<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Sports - [LA FEATURE] SoCal Sports 4 You]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sportsen-usWed, 21 Mar 2018 13:43:47 -0700Wed, 21 Mar 2018 13:43:47 -0700NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Adidas Reveals 2018 World Cup Away Kits]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 22:35:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/2018+world+cup+away+kits+thumbnail.jpgWith only months to go before one of the world's premier sporting events officially kicks off, Adidas has unveiled its 2018 World Cup away kits.

Photo Credit: Adidas]]>
<![CDATA[Not Just Peanuts and Cracker Jacks: New Dodgers Menu, Swag]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 17:16:04 -0700
There's some new food on the menu at Dodgers Stadium for the 2018 season.

From the Hot Cheeto covered street corn called "Cheet-O-Lote," to the Churro Cake, Chicken and Waffle Sammie, and the Tortas, all of the food is looking positively delicious.

Follow NBC4's Mario Solis on Facebook and Instagram for more insider looks. ]]>

There's some new food on the menu at Dodgers Stadium for the 2018 season.

From the Hot Cheeto covered street corn called "Cheet-O-Lote," to the Churro Cake, Chicken and Waffle Sammie, and the Tortas, all of the food is looking positively delicious.

Follow NBC4's Mario Solis on
Facebook and Instagram for more insider looks. ]]>https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/cover-dodgers-menu-2018.jpg
This isn't the same old peanuts and Cracker Jacks. There's some new food on the menu at Dodgers Stadium. From the Hot Cheeto covered street corn called "Cheet-O-Lote," to the Churro Cake, Chicken and Waffle Sammie, and the Tortas, all of the food is looking positively delicious.

Photo Credit: Mario Solis, Thomas Bravo]]>
<![CDATA[Watch This Adorable 2-Year-Old After Justin Turner's Injury]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:53:08 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/169*120/Dodgers2YO.png

The baseball world got some bad news when Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner suffered a broken wrist in the team's spring training game against the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

However, one fan in particular was very distraught over the news, a two-year-old named Declan Riddle.

Riddle and his father, Andrew, are die hard Dodger fans and were watching the game on Spectrum SportsNetLA when Turner was hit by a fastball on the left wrist by A's pitcher Kendall Graveman.

Turner screamed in pain and immediately went to the ground after the pitch. Shortly thereafter, Turner left the game to get X-rays where he was diagnosed with a small non-displaced fracture in his left wrist.

Declan and Andrew were watching the game, and after the injury, the adorable 2-year-old was extremely concerned with Turner's well being.

"Justin Turner got hurt," said the concerned child. "I have to kiss his boo-boo."

The cute, 27-second video can be seen below, and immediately went viral as it was viewed over 335,000 times. Multiple outlets picked it up, including our very own NBC LA.

Eventually, the video made its way to Turner himself who tweeted his appreciation to little Declan and even offered him two tickets to a Dodgers game upon his return from the disabled list.

Unfortunately, kissing Turner's wrist likely won't heel the fracture, or return him to the Dodgers lineup anytime soon. However, the team did get some good news on Tuesday after Turner saw a sports orthopedist who said that the wrist would not require surgery and would heal on it's own in a brace.

Turner is expected to miss between 6-to-10 weeks depending on the healing process and eventual rehab assignment.

Photo Credit: Twitter/@agr_dodgers22
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Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]><![CDATA[Roberts Says Turner's Broken Wrist Won't Need Surgery]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:46:36 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-926893952.jpg

Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner's broken left wrist is expected to heal without surgery, according to Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts. 

Turner was hurt Monday when hit by a pitch from Oakland's Kendall Graveman.

Turner arrived at the Dodgers spring training facility with a cast over his wrist Tuesday morning and was scheduled to see a hand specialist for an estimate of the time he could miss.

"We know that it's not a surgery thing, it's just essentially time," Roberts said. "That's the initial thought. That could change but that's what I've heard." 

Turner hit .322 with 21 homers and 71 RBIs last year and was a first-time All-Star. He had 14 RBIs in the postseason, including seven against the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series, when he was voted MVP. 

The Dodgers appear poised to move Logan Forsythe from second base to third in Turner's absence and have Enrique Hernandez and Chase Utley share time at second. 

"It obviously makes a lot of sense to have Logan over there a lot more at third, and to kind of put together some guys at second base, and leave Chris (Taylor) in center field," Roberts said. 

