rebuild.

2. Yo, Adrian. I Did It!: Similar to the plot line for Rocky, when Balboa is proud for just going the distance against the champion Apollo Creed, Austin Rivers should be proud of his performance in Game 6 after needing 11 stitches to his left eye in the fourth quarter.

3. Splash Brothers of the Pacific Northwest: The Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were sensational agian in Game 6. 

Up Next:

The Los Angeles Clippers season comes to an end prematurely for the second straight season. The Trail Blazers advance to the second round to face the Golden State Warriors.

Please refresh this page for more updates, stats and player reactions…


Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Respond to Dee Gordon's Suspension]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 20:23:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/203*120/Dee+Gordon+teammates.png

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers went to bed Thursday night with the shocking news that their former teammate and friend, Dee Gordon, had been suspended by Major League Baseball for 80 games for testing positive for two performance-enhancing drugs.

When they woke up, we were waiting for them. 

"I was shocked," Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts said when he heard the news. "I think he's a great kid, he works hard, he's done a lot of good things, so to hear this, it surprised a lot of us in the clubhouse."

There was plenty of confusion and criticism in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon, from those that wondered why Gordon was able to play and impact the Marlins four-game sweep of the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, and those that just felt bad for their friend.

"It was just a shock and just real disappointing to hear for obvious reasons," former teammate Carl Crawford, who talks to Gordon all the time, told ESPN's Doug Padilla. "I texted him last night and talked to him about it and he gave me his side. It is what it is at this point."

Crawford wouldn't go into detail about what Gordon told him in that conversation but will always be there for his friend.

"I just told him that it's just unfortunate because all the hard work you put in the game just, kind of, is about to go down the drain a little bit. You know, whether you're right or wrong, or you did or you didn't, in the eyes of everybody else, it's just not going to look good."

Gordon will move on, and he will return to the field again on July 29. As long as he performs on the field, fans in Miami and across the league will forgive and forget. For some Dodgers however, they won't forget him knocking in the game-tying run or scoring the winning run in the Marlins 5-3 victory on Thursday night.

"It sucks that a guy who tested positive can still play," said Kiké Hernandez, who was part of that trade that sent Gordon to Miami. "He decided a game. As far as my feelings about it, I don't really care. It's not my life."

Detroit Tigers pitcher, Justin Verlander, shared Hernandez's sentiment, albeit, he was more vocal about it:

"This PED [expletive] is killing me," he wrote on Twitter. "If u test positive u need to not play. You shouldn't be allowed to effect games while appealing."

More than likely, MLB and the players union will have to enforce stricter penalties for PED users in the next collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire on Dec. 1 of this year. Some players believe a season-long ban should be punishment for first time offenders, others simply believe that you should not be allowed on the field while the appeal process plays out.

The questions will continue as to how and why Dee Gordon decided to cheat and as USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote, maybe the better question is "Why wouldn't he?" For those that knew Gordon, like manager Don Mattingly, the writing may have been on the wall.

"You have to remember, he was 140-something pounds when he came up, Now's slowly over a few years built up, I think he's 170 pounds," Mattingly said on Monday before the series and suspension started. "This is a kid who has put on mature strength, along with a pretty good swing, and obviously the speed tool isn't going away."

The clues may have been there, but we in the media simply didn't read between the lines, or maybe we didn't want to. While Gordon was busy winning the NL batting title last season and leading the league in stolen bases, he entertained fans and his underdog story was something special.

Gordon famously wore a Superman shirt under his Dodgers jersey during his time in Los Angeles, and as we have seen through movies and comic books, sometimes the greatest superheroes fall to earth.  

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Walton Named New Lakers Head Coach]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 20:24:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/luke-walton-crop_11_10.jpg

LOS ANGELES – The Lakers have reached an agreement on a multi-year contract for Luke Walton to become the next head coach of one of the most storied franchises in basketball.

Lakers' General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced that the team had reached an agreement with the former Laker forward, and he will begin his new coaching duties at the end of the Golden State Warriors' season.

"We're excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he's going to start an outstanding coaching career," Kupchak said. "He's one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he'll be leading the on-court future of our team."

The 36-year-old becomes the 26th head coach in franchise history, replacing another former Laker in Byron Scott. 

Walton has been an assistant coach with the Warriors for two seasons, and led them to a 39-4 record in the absence of head coach Steve Kerr earlier this year.

Walton played 10 years of the Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers after being selected by Los Angeles with the 32nd overall pick in the 2003 NB Draft. He won to championships with the purple and gold in 2009 and 2010.

<![CDATA[Philly's 'Steph Curry'-Brand Heroin]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:25:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/steph+curry+heroin+cp.jpg

Basketball superstar Steph Curry seems to be everywhere these days. At the White House with President Obama, on the cover of a parenting magazine and now on a brand of heroin.

SEPTA police confiscated a set of heroin-filled dime bags emblazoned with Curry's name and face in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood on Tuesday.

The stamp, as the branding is called, is like a logo drug dealers use to market the potent opioid to drug-addicted people. They can be named after companies (like Facebook), objects, feelings, or in Curry's case, people. These stamps come and go quickly, with dozens being sold at a time across the area, narcotics officers say.

NBC10 explored the tragic world of heroin and opioid addiction in the Philadelphia area and beyond in the in-depth investigation, Generation Addicted. Learn more about the issues people face and the new strategies being employed to help people get treatment here.

A SEPTA police officer came across the Curry stamp after stopping an 18-year-old man at Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said.

The officer stopped the Hammonton, New Jersey, man after seeing blood on his hands, Nestel said. He was arrested and the drugs were taken as evidence.

Nestel tagged the Golden State Warriors point guard when tweeting a photo of the drugs saying: "Thinking Steph Curry wouldn't be happy that he is this week's brand for heroin in Philly."

That's probably an understatement.

NBC10 reached out to Curry's reps to get his thoughts about the stamp, but we haven't heard back. A spokeswoman for the Golden State Warriors had no comment.

Photo Credit: SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel]]>
<![CDATA[US Synchro Swimmers]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:21:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/0427-2016-SynchroSwimmers.jpg

Synchronized swimming, or synchro for short, has been called the most difficult sport in the Olympic Games.

This year, Anita Alvarez and Mariya Koroleva will be the only swimmers representing the United States in synchronized swimming during the summer games in Rio.

At 9 years old, Koroleva emigrated to the United States from Russia, took up synchro and became so good she swam for Stanford University and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"You have to show up every day and you have to be on your best game every day, even if you're not feeling well," she said. "You have to push through it."

Alvarez, 19, has synchronized swimming in her blood. Her mother is a former synchro athlete and a current coach. Both athletes said they gave up traditional upbringings to become fierce competitors.

The duo's coach, Lolli Montico, said the athletes are training from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. This will be Montico's third Olympics coaching synchro swimmers.

Montico said the Olympic-caliber swimmers must have two things: legs and attitude.

"Beautiful shapes of the legs — it's so important in synchro," Montico said. "It's the attitude. Attitude is everything."

Koroleva cannot wait for Rio, when all of the hard work is rewarded.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[What Makes a Triple Crown-Winning Horse?]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:23:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-480966886.jpg

"The 37-year wait is over! American Pharaoh is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!"

Those words from famed horse racing announcer Larry Collmus at last year's Belmont Stakes marked the end of a nearly four-decade drought, and thrust horse racing into the national spotlight.

American Pharaoh's gallop into the history books has left many wondering if there could be another Triple Crown winner this year. It's certainly possible, but experts say it will take a horse with the right combination of pedigree, training and versatility - and a little luck wouldn't hurt.

The Triple Crown of horse racing — winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — is the pinnacle for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

A mere 12 colts have achieved the feat since Sir Barton swept the series in 1919, and only once in all of American racing history has the trifecta occurred in consecutive years.