Backup catcher Austin Barnes also could see time at second base.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Kyle Kuzma Setting Records]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 09:10:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-Rookie-record.jpg

On Monday in Indiana, the Los Angeles Lakers had a rookie that stood out as a player for the future but even more explicitly as a player for the present, i.e. the present style of the NBA.

While Lonzo Ball has his special qualities that fit with the modern game, the Lakers' other standout rookie, Kyle Kuzma, embodies the NBA's current floor spacing and three-point shooting obsession.

Kuzma racked up a game-high 27 points in Indiana, along with pulling down eight rebounds and also making a trio of three-pointers to perfectly illustrate why he is the Lakers' power forward of the future and a perfect fit for the modern NBA game.

Already, Kuzma is only the fourth Lakers' rookie to score 1,000 points and grab 400 or more rebounds. The Flint, Michigan native is in the elite company of Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Two of those men have statues outside STAPLES Center, and the third is due to get his statue in early April.

Joining that elite company is a testament to how NBA ready the University of Utah Ute was upon his arrival in El Segundo. Earlier in the season, Lakers coach Luke Walton shared that Kuzma was drafted with the no. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft as a project that would likely play with the team's G-League affiliate a fair amount in his first season. Of course, that didn't happen because Kuzma was too good to send down to the South Bay Lakers.

After Kuzma stood out at Summer League and took home the MVP award for the NBA Summer League championship game, the Lakers realized that this kid was ready and provided shooting at a position where the team desperately needed it.

In the Summer League, Kuzma made a habit of knocking down three-pointers. In that championship game, the crowd favorite that draws shouts of "Kuuuuz" whenever he shoots the ball hit six of his first eight three-pointers and scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to, again, illustrate that he's a crafty scorer on the drive or with his hook shot, able to gobble up rebounds in the paint and make three-pointers at a level never before seen from the power forward position on day no. 1.

The NBA had never seen a forward so ready to play the modern style of the game, and that's not hyperbole.  

With 12 games remaining in his rookie season, Kuzma has a tally of 1,059 points, 422 rebounds and 135 made three-pointers. No rookie in NBA history had scored 1,000 points, grabbed 400 rebounds and made 130 three-pointers until Kuzma reached those heights. Considering his performance on Monday and with 12 games remaining in his rookie season, Kuzma should add considerably to his already historic totals.

Since history loves round numbers, one should acknowledge that Kuzma isn't getting to 1,500 points. He would need to average 37.8 points for the remainder of the season. Though getting to 1,500 points is not impossible, the 1,000-point mark is good enough as the first qualifier when comparing future front court players to the 6-foot 9-inch forward's rookie season.

However, one cannot help but project out that Kuzma could easily reach 500 rebounds to set a higher marker for future rookies. If he averages 6.5 rebounds in the final dozen games, Kuzma would finish the season with 500 rebounds. Kuzma's season average is 6.2 rebounds, and he's averaging 8.6 rebounds for the month of March, so 500 rebounds is a realistic target that would add one more rung to Kuzma's rookie season.

Sitting on 135 three-pointers after Monday night, which is already the Lakers' rookie record, Kuzma needs only 15 three-pointers over his final 12 games to get to a nice round 150. Shooting 36.6 percent from distance for the season, Kuzma averages 2.0 makes on 5.4 attempts from three per game. At that rate, the central figure in the "Kuzmania" movement should have a handful of games left over by the time he crosses 150 and effectively shatters the Lakers' rookie record in the category.

Already, Kuzma has put up a combination of points, rebounds and three-pointers made that literally no other NBA rookie has touched. Competing with only himself, the 22-year-old's historic rookie season should go down as the first rookie season with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 made three-pointers.

Kuzma arrived in El Segundo as the most NBA ready rookie of a litter that hopes to provide a foundation for the franchise's future. Only, Kuzma's skills seem to make him the perfect NBA player for the present.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Clayton Kershaw Turns 30]]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 23:13:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/174*120/GettyImages-81233378.jpgClayton Kershaw celebrated a historic milestone on Monday.

No, it was not on the mound, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner and former MVP turned 30 years old.

Kershaw has not allowed a run in Spring Traning and hit an RBI double on Sunday as fans serenaded him with "Happy Birthday."