Of course, there have been some near-misses.

Between 1979 — after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 — and 2015, 13 horses managed to clinch the Derby and Preakness races, only to be stopped on their quest at the Belmont Stakes.

At 1 and 1/2 miles (12 furlong), the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the longest race track in the United States. Richard Migliore, a former jockey and racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, notes race horses that compete at Belmont “probably have never, and will never, run that distance again."

"Thoroughbreds today are bred for speed, not stamina, so they are too fatigued to keep up the pace required to win the Belmont," Migliore said, adding that many of the contenders at Belmont don't compete in the previous two races and are well-rested.

Over the years, many have called on a change in the racing schedule, while others, including the owner of California Chrome, said the pool for the three races should be limited to the horses that enter the Kentucky Derby.

"Because it had been so long since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, most people thought that this was getting close to impossible to do, it was too much to ask a horse to do," said NBC horse racing reporter Kenny Rice.

The Triple Crown schedule is grueling. It is difficult for a horse shipped around the country to endure the rigor of the journey after a strenuous race and not become ornery.

But then came American Pharoah. As Collmus so aptly put it in the final yards of the Belmont on June 6, he was "finally the one" – the one who could indeed win three races, at three tracks, in three different states, at three different distances, in the span of five weeks.

"That's why it separates the great ones. I think that's why I like the Triple Crown as is, because when you win it, you're a great horse," Rice says. "You may have a little bit of racing luck along the way, but it's not a fluke. That's why I think all the horses that have won the triple crown are special horses."

There are many factors, tangible and intangible, that combine in the making of a great racehorse, and experts have varying opinions on what those attributes are.

Some point to pedigree. Many champion horses carry elite genes.

American Pharaoh, for example, carries the bloodlines of three Triple Crown champions: Count Fleet, War Admiral and Secretariat. On the other hand, Affirmed came from modest genes that didn't trace back to a Triple Crown winner. Its sire didn't produce anything of exceptional merit after Affirmed, and his 1978 Triple Crown rival Alydar was considered a superior breeding source, according to BloodHorse's Avalyn Hunter.

"When Affirmed went to stud in 1980, he was competing with fellow Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew, but many horsemen considered his rival Alydar much likelier to make a top sire given his deep female family," Hunter said.

Others attribute a race horse's success to premiere training. Owners seek elite stakes-winning trainers to get their 2-year-old thoroughbreds in peak 3-year-old Derby shape.

Much like March Madness, each stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby will determine who will earn enough points and prove worthy of a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Purse leaders like trainers Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Kiaran McLaughlin, Doug O'Neill and Bob Baffert have a track record of starting horses at the Derby.

But whether it's genes, quality training, mental constitution or just pure luck, one characteristic they all seem to agree upon is versatility.

"All the triple crown winners standout because they rose above any obstacles, avoided anything in their way — in this case other horses — and that's what we saw last year. That's how good American Pharaoh was. He could run at the front, he could run near the front. He had different gears that, when he needed to shift, he could. I think that's what the next horse that wins the Triple Crown is going to have to do."

There are no certainties in horse racing, but Migliore believes at least one horse competing in the 142nd Kentucky Derby is showing that ability.

"Nyquist has shown he is not a one dimensional horse. As a 2-year-old and in his Derby prep races, he's been forced ridiculously wide and has demonstrated that he can shift and win," Migliore said.

The champion thoroughbred will enter the starting gate at Churchill on May 7 as a favorite with an undefeated record. Rice says Nyquist's Florida Derby victory over rival Mohaymen was "the most impressive of the Triple Crown prep races."

Another front-runner, ranking second on the Associated Press' Run for the Roses Top 10 list, is Gun Runner. The colt, trained by Steve Asmussem, is an odds favorite having established a points lead over the field.

Santa Anita Derby winner Exxagerator is also a top contender. Exaggerator was one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds in 2015 and a close runner-up to champion Nyquist in the San Vicente S. at Santa Anita in his seasonal debut. He won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby race by a widening 6 1/4 lengths, placing himself squarely in the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture. 

The final lineup of the 20 Kenutcky Derby contenders has yet to be announced and only time will tell if a Triple Crown winner is among them. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Meet the LA Rams' Newest Star, Jared Goff ]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/177*120/Meet+Jared+Goff.png

"With the First pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams select… Jared Goff, California."

And with those words a star was born.

Jared Goff was selected by the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Goff is a 21-year-old junior out of the University of California Berkeley. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches and 210 pounds, Goff is NFL ready and projects to be the Rams starter on Opening Day.

Goff's intangibles go beyond his physical ability. The younger passer can read defenses like a librarian reads books and his check down progressions are a thing of beauty.

"I think it's 49 touchdowns and two picks," Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead said of his redzone numbers at a post draft press conference. "It's impressive."

Goff also had the advantage over No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Goff had a higher accuracy percentage, completed 60 percent of his deep balls on 3rd / 4th and long, was better under pressure, better against the blitz, and more efficient in the red zone than Wentz.

"We had both Jared and Carson in and spent a lot of time with both of them," Rams' Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. "We came away knowing both would be extraordinary quarterbacks in this league, but we feel like Jared's our guy."

Goff and Wentz have no hard feelings as both highly touted quarterbacks spoke after they went No. 1 and 2 respectively, at the NFL Draft headquarters in Chicago, IL on Thursday.

"I talked to him after he got picked and I got picked," Goff said. "We said congrats to each other and we're going to keep in touch."

Goff went 1-11 in his rookie season at Cal and has a record of 14-23 in his collegiate career. That mark, is the worst winning percentage by a starting quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the history of the NFL Draft. Despite the ugly record, Goff believes he's a better player for having gone through it.

"I'm happy I went through it. I carry it with me forever," he said. "A lot of character that year, maturity, perseverance and resiliency. It's something that I believe will help me down the line."

For those that don't know, Goff is a California kid born in Novato on October 14, 1994. He attended Kentfield Marin Catholic High School where he threw for 7,687 yards on the varsity team over three seasons. He led his school to three NCS playoff appearances, three MCAL championships, and the state title game before deciding to stay in Northern California and attend Cal Berkeley. 

Goff grew up a fan of the Bay Area teams including the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants, and the 49ers (the Rams Opening Day opponent on Monday Night Football). Members of the media reminded Goff of the fact that he has publicly criticized LA stars Kobe Bryant and Yasiel Puig in the past.

"Yes, I am." Goff said when asked about it. "I wear No. 16 because of Joe Montanta and grew up a Niners and Giants fan."

When asked if he would consider changing allegiance to the Dodgers or another LA sports team, Goff was slightly open-minded. "We'll see." He simply said.

For now, fans in LA will have a new favorite son to root for on Sundays, one whose head coach believes is going to be very, very special.

"Jared has a skill set that is special," Fisher said. "He sees the field, has a quick release, he understands the quarterback position, he's going to get rid of the football and is extremely competitive. He's really exciting." 

Just how exciting Goff will be, time will tell, but for now, he's just happy to be staying in California where he can be close to his family.

"It's very special," Goff added of staying in Cali. "It's a very special thing for me and my family."

Goff will be in Downtown Los Angeles Friday afternoon where he will be introduced to the media at 2:30PM PST. NBC LA will bring you all the coverage live.

Photo Credit: Jon Durr/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Job Seekers Line Up to Apply for Work at Rams Games]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:04:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/200*120/04-29-2016-rams-helmet-generic-1.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams are looking for a few good employees to work at games during the team's first season back in Southern California in two decades. 

A Rams Hiring Event kicked off Friday morning, when hundreds of people will be hired to work at concerts and sporting events.

The event is at 3965 South Vermont Ave., where several applicants had already lined up Friday morning down the block. Akasia Moore was wrapped in a blanket and sitting on a folding chair as she waited for the event to kick off.