In honor of his birthday, we thought we'd look back at his career with the Dodgers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Justin Turner Suffers Broken Wrist]]>Tue, 20 Mar 2018 03:32:11 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-926893952.jpg

The Dodgers just got a case of the Monday blues.

After a relatively uneventful spring training, the Los Angeles Dodgers were dealt some devastating news when it was announced that All-Star Justin Turner suffered a broken left wrist after he was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first inning against the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

"It felt worse than any other one," Turner said of getting hit by the pitch. "It's part of the game. It's unfortunate. I'll do everything I can to get back as fast as I can."

Turner screamed in pain when he was hit, and an audible noise could be heard throughout the stadium after contact. The third baseman immediately went to the ground, writhing in pain before the team's trainer came out to check on the wrist.

Turner did not take his base, or stay in the game, instead immediately left to receive X-Rays which revealed the fracture.

"It's a small non-displaced fracture," a visibly disappointed Turner said. "Obviously, this close to opening up the season it's not ideal, but we have a lot of good ballplayers and I don't think anyone is going to feel sorry for us. This is an opportunity to step up."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that he expects Logan Forsythe to move over to third base. The second baseman started 31 games at the hot corner for the team last season.

"An initial thought as far as a defender is Logan [Forsythe] is our best defender with an ability to play third," said Roberts. "Obviously, we have a lot of options at second base. Kiké [Hernandez], we have Chase [Utley], Barnsey [Austin Barnes] is a guy who can play second base. For right now, those are the thoughts."

Roberts hinted that Chase Utley and utility player Kiké Hernandez could see time at second base if Forsythe moves to third, and even noted that catcher Austin Barnes could play second base, possibly opening up an opportunity for catcher Kyle Farmer to make the Opening Day roster.

Turner was batting .333 with two doubles, two home runs and three RBI in 14 Cactus League games this spring and will see Dr. Brian L. Shafer, a sports orthopedic surgeon who specializes in bone and joints on Tuesday. That is when the team expects a clearer picture on what kind of timetable Turner is looking at it.

Normal recover time can be anywhere from six to ten weeks.

"It's baseball. Stuff happens," said Turner. "I'm going to do everything I can to get back as fast as I can and in the meantime there's a lot of good baseball players in here that I don't think we'll miss a beat."

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Here's How You Can Sit in the 'Kirk Gibson Seat']]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 18:59:04 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-451993122.jpg

"High fly ball into right field…She is…Gone!"

It was a roll of the dice in 1988, but 30 years later, it will cost you a roll of dollars. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Monday, that they will pay homage to one of the most historic home runs in baseball history, by creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit in the heralded seat where Kirk Gibson hit his game-winning walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. 

The seat is located in the Right Field Pavilion, and for years has been known as the "Kirk Gibson seat" to fans, but this season, it will literally be the Gibson seat as the former 1988 National League MVP will autograph the seat, which will be painted blue and located in Section 302, Row D, Seat 1.

"Every time I walked into Dodger Stadium, I always looked at the seat where the ball landed, and I'd say, 'Hey, look, there's Seat 88," said Gibson on a conference call Monday morning. "I'm not sure if that's what they're going to call it, but that's what I'm begging for them to call it."

Instead, the name will remain as the "Kirk Gibson seat," and will cost fans $300 to sit in the historic location. The package includes a companion ticket, two commemorative t-shirts, and all-you-can-eat food and drink.

The 2018 season marks the 30th anniversary of Gibson's infamous home run and also the 60th anniversary of the team being in Los Angeles. Gibson, is also slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium on March 29.

"Kirk Gibson was part of one of the greatest moments in Dodger history, and we’re thrilled to partner with Kirk to help him and his foundation raise funds and awareness in fighting Parkinson’s Disease," said Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Lon Rosen.

The following day, all fans in attendance will receive a Kirk Gibson bobblehead as the Dodgers square off with the rival Giants in the Opening Series at Chavez Ravine.

In addition to revenue from the seats, the Dodgers will also auction off 88 autographed bobbleheads along with game-worn jerseys signed by Gibson, with all proceeds going to Gibson's foundation for Parkinson's research. 

Gibson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2015, shortly after his stint as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

He splits his time as the television announcer of the Detroit Tigers and raising money for his foundation.

For fans too young to remember, Gibson hobbled to the plate on October 15, 1988, in Game 1 of the World Series as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Oakland Athletics' All-Star closer Dennis Eckersley.