"I'm cold, I'm tired, but I'm happy," said Moore. "It's a job. I'm just happy I have the opportunity to get a job."

Later Friday morning, the line extended around the block.

"We came out here and there was actually a line, so we went back home for some chairs," said Rhonda McGlory. "I didn't know it was going to be this big."

The South LA WorkSource Center partnered with CSC, which provides event staffing services, to organize the hiring event.

Applicants should bring identification. Those hired will work at sporting events, including the Rams, USC and UCLA and the Galaxy, plus concerts.

Call 323-730-7900 ext. 227 for more information.

The LA Rams will play their first preseason game on Aug. 13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and open the regular season on Sept. 12 at Levi's Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams will make their home regular season debut on Sept 18 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Dee Gordon Suspended 80 Games for PEDs]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:35:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/Dee+Gordon+Suspended.png

LOS ANGELES – The Miami Marlins got good news on Thursday after they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2, completing their first four-game sweep of the boys in blue in franchise history, and giving former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly some sweet revenge on his former club.

However, minutes after the game ended, the Marlins were given a dose of bad news as it was announced that All-Star second baseman – and former Dodger himself – Dee Gordon, was suspended 80 games, without pay, after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

"Two different ends of the spectrum for us," said Mattingly. "You would expect our guys to be in there excited, but then we get this news. These guys love Dee, I feel like he's one of my kids to be honest with you. We're going to move forward."

Gordon reportedly tested positive for exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol, two banned substances under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program.

Ironically, Major League Baseball made the announcement just minutes after the Marlins' victory over the Dodgers in which Gordon knocked in the game-tying run, and then scored the game-winning run on a balk in the seventh inning.

Gordon is a two-time All-Star that led the National League in stolen bases and batting average last season. He won his first Gold Glove and was awarded a five-year, $50 million contract extension in the offseason.

Miami Marlins President, David Samson, spoke with reporters in Los Angeles after the game and had this to say about Gordon's suspension:

"Dee Gordon is a very important part of our team and we all love him and support him. With that said, I do not like or condone what he did. It is a huge disappointment to the kids, to our fans, to his teammates, and everyone in our organization who works every single day to put a product on the field that everyone in Miami will be proud of. He will be back 80 games from now and will be welcomed back to this organization. We expect him and are positive that he will do whatever is necessary to make it up to the fans, to his teammates, and to this organization."

More than likely, Gordon knew about his positive tests weeks ago, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, was appealing the positive test until he decided to drop the appeal and tell his teammates today.

The suspension is effective immediately, and Gordon is expected to release a statement on Friday morning. As soon as it is made public, we will have it for you here.

UPDATE:  Here is Dee Gordon's statement released at 5:20AM PST:

"I made a mistake and I accept the consequences. Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. The hardest part about this is feeling that I have let down my teammates, the organization, and the fans. I have been careful to avoid products that could contain something banned by MLB and the 20+ tests that I have taken and passed throughout my career prove this. I made a mistake and I accept the consequences."

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Maeda Suffers Loss as Marlins Sweep Dodgers]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:52:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/218*120/Maeda+First+Loss.png

LOS ANGELES – Kenta Maeda suffered his first loss, Giancarlo Stanton hit another home run, and the Los Angeles Dodgers lost another game to the Miami Marlins as they dropped their fourth in a row, 5-3, on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

Miami swept the Dodgers for the first time in franchise history thanks to Stanton and their bullpen. The Marlins slugger had an RBI in every game of the series, totaling eight to go with three home runs over the four-game sweep.

The Marlins bullpen allowed just one run (a wild pitch) over 11 innings of relief in the series, and had shutout the Dodgers for 10 consecutive innings before the bottom of the ninth on Thursday.

"They pitched us well all series," said Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley. "They made the big pitches when they needed to."

Utley reached base in all four plate appearances, but ended a potential rally when he overran second base in the seventh. With runners at first and second and two outs, Adrian Gonzalez hit a chopper to second base that Dee Gordon bobbled for an error. Gonzalez was safe on the play, but Utley was halfway to third, and was thrown out trying to get back to second to end the inning.

"I didn't do a good job picking up the lead runner," Utley said after the game. "I was overly aggressive. It was my fault that inning didn't get extended."

"Maeda-Mania" swept through Chavez Ravine earlier in the game as the Japanese right-hander made his fifth career MLB start opposite Marlins' ace Jose Fernandez.

Maeda was solid –allowing only a solo shot to J.T. Realmuto – until he ran into trouble in the top of the seventh. Maeda allowed back-to-back singles to Realmuto and Adeiny Hechavarria before Dee Gordon knocked in a run with a single to left.

Maeda exited the game for reliever Pedro Baez who didn't fare much better, surrendering an RBI single to Martin Prado before he was called for a balk, allowing Gordon to score from third.

Maeda (3-1) suffered the first loss of his Major League career, allowing four runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in 6 and 2/3 innings. Moreover, his ERA tripled after the game, jumping from 0.36 to 1.41.

"It was my first loss," Maeda said. "I learned a lot from this process and am going to make the necessary adjustments for my next start."

Fernandez (2-2) struggled early, allowing two runs to cross the plate in the first thanks to an RBI double for Yasmani Grandal and single for Yasiel Puig. The 23-year-old star would settle down and struck out five of the next six batters he faced, cruising to victory after the Dodgers anemic offense was unable to score (other than on a wild pitch) after the first inning. 

Players of the Game:

Jose Fernandez: 2 runs on 5 hits with 8 strikeouts in 6IP.
Giancarlo Stanton: Solo home run in the eighth inning.
J.T. Realmuto: 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored.

Three Takeaways:

1. Fish Fillet: The Miami Marlins swept the Dodgers for the first time in franchise history and were the first team to sweep L.A. at Dodger Stadium since May 2012.

2. Not so fast, Dee: MLB announced after the game that Marlins' second baseman Dee Gordon tested positive for two banned performance-enhancing substances and would be suspended for 80 games, effective immediately.

3. Made in Japan: Dodgers' starter Kenta Maeda struck out his boyhood hero, Ichiro Suzuki in their first meeting in the second inning. "That was somebody I looked up to as a child and it was an honor to face him," Maeda said.

Up Next:

Marlins (10-11): Miami heads to Milwaukee riding high after a four-game sweep of the Dodgers and will look to make it six in a row when Adam Conley takes the mound on Friday.

Dodgers (12-11): After a four-game sweep by the Fish, the Dodgers will look to get back to their winning ways against the San Diego Padres on Friday night at 7:10PM PST.

Please refresh this page for more updates, stats and player reactions… 

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best Style Moves from the NFL Draft Red Carpet]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:07:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-525682684-elliott.jpg See all the best shots from the 2016 NFL Draft red carpet in Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Want to Own Court From From Kobe Bryant's Last Game?]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:15:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-no-8-auction-court.jpg

In place of the Los Angeles Lakers' logo, Kobe Bryant's memorable final game featured two special pieces of hardwood on the court: one with the no. 24 and one with the no. 8. Bryant started out wearing no. 8 and eventually finished his career wearing no. 24.

After the 60-point game, the newly retired Lakers' star walked onto the court and signed both pieces of the court. Now, the LA Lakers are auctioning off the section with the no. 8 with a starting bid of $10,000. MeiGray, the NBA's official game used memorabilia authenticator, is taking hold of the selling process, and the auction will run until May 13, 2016. No coincidence, Bryant retired exactly one month short of the auction's closing date. 

Proceeds from the auction will go to benefit the Lakers' Youth Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 organization and official charity of the Lakers. So, yes, the winner will likely use this piece of history as a tax write-off.

The Lakers are also offering a raffle for 24 replica tickets from Bryant's final game, which have all been autographed by the five-time champion. Each raffle ticket sells for $10 and can be purchased at NetRaffle.org

The autographed no. 24 section of the court will be a part of a display at the Lakers' new practice facility according to the team.