Gibson was battling injuries to his hamstring and ankle during the playoffs, and could barely move in the batter's box. Nonetheless, he smashed a back-door slider on a full count into the pavilion in right field for a walk-off, game-winning home run.

The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series, with the home run and Vin Scully's call, going down in infamy as one of the most iconic in sports history.

"Over time, you realize the impact it had on the game and its place in history with the fans and the city," said Gibson. "We all got humbled by that home run. But it I can do it, others can. I'm not invincible." 

Ironically, on the day of the announcement, the Dodgers are playing the Athletics at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ.

You can purchase the pair of tickets to sit in the "Kirk Gibson seat," at www.Dodgers.com/Gibson

Photo Credit: Ralph Freso/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pacers Out Run Lakers 110-100]]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 18:42:13 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Pacers-3-19-18.jpg

On Monday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers started a four-game road trip in Indiana with a loss, 110-100.

Five different Pacers scored in double figures, led by Myles Turner scoring a team-high 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Victor Oladipo finished the night with 20 points, while Thaddeus Young converted nine of his first 10 field goal attempts for 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the win.

To start the game, the Lakers looked sharp and pushed the basketball up the court with fluidity. In the flash of an eye, Lonzo Ball collected six assists within the first eight minutes of the game, and the visitors looked to be rolling. Ball ultimately finished the night with eight assists in total, hinting at how the game progressed after the Lakers' fast start.

At their height, the Lakers led by 12 points in the final minute of the first quarter.

Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma, in particular, seemed like they were in the mood to attack on the offensive end. Lopez finished the game with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Kuzma tabbed a game-high 27 points, along with eight rebounds.

Unfortunately, the Lakers failed to close the first quarter, and the 12-point lead evaporated to eight points by the start of the start of the second quarter. Over the second and third quarters, Indiana took hold of the contest and changed the narrative of the night by outscoring the Lakers 63-43.

Starting from final minute of the first quarter and going until the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pacers outscored the Lakers by 26 points over 27 minutes to turn a 10-point deficit into a 16-point lead.

If one had to point to a single quarter, LA seemingly lost the game in the third quarter, when Oladipo, Young and Lance Stevenson led the home team in an onslaught that finished with a 35-point quarter for the Pacers and a 21-point quarter for the visitors.

By the time the fourth quarter came around, the Lakers trailed by 12 points and faced a mountain to climb. Almost immediately, the difference jumped to 16 points, and the result was no longer in doubt. Only the final score had not yet been determined.

LA cut the margin to single digits momentarily, but the Lakers never truly threatened the Pacers in the fourth quarter, and Indiana cruised to a 10-point victory.

With the defeat, the Lakers fell to 31-39 on the season. Meanwhile, Indiana improved to 41-30.

Notes: Julius Randle continued his strong play for the Lakers with 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the loss. Isaiah Thomas struggled with his shot for the second game in a row, starting 1/6 from the field. Thomas eventually finished shooting 4/14 for 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. Stephenson's 16 points off the bench outscored all of the Lakers' reserves combined.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Martin Truex Jr. Grabs 1st Win of NASCAR Season at Fontana]]>Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:54:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/AP_18077843319959.jpg

Martin Truex Jr. saw nothing but clean air and green flags down the stretch in his first victory of the new NASCAR Cup season.

Truex didn't get much of a look at Kevin Harvick, whose bid for four straight wins was ruined by an early crash at Fontana.

So even while Truex's Furniture Row Racing Toyota team celebrated, it was a wee bit disappointed not to get a duel with the early-season king.

"I think we would have had something for him today," team owner Barney Visser said.

Truex roared to victory at Fontana on Sunday, beating Kyle Larson by 11 seconds to claim the first win of the season for last year's series champion.

Truex won both stages before rolling to the checkered flag on his 16th career victory and his first since that glorious championship day at Homestead last November. His first career victory at Fontana even moved Truex into the overall points lead, thanks to Harvick's woes.

Harvick dragged his damaged car to a 35th-place finish after early contact with Larson ruined his day. But after dominating at Auto Club Speedway, Truex's team was no longer certain Harvick has the fastest ride in the field.

"It just feels good to win," said Truex, who became the third driver to win from the pole at Fontana. "I don't really worry about who else is fast. Obviously (Harvick) has been quick. They've got a great team, and Kevin is an awesome driver. But as we've seen today, we can put together a run as well."

Truex took the lead for good with 32 laps left by getting past Kyle Busch, who finished third. Brad Keselowski was fourth.

"People kept asking, 'When are you going to win again?'" said Truex, who led 125 laps overall. "'When are you going to win any stages?' Well, here you go."

When Truex got a series of post-race questions about Harvick, the defending champ suggested that Furniture Row proved early on that it can hang with Stewart-Haas Racing.

"That first pit stop was under green, and he came in pretty close (to me)," Truex said. "We left pit road, and I drove away from him. That was the only gauge I really had of that. ... I'm sure we'll have plenty of chances to race each other throughout the rest of the season."

Here are more things to know about the race at Fontana:

KEVIN'S SMACK: Harvick's bid to become the 14th driver ever to win four straight races ended when he hit the wall after side-to-side contact with Larson on the 37th lap. Harvick's flapping bumper was the most obvious problem, but he made a nice save down the track to avoid an interior wall.

Harvick took the blame for the mistake.

"I went down to side-draft and (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out," Harvick said. "I don't know that it's his fault. I think that's my fault for coming down the racetrack right there and trying to side-draft, and then as we touch, it just came back up the racetrack. I was just trying to get a little too much right there."

Harvick's car was repaired, and he managed to earn two standings points. Harvick had won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix before arriving in his home state for an attempt to become the second driver in this century to win four straight.

CLEAN SWEEP: Truex won both stages and a race for the third time in his career. He also accomplished the feat at Las Vegas and Chicagoland during his championship 2017 season. "I would have liked to be one spot better, but I couldn't even see Martin," said Larson, the race's defending champion.

JJ IN 9TH: Six-time Fontana champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth for his first top-10 finish of the season, ending a 10-race skid outside the top 10 — the worst such stretch of his career. Johnson's winless streak reached 28 races, also his longest in a career that began in 2001.

BACK AND FORTH: Truex and Busch traded the lead during the final stage, but Busch had a problematic pit stop that left his car handling poorly. Truex passed Busch for good with 32 laps to go. Busch was less than pleased afterward.

WHO'S HOT: Larson didn't let that early contact stop him from recording his best finish in 13 races since last season.

WHO'S NOT: Trevor Bayne's day ended on the 108th lap when he smacked the wall.

UP NEXT: Martinsville on March 25.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kole Calhoun Earns Place in Core of Angels' Lineup]]>Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:54:40 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/kole+calhoun.jpg

Of the 10 players in the Los Angeles Angels' starting lineup for a recent spring training game, only one had been with the team longer than Kole Calhoun. 

That would be the face of the club, star outfielder Mike Trout. 

Calhoun enters his fifth full major league season as a constant presence in a lineup of players who are new to the Angels, or haven't been around as long. He doesn't get as much of the spotlight as Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and certainly new two-way player Shohei Ohtani. But Calhoun is someone the Angels are counting on.

"Trust me, we don't take Kole for granted. He's part of this core and an important part of this core," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're happy to have him." 

Calhoun has been the Angels' everyday right fielder since 2014. Other players have come and gone, and even the right-field wall at Angels Stadium has changed. But Calhoun will be stationed in front of it yet again in 2018. 

"You kind of learn as you go and learn how to navigate this big league life. Different cities and different teams and better pitching and the game just keeps getting better and better," Calhoun said. "So you kind of grow with the game and learn on the job a little bit." 

Calhoun is coming off a season that saw him hit .244, the lowest batting average he's ever posted in his major league career. He hit 19 homers and drive in 71 runs.

With a group of proven hitters in front of him in the Angels' projected batting order -- including Ian Kinsler, Trout, Pujols and Upton, Calhoun is hoping to raise his average this season. He's been hitting over .400 this spring. 

"There was some things I worked out in the offseason. I wanted to see how they played out in the spring, and you know, it's going good so far," Calhoun said. "Using the whole field, got to be happy about that. 

"There's a lot of numbers that were still good, too. Everybody looks at the average. I look at the average and I don't like where it's at," Calhoun said of last season. "So yeah, you want to right after the season go home and get to work and try to get ready for another year." 

Calhoun won't get a chance to test out the new dimensions in right field until he returns with the Angels for an exhibition game against the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers later this month. The Angels moved the home run boundary down from the top of the wall down 10 feet to a height of eight feet. 