Photo Credit: Photo by Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: Test Your Horse Race Knowledge]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:33:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_522153153543.jpg

The 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby will be held May 7 at Churchill Downs, featuring spectacular hats, plenty of bourbon and some of the fastest thoroughbreds in the world. 

Known as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports," the Derby is steeped in tradition and style. Grab a mint julep and a Derby hat and test your knowledge of the race with the quiz below.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Pick Jared Goff as NFL Draft's Top Pick]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:02:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/04-28-2016-jared-goff-1.jpg

Surprising almost no one, the Los Angeles Rams selected Jared Goff with the no. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff is a 6-foot 4-inch quarterback who joins the NFL following his junior year at the University of California at Berkeley.

NFL: Rams Draft History

 The 21-year-old is a pro-style pocket quarterback and threw for 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his final amateur season. During his draft combine workout, the NFL Network referred to Goff as "The most ready-to-play quarterback in this draft."

Originally from the Northern California city of Novato, Goff's move to Southern California marks the start of a new era in Los Angeles. Embracing the new scenery, the team held its official draft party at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles and a sizable crowd gathered to celebrate LA's pick. By picking Goff at no. 1, the LA Rams expect to immediately make the young quarterback the face of their franchise, alongside running back Todd Gurley II.

The Rams selected Gurley with their first round pick in 2015, and Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns during his rookie season. In his first season in the NFL, Gurley won the honor of 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, along with receiving a Pro Bowl selection. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who was born in Culver City, attended Taft High School and played at USC, will hope that his young quarterback and running back combo can win games to keep fans in the stands and eyes glued to television sets across Southern California.

Along with the no. 1 overall selection, the Rams also have the two picks in the fourth round, no. 110 and no. 113, and two picks in the sixth round, no. 177 and no. 190. In order to acquire the no. 1 overall pick from the Tennessee Titans, the Rams traded their first round pick, two second round picks and a third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. In addition, the Rams also gave up a first round pick and a third round pick in 2017. As a note, Fisher previous coached for the Titans' organization from 1995 to 2010.

The LA Rams will play their first preseason game on Aug. 13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and open the regular season on Sept. 12 at Levi's Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams will make their home regular season debut on Sept 18 against the Seattle Seahawks.

As a no. 1 overall pick, Goff should be expected to start the season under center, but the rookie will need to beat out quarterbacks Case Keenum and Nick Foles in training camp to claim the position.

Photo Credit: 2016 Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Meet the 2016 Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 04:57:10 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/RamsCheerleaders3.jpg Images of the 2016 Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders

Photo Credit: Scott Rovak/Los Angeles Rams]]>
<![CDATA[Todd Gurley Checks Out Clippers Ahead of Draft]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 03:41:39 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Gurley+and+Johnson+Clippers.jpeg

LOS ANGELES – Just hours ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft that will see the Los Angeles Rams usher in a new era with the number one overall pick, both players and members of the team sat courtside to catch Game 5 of the NBA Playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Rams will host a draft party across the street from Staples Center on Thursday, but before the party kicks off with the magical words: "With the 1st Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams select…" players Todd Gurley and Trumaine Johnson decided to visit one of their new city's sports franchise.

Gurley and Johnson received custom Clippers jerseys with their name and numbers on the back, and after the game got to chat with guards Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford whom I'm sure are hoping that their new friends will invite them to the LA Coliseum later this year for some reciprocal hospitality come football season.

Meanwhile, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead will be in the war room across the street at the Courtyard hotel by Marriott, preparing to select the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft which will be held live in Chicago, IL at 5:00PM PST on Thursday.

The Rams are expected to take Cal quarterback Jared Goff with the top selection, but remained mum on the subject on Tuesday.

"We're probably going to take an offensive player," Fisher sarcastically said to the media during a press conference at the Marriott. "Beyond that, that's about all we can say right now."

Fisher all but confirmed that the Rams have already decided on who they are going to take with the No. 1 overall pick, but chose to remain silent in order to not ruin the surprise for whomever that may be.

"There's only a few things better in life than this phone call that will take place Thursday through Friday," Fisher said. "It's a great experience for these guys and we do not want to deny our pick that opportunity to experience that."

Photo Credit: Chris Parker/LA Clippers Video Producer]]>
<![CDATA[Marlins Put Muzzle on Dodgers ]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 23:22:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/Justin+Nicolino+vs+Dodgers.png

LOS ANGELES – Rookie Justin Nicolino threw a two-hitter in his season debut and the Miami Marlins silenced the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

The left-handed pitcher was called up from Triple-A New Orleans before the game and was magnificent in his 2016 debut, allowing no runs on two hits in 7 and 1/3 innings. While Nicolino was on the mound, no runner reached second base.

"He was very aggressive and kept attacking," said Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis. "He deserves a lot of credit coming up and making his first start of the year."

Nicolino made 12 starts for the Fish last season, and allowed five runs on six hits in a loss to the Dodgers in a June 26, 2015 start in Miami.

Scott Kazmir struggled out of the gate for the fourth consecutive outing allowing back-to-back singles to start the game. Dodger killer, Giancarlo Stanton, knocked in the game's first run two batters later and Marcell Ozuna followed with a single to give Miami an early 2-0 lead.

"First inning, I gave up three or four hits and two runs, they were frustrating hits, but hits nonetheless," Kazmir said of his start. "After that first inning, I felt a little more comfortable and I ended up settling down and found a rhythm. I took that through the rest of the game."

Kazmir settled in from there and did not allow another run through six innings, surrendering seven hits on six strikeouts. 

The Dodgers offense disappeared for the third consecutive game and was nonexistent on Wednesday as they were shutout for the first time this season.

"Nicolino threw the ball well and shut us out," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said matter of factly. "We had opportunities late, but couldn't get it done."

Former Dodger manager Don Mattingly took Nicolino out in the eighth inning, and everything started to unravel from there. Bryan Morris replaced Nicolino on the mound and promptly walked Chase Utley. After another pitching change, Yasmani Grandal walked. A third pitching change by Mattingly brought right-hander David Phelps into the game and he walked Joc Pederson and then started to argue with home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor.

Tichenor quickly tossed Phelps from the game and Mattingly ran out of the Marlins dugout to yell at Tichenor. Minutes later, Mattingly was also ejected, paving the way for reliever Jose Urena to strikeout Yasiel Puig and induce Adrian Gonzalez to pop out to right field.

It was the third consecutive loss for the Dodgers, their first three-game losing streak of the season. The loss also marked the first series won by the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium since 2010. 

"We have to get more scoring opportunities starting tomorrow," Ellis said. "We have to come back and try and salvage the series."

Players of the Game:

Justin Nicolino: 0 runs, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts, 7.1 IP

Three Takeaways:

1. Justin the Nicolino of Time: The Marlins rookie allowed just two hits, earning his first win of the season after he was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans before the game.

2. Happy Birthday, Kid: Dodgers' shortstop Corey Seager celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday and had one of L.A.'s only two hits on the night. 

3. Mad Mattingly: Don Mattingly was ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning, his second ejection in less than a week. The former Dodgers' manager was arguing with home plate umpire Todd Tichenor after Marlins reliever David Phelps was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

Up Next:

Marlins (9-11): Miami ace Jose Fernandez takes the mound in Game 4 of the series as the Fish go for the sweep.

Dodgers (12-10): Maeda-Mania will be in full effect when Kenta Maeda gets the start in the final game of the series at 7:10PM PST.

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blazers Outlast Clippers, Take 3-2 Lead]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 21:40:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Clippers-Blazers-Game-5.jpg

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers behind a monster fourth quarter that showed how thin the Clippers were following catastrophic injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. With the victory, Portland took a 3-2 series lead and can finish off the series on their home floor on Friday.