That means balls the left-handed hitting Calhoun might have hit for extra bases could be home runs, and the same goes for opposing team's balls hit to the wall beyond Calhoun's reach. 

"Obviously it's going to change some games. There's a lot of balls that bang high off that wall and stay in play, now it's a run," Calhoun said. "We'll see when we get there. It'll be fun and interesting and kind of a new challenge."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brandon Ingram Gaining Confidence on Sidelines]]>Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:33:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Brandon-Ingram-3-17-18.jpg

After suffering a groin strain in Miami on Mar. 1, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram has been sidelined for eight games, but the 20-year-old has been cleared to take part in non-contact work on the court.

"I feel really good, actually," Ingram said at Saturday's Lakers' practice in El Segundo. "[I] started getting back on the court for a few days, and [I'm] back smiling again, happy to be out here."

No set date has been circled for the return of the lanky forward, who often plays as a point guard when healthy, but Ingram explained the next steps in his return from injury.

"The next step for me is trying to get on the court and go against some of the guys, trying to ramp it up a little this week depending on how I feel," Ingram said.

The forward said that he hopes to be able to get in contact work in the upcoming week and sounded positive about how his body had been reacting to the on-court work he had been doing with regards to not being sore afterwards. Considering the Lakers travel on Sunday and play in Indiana on Monday, the next time the team gathers for practice will likely be in New Orleans ahead of Thursday's game in the Big Easy.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he plays on the road trip," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Ingram. "He's feeling much better, he says, but we're going to keep being patient with him and make sure he goes through all the proper channels before we throw him back out there."

"Hopefully, I can get to practice in New Orleans and practice with the guys," Ingram said. "It's been a long time since I've practiced with them. So, hopefully I can get out there and do some contact drills."

While watching from the sidelines, though, the former Duke Blue Devil has gained greater appreciation for his teammates and the improvements they've made.

Asked what he's noticed while watching from the bench, Ingram responded, "How good Julius Randle is. I watch every night when he gets the basketball and some of the shots he makes and how strong he is going to the basket. Seeing that no one can really stop him. You know exactly what he's going to do, but no one can stop him."

Ingram also added to his answer, "How good Kyle Kuzma has been on defense lately—his individual defense."

Beyond gaining confidence in his teammates, Ingram also said his time on the sidelines had helped his own confidence levels.

"I think actually, sitting there and watching, I've actually gained confidence in seeing that I can make that play at the end of the game," Ingram said in reference to the Lakers losing by one point on a missed shot the night before.

Asked about what he would have done if he'd been on the court against Miami, Ingram responds confidently with a smile, "I would have shot the ball."

The young man affectionately called "Jugg" by his friends as a reference to his physical resemblance to Jughead Jones from the classic Archie comic books is notorious for being addicted to basketball.

"It has been boring," Ingram said when asked about life in street clothes, especially considering the forward was initially not even allowed to get on the court and shoot. "I don't do anything else but play basketball."

Ingram added, "I picked up on sleep a little bit. I went bowling. I shopped a little bit too much. That's really all I did. I got to be with my family a little bit more than usual, so I think that's a good side about it."

Did Ingram buy get anything good in his shopping excursions?

"I'm always going for clothes," Ingram said. "I'm a little fashion guy. I think I need to get back to basketball. I'm doing a little overspending a little bit."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dragic, Heat Burn Lakers 92-91]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:29:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Isaiah-Thomas-Lakers-lose-to-Heat.jpg

Isaiah Thomas had the ball in his hands, drove left and got a look at the basket but came up just short moment before the final buzzer sounded, as the Los Angeles Lakers lost 92-91 in a back-and-forth contest against the Miami Heat on Friday night at STAPLES Center.

"Isaiah got a clean look though," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "We can't complain about that. I think he was probably a little cold. He had been on the bench for a while, but if you get an open look for someone like I.T. at the end like that, you live with that."

Julius Randle and Goran Dragic played starring roles for their respective teams on the night, with Randle scoring 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Dragic finished with a game-high 30 points, including the game-winning bucket with 15.2 seconds remaining in the game.

Instead of immediately calling timeout, Walton allowed his team to get the ball up the court and make something happen. With 7.5 seconds remaining in the game and the Lakers barely past half court, Walton called time out to design a play.