In an odd start to Wednesday's game, the Blazers and Clippers played in front of a nearly empty Staples Center. Due largely to an early 7 p.m. start, fans did not arrive until the end of the of first quarter. By then, the Clippers and Blazers had played 12 ugly minutes with each team scoring only 18 points apiece.

In the second quarter, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick came to life for the Clippers and scored 15 of the Clippers' 32 points in the quarter. With Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and Paul Piece moving into the starting lineup due to injuries to Paul and Griffin, Jeff Green scored seven points off the Clippers' bench to help LA to a five-point lead at halftime. Green proved to be vital bench player, but his 17 points could not convert into a victory.

Maurice Harkless turned out to be Portland's unlikely star early in Game Five. With Damian Lillard missing all five of his first half shots, Harkless scored 17 points before the break to help keep Portland within touching distance of the Clippers. Harkless would finish with 19 points for the game.

In the third quarter, Lillard continued to struggle, but Portland jumped out of the gates and took a nine-point lead behind C.J. McCollum scoring 10 points in the quarter. Nearly matching McCollum, though, Crawford contributed nine points in the period for the Clippers.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Blazers and Clippers were knotted at 71-71, and Lillard had only made one of his 10 field goal attempts.

To start the fourth quarter, Portland's point guard finally woke up. Lillard hit his first three shots and helped the Blazers open up a 13-point lead over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. The Clippers would fight back and cut the deficit, but Portland continued to answer back and keep LA at arm's distance.

At one point in the fourth quarter, the Blazers led by 17 points. Eventually, the Blazers won 108-98 with McCollum finishing with 27 points, four rebounds and four assists and Lillard adding 22 points and five assists. 

The Blazers can finish the series and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals with a win in Portland on Friday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tearful Doc Rivers Remembers His Mom ]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:48:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/Doc+Rivers+Emotional+Press+Conference.png

LOS ANGELES – The loss of your two best players is enough to make any coach cry, but on Wednesday before the Clippers pivotal Game 5 against the Portland Trail Blazers, Doc Rivers' eyes welled up when asked a poignant question.

In the middle of his pregame press conference with the media, Rivers was asked by a reporter who he leans on to get through tough times – vis a vis losing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul – Rivers reflected and his answer pulled on our heart strings. 

"I don't know," he said sullenly as his eyes filled with water. The memories came flooding back and he couldn't fight back the tears any longer, he put a hand to his face to stop the tears from rolling down and finally looked up to meet the gaze of the staring members of the media before him.

"Brad made me think about my mom," he finally said. "That would have been the person."

Rivers' mother, Bettye Rivers, died last June in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago where Rivers grew up and went to high school. 

After the answer, the media was too teary-eyed themselves to ask any further questions and Rivers quietly got up and walked out of the room. Afterwards, various members of the media stepped outside to call their own mothers and tell them how much they love them.

Courtesy of Arash Markazi, the video of Rivers response is below.

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Women's Hoop Team Named]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:16:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/2016++Olympic+sue+bird.jpg

The 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team will have a strong connection to the University of Connecticut.

UConn head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team and several of its members have played for him at Storrs.

UConn alums Sue Bird, of the Seattle Storm, and Diana Taurasi, of the Phoenix Mercury, are two of the three captains leading the team. Tamika Catchings, of Indiana Fever, is the other captain.

Former UConn players and 2012 Olympic gold medalists Tina Charles, of the New York Liberty, and Maya Moore, of the Minnesota Lynx, will be back, and UConn star Breanna Stewart is joining the team for the first time.

Another first-time member of the team is Elena Delle Donne, of the Chicago Sky, who was briefly a UConn Husky.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team also includes two-time Olympic gold medalists Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, both of the Minnesota Lynx, as well as 2012 Olympic gold medalists Angel McCoughtry, of the Atlanta Dream, and Lindsay Whalen, of the Minnesota Lynx.

Brittney Griner, of the Phoenix Mercury, is another first-time Olympian.

USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee has chosen the team, which is pending approval by the USOC.

“Obviously it’s always incredibly difficult to try to identify 12 players from a group of so many great players,” Auriemma said in a statement posted on the USA Basketball Web site.

He has led the USA National Team to a 23-0 record and gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships.

“The committee had a really difficult job this year, because it's the first time in a long time that a lot more than 12 players could easily have been named to that team. But the 12 that were named are a great combination of Olympic gold-medal experience, multiple gold medal winners and great leaders,” Auriemma said in a statement.

He said an influx of young players will be a great benefit this year and will set the stage going forward.

“They will be the future of the USA Basketball Women's National Team,” he said.

DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, the Minnesota Lynx’ Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will assist Auriemma during the 2016 Olympic Games.

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held from Aug. 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro.

Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Image]]>
<![CDATA[Kerri Walsh Jennings' Road to Rio]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 09:49:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/208*120/kerrywalshjennings.jpg Kerri Walsh Jennings is back on the beach. Hear how she's getting ready for Rio. Fred Roggin reports for Today in LA on Wednesday April 27, 2016. ]]> <![CDATA[Lakers Coaching Search: Top Candidates]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 18:31:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Luke-Walton-Lakers-coach.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers vacated their coaching position on Sunday evening, and by Wednesday morning, two names have consistently floated to the top of the list: Luke Walton and Ettore Messina.

Walton is an assistant with the world champions Golden State Warriors and led the Northern California team to a 39-4 start and twice won NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month honors as interim coach during the 2015-16 season. Also, the 36-year-old played with the Lakers under Phil Jackson and won two titles in the process. Walton is one of the hottest coaches on the market and would be considered a positive move to a young coach that can relate with LA's young roster.

The Lakers' outgoing coach, Byron Scott, received his harshest public criticism for his old school approach and inability to relate to LA's young players. Scott also heard a great deal of criticism for the offense on display and his overall basketball principles.

Messina, who is currently the lead assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, is a 56-year-old veteran tactician that has coached in Italy, Russia and Spain. For the 2011-12 season, the current Italian national team coach also served as a special consultant for the Lakers, so the front office should have an understanding of the coach's knowledge, basketball principles and personality. Under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have been the model franchise in terms of managing players and playing team basketball. If Messina can import that style to the Lakers, LA would gladly take him on without blinking twice.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the Lakers have received permission from San Antonio to interview Messina. USA Today also reported that Messina is believed to also be considering the Sacramento Kings’ coaching vacancy.

Other candidates emerging on the Lakers' short list include University of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. While Ollie's stock hit its high when he won the National Championship with the Huskies in 2014, his strong personal relationship with Kevin Durant, which developed during his final season as a player in the Oklahoma City Thunder, makes the 43-year-old a tasty target. Durant expects to be the biggest free agent in the coming summer. The Lakers expect to lobby hard for the 27-year-old’s services, and having Ollie on the pitch committee wouldn't hurt the Lakers' chances of landing the 2014 Most Valuable Player.

Van Gundy is a veteran coach, who is currently working as an analyst with ESPN and ABC. Previous attempts to pull the 54-year-old away from the microphone have proved to be futile. However, Van Gundy would be a stable and sound solution to the Lakers' problem. Van Gundy serves as an assistant under Pat Riley in New York and took over when Riley left for Miami.

The Lakers have not set any timeline on filling the opening, but naming a coach would go a long way to establishing a vision for the future of the team and restoring a sense of order and structure to a franchise that is coming off three of the four worst seasons in its history.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Road to Rio With Bob Costas]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 07:52:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/198*120/04-27-2016-bob-costas-rio-olympics-1.JPG One of the voices of the Olympics, Bob Costas, talks about what to expect from Rio 2016. Video broadcast Wednesday April 27, 2016 on Today in LA.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Tony Azevedo's Road to Rio]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 07:27:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Tony-Azevedo-P2.jpg Water polo player Tony Azevedo has become the face of the sport in the United States. He talks about the team's training on the Road to Rio. Daniella Guzman reports for Today in LA on Wednesday April 27, 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[April Ross' Road to Rio]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 07:28:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/april-ross-P2.jpg Beach volleyball player April Ross talks about her Road to Rio. Fred Roggin reports for Today in LA on Wednesday April 27, 2016.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[LA Mayor, Olympian Janet Evans Gain Support for 2024 Bid]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 09:37:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/04-27-2016-garcetti-la-2024-olympics-2.JPG

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Olympian Janet Evans were in Washington D.C. Wednesday to gain Congressional support for LA 2024.

Garcetti was at the U.S. Capitol with LA 2024 Chair Casey Wasserman and four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans for the introduction of a bipartisan House resolution supporting America’s bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"It's in our blood, it's in our DNA," Garecetti said. "It's been too long."

Los Angeles is running for the 2024 Games against Rome, Paris and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee will make the selection in 2017.

With Boston bowing out last year, the LA City Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal to authorize Garcetti to execute agreements related to the Olympic bid. The U.S. Olympic Committee later announced that it had selected LA as the United States candidate.

"Our city has everything to offer," Evans said.

The Summer Olympics were last held in the United States in 1996, when Atlanta was the site. LA hosted the 1984 and 1932 Olympics.

"LA 2024 is a bid that unites our diverse city and nation," Wasserman said.

The United States did not make a bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were awarded to Tokyo in 2013. Los Angeles sought to be the U.S. candidate to host the 2016 Games but was beaten by Chicago, whose bid was ultimately rejected by the International Olympic Committee in favor of Rio de Janeiro.

LA is looking to join London as the only cities to host the Summer Olympics three times. The second-largest U.S. city initially lost the opportunity to bid to Boston but regained it after the East Coast city backed out over concerns about financial liability.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Road to Rio: U.S. Women's Volleyball]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:42:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/US_Womens_Volleyball_Olympics_1200x675_674899011925.jpg A look at the U.S. women's volleyball team's Road to Rio. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Wednesday April 27, 2016. ]]> <![CDATA[Kershaw Lets Fish off the Line in Loss]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 23:26:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/208*120/Kershaw+vs+Marlins.png

LOS ANGELES – The Miami Marlins hung five runs on Clayton Kershaw in the sixth inning and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 on Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner breezed through the first five innings –retiring 15 of the first 16 batters he faced -- but ran into trouble in the sixth after former Dodger, Miguel Rojas, hit a broken bat, bloop double to left field.

"It all happened quick," Kershaw said of the inning. "I felt okay tonight, better than I have in the past few starts, but the results weren't there. I had a three to nothing lead and didn't do my job.

Five consecutive hits later, Giancarlo Stanton capped off the comeback with a three-run blast off Kershaw to centerfield, and faster than you can say "Jackie Robinson," the Dodgers went from a three-run lead to trailing 5-3.

"I missed my spot on Stanton and that's what he does, he makes you pay for mistakes like that," Kershaw said. "Everything you're not supposed to do I did that inning." 

L.A. jumped out to an early lead in the first inning after Marlins starter Tom Koehler lost control of his fastball, throwing not one, but two, wild pitches as he brought home the game's first two runs.

Kershaw helped his own cause in the bottom of the fourth when he hit an RBI double off Koehler scoring Carl Crawford from first.

"I got a couple fastballs and put the ball in the right spot," Kershaw said of his 2-for-2 start at the plate. "I get lucky every once in a while."

Koehler (2-2) won his second straight start, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings of work.

The L.A. offense went anemic from there as the Marlins bullpen shut down the Dodgers for the second consecutive game.

Stanton homered for the third consecutive game and now has eight home runs with 20 RBI in 17 career games at Dodger Stadium.

"Right place, right time," joked Stanton of his homer. "Gotta be on time for the heater. I don't think I'm satisfied yet though, I need a few more."

Christian Yelich went 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored and is now batting .371 on the season.

Kershaw (2-1) recorded his first loss of the season, and had nearly as many strikeouts (10) as the Fish had hits (11). The southpaw allowed five runs on seven hits, with no walks in seven innings.

"Through the first five innings you think he's going to throw a shutout," Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw. "But it turned quickly."

The Dodgers lost back-to-back games at home for the first time this season and their run of consecutive series wins will come to an end at four. The best L.A. can do is split the series.

Players of the Game

Giancarlo Stanton: Three-run homer.
Christian Yelich:
3-for-5, an RBI and two runs scored. 

Three Takeaways:

1. Earthquake Relief: The Dodgers raised $10,000 for the Red Cross' relief efforts after earthquakes rattled Ecuador and Japan this month. Before the game, Kenta Maeda, Yasiel Puig, Jaime Jarrin and Dave Roberts signed autographs for fans with all the proceeds going to the relief effort.

2. First Inning Fuel: The Dodgers scored two more runs in the first inning on Wednesday and now have 19 runs scored in the first in 21 games to start the season.

3. Suzuki Samurai: Ichiro Suzuki hit a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning for his 2,943rd career hit, tying him with Frank Robinson for 33rd all-time.

Up Next:

Marlins (8-11): Miami rookie, Justin Nicolino has been called up from Triple-A New Orleans to make his 2016 season debut.

Dodgers (12-9): Scott Kazmir heads to the mound for the hometown team as he looks to lower his 6.63 ERA on Wednesday at 7:10PM

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Can the Clippers Win Without Griffin and Paul?]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 20:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Blake+Griffin+and+CP3.png

LOS ANGELES – To quote Donald Trump, this is "Huge."

The Los Angeles Clippers announced on Tuesday that forward Blake Griffin will miss the remainder of the 2016 NBA Playoffs with a left thigh injury, and that point guard Chris Paul will be out 3-6 weeks after he underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand. 

The sudden turn of events is a crushing blow to a Clippers team that has had a history of postseason misfortune over the years. Within 12 hours, the Clips went from an NBA Finals contender – with the news that Steph Curry was out for at least two weeks – to the underdog in their first round series with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Without Griffin and Paul, all hope seems lost and oddsmakers have the Trail Blazers advancing into the second round (likely against Golden State), but the fact of the matter is that Los Angeles still has a path to victory against Portland and can still steal the series shorthanded.

"In our eyes it's a 2-2 series," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told the media on Tuesday. "We still have home court, nobody has won a road game yet and so now we have to find a way to win tomorrow."

Austin Rivers will most likely replace Paul in the starting lineup, and as the team proved in Houston last postseason, they can win a playoff game without Paul. However, Griffin dominated those two games in Houston in round two, and they will be without both stars in the final three games of the series against the Trail Blazers.

With Paul and Griffin in the lineup, Rivers had the luxury of starting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a defensive presence with little to no offensive output whatsoever. If the Clippers want to win the series, Mbah a Moute needs to head to the bench and Jeff Green needs to be inserted into the starting lineup. At this point, without Paul and Griffin, the Clips need offense, not defense to defeat the Trail Blazers.

"My job with the guys we have is to make sure that they're ready and focused," Rivers said. "It's easy with the injuries we have to lose focus, it's my job to make sure that we don't."

The other key ingredient is NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford. The 36-year-old guard will have to carry more of the offensive load, scoring close to 30 points per game like he did when the starters were not in the lineup down the stretch.

If Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are not on the court, expect to see more of a Clippers backcourt with Rivers and Crawford. When they are on the court, a combination of J.J. Redick, Crawford and point guard Pablo Prigioni could be used. Prigioni is a better passer and better defender than Rivers and his minutes will be needed against the blistering backcourt of the Blazers.

The final piece of the Clippers new postseason puzzle could be veteran forward Paul Pierce who signed with his former coach and hometown team in the offseason. Pierce didn't play much of a role during the regular season and has been non-existent in the playoffs.