The coach wanted to get the ball in to Randle, but the Heat double-teamed the Lakers' player of the game, so Lonzo Ball in-bounded the ball to Thomas. The former University of Washington Huskie had only entered the game following Walton's late timeout after playing one of the more forgettable games of his Lakers' tenure.

Thomas ended up short on his attempt, and the game ended with the Lakers' backup point guard missing eight of his nine shots from the field on the night and recording five points, three assists and three turnovers.

In order to get Thomas into the game, Walton took out Brook Lopez. Lopez finised the night with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists, including four of six from three-point land.

Lopez and Travis Wear, the latter of which is on a 10-day contract, combined to hit seven of the Lakers' nine three-pointers on the night. Ball and fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma both made one of their three attempts from distance on the night.

Kuzma added to his tally after becoming the rookie record holder in made three-pointers a couple games earlier. Kuzma took the mantle from D'Angelo Russell, who made 130 deep daggers in his first season. Prior to that, the record had been held by Nick Van Exel for over 20 years.

With 132 three-pointers, Kuzma sat in front of his locker and said, "It's pretty special, anytime you have any record but especially with the Lakers. It's pretty special."

The 21-year-old forward added, "It's also pretty cool just the simple fact that everybody said, pre-draft, I couldn't shoot. It's pretty funny how it works."

Ultimately, the Lakers lost on Friday night in a close game against a team that has a winning record and looks like it will ease into the Eastern Conference playoffs. With the loss, the Lakers fell to 31-38 on the season, while the Heat improved to 37-33.

Walton, though, seemed particularly agitated with the loss and said, "They were tougher than we were tonight, which is really frustrating. I don't want to lose, but I don't mind losing when other teams make plays."

The Heat also collected five more offensive rebounds than the Lakers on the night. Walton lamented the team's 20 turnovers and the Heat's 18 extra field goal attempts on the night.

"We couldn't even make a post pass, which is the basic fundamentals of passing, so that is frustrating."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Lakers' Julius Randle Free Agency Dilemma]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 11:14:37 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Julius-Randle-Free-Agency.jpg

The Ides of a March, which is the 15th of March, was traditionally deadline day for the Romans to settle their debts, but it's perhaps more famously known as the anniversary of the day a rather large group of powerful people got together and publicly stabbed Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

Entirely unrelated to that random bit of history, the Los Angeles Lakers host the Miami Heat at STAPLES Center on the day after the Ides of March. The hometown's modern day gladiators, injured and exhausted, take that court on Friday night to perform for the fourth time in six nights.

With Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Channing Frye all ruled out for Friday night's game with various injuries, Alex Caruso reaching the maximum on his NBA days with his two-way contract and Kyle Kuzma's status up in the air with a sprained ankle, the Lakers are limping into a lengthy four-game road trip that won't see the purple and gold back at STAPLES Center for twelve days following Friday's game against Miami.

So, after 31 wins in 68 games, it's time to talk about Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle and where the Lakers are heading after the four game road trip and the final 14 games of what has undoubtedly been a positive season for the purple and gold.

The past few days have been eventful, as Isaiah Thomas came out and told USA Today's Sam Amick that he's not a sixth man on the same night Lakers coach Luke Walton game the 29-year-old his first start with the Lakers. Watching Thomas play since his arrival in LA, his demeanor and confidence on the court left little doubt about Thomas' thoughts before he ever opened his mouth.

Overall, the Thomas in LA experiment has been working out, and Walton tends to play the experienced point guard late in games—occasionally when he probably shouldn't.

All that said, Thomas' decision in the upcoming free agency will likely be based on dollar value, and if the Lakers don't land all their targets, Thomas could fit as a short-term, big money contract, keeping the Lakers financially flexible for the summer of 2019. Of course, at age 29, Thomas could not be blamed for taking a longer-term contract elsewhere, rather than waiting around to see if the Lakers fail in free agency and offer him the leftover scraps on a short-term deal.

While not out of the question, Thomas' return to the Lakers seems unlikely.

While Thomas' future and fit with the Lakers may be a fun thought experiment, the current conversation clogging up the calculating zone of the Lakers' brains is figuring out how exactly Randle fits into the Lakers' future. The Lakers drafted Randle in 2014, though he broke his leg and didn't play his first complete game until the 2015-16 season—Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott's farewell tour.