The 38-year-old has scored a total of just three points in the first round series, but the time is now for him to reemerge and help carry the Clippers on his back. Pierce proved with Washington last postseason that he still has what it takes, as he hit the game-winner in round one to send the Wizards on to the second round. If Pierce can score in double figures, Los Angeles has a chance to advance to round two.

Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Visualizing the Olympics: Medal Counts & More]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:05:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-149332217-edited.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images, file
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<![CDATA[Clippers Lose Chris Paul, Blake Griffin]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:37:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Blake-Griffin-Chris-Paul-injured-2016-Playoffs.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers confirmed that forward Blake Griffin would miss the remainder of the postseason due to a quad injury, while point guard Chris Paul would be out at least four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on his broken hand.

Losing Griffin and Paul, in effect, ends the Clippers' hopes of winning a title in 2016. 

The Clippers would need to be playing in the NBA Finals for Paul to have any chance of returning, and with arguably their two best players out, the Clippers would genuinely shock the world if they managed to even advance to the Western Conference Finals, let alone the NBA Finals. As a franchise, the Clippers have never advanced past the second round.

Both Griffin and Paul suffered their injuries during Monday night's loss in Portland. During the third quarter, Paul broke his hand after it got caught in an opponent's jersey. The player displayed frustration over the injury on the sidelines before walking to the locker room and not returning to the bench. Eventually, Paul would leave the game with his hand in a cast and his arm in a sling.

On Tuesday morning, the 30-year-old point guard underwent surgery on his right hand. For all intents and purposes, Paul is out for the remainder of the postseason, even if his official status states that he will be reevaluated in four to six weeks. Paul is widely considered the Clippers' best player, and the point guard averaged 23.8 points and 7.8 assist over the first four games of the series.

Late in the third quarter of the same game, Griffin re-aggravated his left quad, an injury that sidelined him for a lengthy stretch of the season. Griffin missed 41 games due to the injury and felt the tweak late in the third quarter. The forward went to the sidelines and attempted to play through the pain in the fourth quarter, but the extent of his injury became apparent immediately after he entered the contest. The 27-year-old came out shortly thereafter and watched his team lose the game from the bench.

The Clippers will likely look to Austin Rivers to take Paul's place, while Jeff Green and Paul Pierce expect to play bigger minutes. Jamal Crawford will be asked to carry even more of an offensive load off the bench. Considering they hold home court advantage in the first round series, the Clippers may still have enough in the tank to advance past the Portland Trail Blazers. The series is tied at 2-2 going into Wednesday's Game Five at Staples Center.

Even if the Clippers get past Portland, the Golden State Warriors (even without Stephen Curry) would likely provide too tall a hurdle to overcome without Paul and Griffin available.

For the Clippers, either of these injuries could have ended their championship hopes. Both these injuries, though, again bring about talk of a Clippers' curse.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Road to Rio: Join in Olympic Fever 100 Days Out]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:02:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gymnasts-olympics.jpg

The Rio Olympics are only 100 days away, and the buzz is all about who will represent Team USA.

While many athletes have earned their spots and a chance to bring home the gold, others will be vying for a place on the team over the coming weeks when swimming, gymnastics and other sports hold trials.

Golf returns to the Olympics after an absence of more than a century, and the sports world is full of predictions about who will be teeing off for the United States. But with each team limited to four players, many favorites will be staying home.

Then there is the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just concluded is causing microcephaly and other birth defects. Brazil’s health ministry has been working to ease visitors’ fears, but some athletes are weighing whether to give the Rio Games a pass.

As 10,500 athletes from across the globe prepare to compete in the first Olympics to be held in South America, here are some ways to follow along now:

Watch America's best earn a trip to Rio

Many spots on Team USA won't be finalized until just before the Opening Ceremony. Trials for some of the most popular events — including swimming and diving, track and field and gymnastics — have yet to be held. 

That means you can watch your favorite athletes battle for a trip to Rio de Janeiro. On the calendar in June: diving in Indianapolis from June 18-26, men’s gymnastics in St. Louis from June 24-26, and swimming in Omaha, Nebraska, from June 26 to July 3.

On the calendar in July: track and field in Eugene, Oregon, from July 1-10, and women’s gymnastics in San Jose, California, from July 8-10.

So far, about 100 athletes have qualified in sports from boxing to wrestling. By the time August arrives, more than 500 athletes will have made the team. NBC Olympics is keeping track of the competitors here.

Pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher became the first official member of the U.S. Olympic team last July when he finished third in the 2015 Pan American Games. The 23-year-old will compete in the Olympics for the first time. The modern Olympic pentathlon consists of swimming, fencing, riding and a combination of running and shooting.

In the qualifying marathon in Los Angeles in February, Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward won the top three places for the men, and Amy Cragg, Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan for the women.

Triathletes Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True have snagged spots, as have Yue Jennifer Wu, a table tennis competitor, and Jordan Wilimovsky, Sean Ryan and Haley Anderson, all open water swimmers.

At the London 2012 Games, American women outnumbered American men in total medals and gold medals, and they are expected to dominate again in Rio. The U.S. women’s teams are world champions in basketball, gymnastics, soccer, volleyball and water polo, and all eyes are on Claressa Shields, the first American woman to win Olympic gold in boxing at the London Games; gymnast Simone Biles, three-time world all-around champion; swimmer Katie Ledecky, a Olympic gold medalist at 15, and tennis star Serena Williams. 

In basketball, the final names for men’s and women’s teams will be announced by July 18. Among the finalists are LeBron James — though he says he is undecided about Rio — and Carmelo Anthony for the men’s team, and Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, both three-time gold medalists, for the women’s.

The U.S. women’s soccer team qualified for the Games, though the men’s team failed to, and its roster also must be announced by July 18.

And U.S. women’s water polo team goes to the Games as the reigning Olympic gold medalists. The team qualified by finishing in the top four in a tournament in March in the Netherlands, where it went undefeated and outscored opponents 123-35.

Who won’t be going?

Some of the country’s top stars will not be making the trip, sidelined by injuries and for other reasons.

Kobe Bryant announced he would not play in Rio after retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers because he thought it was a younger man’s turn to play. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers also withdrew from consideration, while New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis was forced out by knee and shoulder injuries.

In soccer, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe were both on the U.S. women’s World Cup team, but they will not be in Rio. Leroux is pregnant and Rapinoe is injured. Goalkeeper Hope Solo said in February that she would skip Rio if the games were being held then because of her fears of Zika.

Zika virus continues to be a worry

The CDC released travel guidelines that urge talking to your health provider about recommended vaccines and medicines, packing a health kit and monitoring travel warnings from the U.S. Department of State. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should take special precautions.

Much is still being learned about the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and which researchers have discovered can be transmitted sexually, not just through mosquito bites.

In February, the head of the World Health Organization praised the Brazilian government for its handling of the outbreak, but warned the situation could get worse before it gets better. Brazil has stressed that the mosquito population is much lower in August, the country’s winter.

Golf's Olympic comeback

Golf returns for the first time since 1904, when only the United States and Canada competed — and a Canadian won the individual gold.

Among the United States’ best prospects: Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

But some of the world's top players have said they will be giving the Games a pass. Vijay Singh, from Fiji, was the first to say he would not play. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have pulled out, citing family and scheduling issues, and Adam Scott of Australia also pointed to a busy schedule when he said he would skip Rio.

Golf’s crowded schedule of championships has been a concern for players, but golf legend Jack Nicklaus is worried about the message they send by withdrawing.

“If the guys don't want to participate, then we might not be in the Olympics after this,” he told Golf Digest. “They vote next year. And if they vote to keep golf in, then that's great, but if not then we lose that momentum with growing the game.”

Before the vote to reinstate golf — 72 holes of stroke play for 60 men and 60 women — superstar Michelle Wie and champion Padraig Harrington urged their sport’s inclusion before the International Olympic Committee. But the vote covered only 2016 and 2020; another vote will be held next year to decide if it will be back in 2024.

Jillian Macdonald and Nick Zaccardi contributed information to this article.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Chyna's Brain Donated to CTE Research: Manager]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 04:03:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/chyna-2.jpg

The brain of former WWE star Chyna, who was found dead last week in her Southern California home, will be donated for research involving the effects of concussions, her manager said Tuesday.

Chyna, whose real name is Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead Wednesday in her Redondo Beach apartment. Police were responding to a 911 call from a friend who said the former 46-year-old World Wrestling Entertainment performer failed to answer her phone for a few days.

Anthony Anzaldo, her manager, told NBC4 Los Angeles Tuesday that her brain will be donated for research involving chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury also known as CTE. Anzaldo said the brain has been given to Dr. Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, a groundbreaking researcher who first discovered and published findings on CTE and was the subject of the 2015 film "Concussion," starring Will Smith.

"We want to donate her brain," Anzaldo told The New York Daily News. "We want to know what made Chyna tick."

CTE has been diagnosed in the brains of several former NFL players. The progressive degenerative disease of the brain, which can only be diagnosed after death, has been found in athletes who have a history of repeated blows to the head and concussions.

The result of her autopsy have not been released.

Some of the former NFL stars diagnosed with CTE include former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, Steelers lineman Mike Webster and the Giants' Frank Gifford.

Attorneys contacted him long before Chyna's death to gauge interest in joining a brain injury lawsuit against the WWE, Analdo told the Daily News. They decided not to join the lawsuit, he said.

The WWE — then known as the World Wrestling Federation — hired Chyna in 1997. After leaving the WWE in 2001, Laurer was determined to stay active in the entertainment industry. She wrote her memoir, became a semi-regular on Howard Stern's radio show and appeared in TV sitcoms like "3rd Rock From the Sun" and reality shows including "The Surreal Life." She was in Playboy twice and appeared in a string of porn movies.

She joins a long list of WWE professional wrestlers who have died relatively young, including Rick Rude, Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig, the Ultimate Warrior and Owen Hart.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, file]]>
<![CDATA[Chris Paul Breaks Hand in Clippers' Loss]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:42:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Clippers-Blazers-Game-4-2016.jpg

On Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers lost Chris Paul to a broken hand before losing Blake Griffin to a quadricep injury en route to losing Game Four of their first round NBA Playoffs series against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers won 98-84. The series is now tied at 2-2.

Paul left the game seven seconds shy of midway through the third quarter and did not return. Officially, he suffered a third metacarpal fracture, which amounted to a broken right hand. Based on a hand being a requirement of playing basketball, Paul's return to the team this postseason would be improbable, at best.

Griffin pulled out of the game with a quadricep injury. He tried to play through it, but he could not run and left the game 11 serconds past the midway point in the quarter, as he simply could not go. He watched from the bench, as the Clippers wilted and failed to put up a final push and even challenge the Blazers at the end. Portland led the game wire-to-wire to the victory.

Incidentally, Paul was the only Clippers' player visible at the start of the game. The 30-year-old out of Wake Forest hit his first six shots, as his Clippers' teammates started the contest 0-12. Without Paul, the game could have effectively ended in the first quarter.

Instead, the Clippers only trailed by four points after 12 minutes.

The Blazers started strong behind Al-Farouq Aminu, who had 10 points, four rebounds and three blocks in the firrst quarter. Aminu had a special night and finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.

The Blazers' killer backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 31 points with McCollum leading the duo in scoring with 19 points, while Lillard led the backcourt in passing with six assists.

Mason Plumlee continued to impress with his second consecutive all-around game, as the center contributed 14 rebounds and 10 assists but only two points. The big man also recorded four blocks in the victory.

If Paul's injury is as grave as feared, then Griffin's injury is just adding the insult. As it stands, the Clippers being level at 2-2 in the series is the least of their concerns. Game Five is at Staples Center on Wednesday.

Notes: Off the bench, Jeff Green scored 17 points, which was tied with Griffin for team-high honors. Portland's Allen Crabbe hit all five of his shots for 12 points off Portland's bench.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Marlins Beat Dodgers in Mattingly's Return]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:21:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/197*120/Marlins+Dodgers+.png

LOS ANGELES – Giancarlo Stanton hit another monster home run and the Miami Marlins held off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 on Monday night in Don Mattingly's return to Dodger Stadium.

Stanton drove in the first two runs of the game with a mammoth homer hit halfway up the seats in left field in the fourth, and the game-tying double in the fifth. 

"Jut growing up here, every time I hit BP I always have a different memory from my childhood," Stanton said to Fox Sports Florida about his seventh career homer at Dodger Stadium. "Knowing that so many people I know are in the stands, I have to show off for them."

Yasiel Puig countered Stanton's blast with one of his own in the bottm half of the inning as the Cuban slugger snapped a 16-game homerless drought with his second round-tripper of the season.

Trayce Thompson teed off his first home run in a Dodger uniform three batters later to give L.A. a 2-1 lead, but the long balls would be the only offense the team could muster the rest of the game.

"It's about time," Thompson joked after the game. "I'm a big guy I'm supposed to drive the ball, that's what I've been doing my whole career, so I'm glad I could help the team."

Rookie Ross Stripling (0-1) recorded the first loss of his big league career and will have to wait til the weekend to try and earn his first Major League victory. Stripling was sufficient, allowing three runs on eight hits with three strikeouts in 5 and 1/3 innings, but was a victim of bad luck in the fifth.

"They hit a lot of balls hard tonight. That showed I wasn't sharp," Stripling said of his first career loss. "I really didn't throw any good curveballs as obviously Stanton showed. The last two starts have been a battle."

Stripling appeared to have struck out Stanton on a four-seam fastball in the top of the fifth, but home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg, called it high, and the Sun Valley slugger got a stay of execution. One pitch later, Stripling induced Stanton to pop up in foul territory for what would have been an inning-ending out, but first baseman Yasmani Grandal dropped the ball. The miscue cost the Dodgers as Stanton doubled to the gap one pitch later.

"You never want to give a guy like him a second or third chance in one AB, especially when I've thrown the kitchen sink at him," Stripling said. "I made a bad pitch. I was thinking in my head I need to make a perfect pitch, he's seen everything I have and this is a big situation."

Left hander Wei-Yin Chen (1-1) got the win – his first as a Marlin – allowing two runs on six hits in 6 and 2/3 innings of work. A.J. Ramos worked the ninth for his fourth save of the season. 

Players of the Game:

Yasiel Puig: solo home run. 
Trayce Thompson: 2-for-4 with a home run. 
Giancarlo Stanton: Home run and double. 

Three Takeaways:

1. Dodgers Welcome Back Donny Baseball: The game marked the return of former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Mattingly coached L.A. for five seasons, and won three consecutive NL West titles dating back to last season. The team honored their former skipper with a video tribute before the game.

2. Yikes, Yasmani: Dodgers' catcher Yasmani Grandal made his first start of the season at first base. Although he made some nice defensive plays, he dropped a routine foul pop that would have been the third out of the fourth, and Giancarlo Stanton made him pay for the mistake with an RBI double a few pitches later.

3. Stanton Says, 'Sayonara Ball': Stanton crushed a Ross Stripling curveball for his seventh career home run at Dodger Stadium. The Marlins slugger has homered in back-to-back games and holds a .323 career batting average at the Ravine.

Up Next:

Marlins (7-11): Tom Koehler heads to the mound for Miami in the second game of the four game series against the boys in blue.

Dodgers (12-8): Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is on the hill against his former manager as first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM PST.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>