Over the two seasons under Luke Walton that followed, Randle has improved immensely, and the player and coach seem to share a special professional relationship that mixes in positive messaging, along with tough love. More than any other player, Walton had tested and tried Randle, openly admitting that he treats the forward differently than he does other players on the team. Walton would talk about expecting more from Randle than any other player on the roster long before the unique forward began to turn heads.

Now, Randle suddenly looks like a player the Lakers can ill afford to watch walk away. Randle has been his own special form of beast on the court recently, with one struggling to find comparisons for his level of play.

Over the past 11 games, Randle is averaging 21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and shooting 61 percent from the field. Over the stretch, the Lakers have won eight of 11 games, and the forward has seven double-doubles. With Randle starting and leading from the front, the Lakers have won 20 of their last 30 games despite a spattering of injuries taking hold of the team.

At age 23, Randle is still a full three or four years away from the age most players consider the prime of their careers. The former University of Kentucky forward, though, poses a bit of a conundrum for the team. If the Lakers truly believe they can get LeBron James and Paul George in the summer, the restricted free agent would have to be incredibly understanding not to sign an offer sheet if a team comes in at the start of free agency with an offer. Considering his recent play, one has to expect Randle will draw interest and an offer from other teams.

While James and/or George are still making their respective decisions, the Lakers may be forced to make their decision on Randle.

Only, Randle told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk in no uncertain terms that he'd welcome playing with James: Randle said, "I would love to play with Bron and learn the same things."

So, is it possible to keep both James and Randle, while also making space for George, who has seemed like the most likely free agent to commit to LA. Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, who is widely regarded as a salary cap expert, explained that if the team renounced every single free agent not named Randle, including the non-guaranteed players, the team would have roughly $48 million in salary cap space.

Then, the team would need to stretch out Luol Deng's contract for either five or 11 years to maximize its salary cap space but still fall short on giving George and James maximum level contracts by $3.3-$6.8 million if they held onto Randle, according to Pincus.

A trade involving Deng and packaged with draft picks would help the Lakers out, but that doesn't appear to be likely before the start of free agency—if at all. So, the Lakers simply may have to make a decision on Randle while the man famous for his drawn out "The Decision" announcement about leaving Cleveland makes his latest decision about, well, possibly leaving Cleveland, again.

If the Lakers decide to keep Randle, they'll have to work out a deal with Randle's agent, who also happens to be George's agent and let him know that George can only get a maximum contract if James passes on the Lakers. Funny enough, James will likely be sitting at his $23 million Brentwood home when he decides on whether he wants to go back to Cleveland, join his buddy Chris Paul in Houston or take his talents to Venice Beach.

So, can the Lakers keep Randle? Will the Lakers keep Randle?

At the moment, even the Lakers probably don't know the answers to those questions. If Randle is sacrificed for George and James, however, the front office of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka won't shed any tears. They walked out smiling ear-to-ear when they traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland for expiring contracts and a draft pick.

Noting that he's the last Laker remaining from Bryant's final season, Randle has slowly ascended to Caesar's throne as the team's leader on the court, and the Dallas native would be wise to keep alert to avoid being stabbed in the back in free agency.

With only 14 games remaining in the Lakers' season and the playoffs not a realistic target, deep dives ahead into free agency are inevitable. At the moment, the Lakers may not exactly know how to keep Randle, but one clearly gets the sense that the team wants to keep Randle.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Randle, Thomas Argue on Sidelines, Lakers Lose to Warriors]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 23:22:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Warrios-Julius-Randle.jpg

For the first time in over 20 years, the Golden State Warriors swept the Los Angeles Lakers when the purple and gold fell, 117-106, at ORACLE Arena in Oakland on Wednesday night.

Both teams came into the night severely hobbled and trying out unfamiliar lineups. The Lakers were without the services of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Channing Frye. Meanwhile, the Warriors did not have Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson or David West available.

So, Kevin Durant expected to carry a heavier load than usual for the home team. While the former MVP led all scorers with 26 points on 10/19 shooting, along with six assists and five rebounds, Durant didn't have an especially dominating night.

Instead, the Warriors managed to get positive contributions across the board and finished with seven different players scoring in double figures, including all five starters. Former Laker Nick Young scored 18 points on the night, while Zaza Pachulia exemplified the Warriors' balance with 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on the night.

The Lakers, meanwhile, relied on a three-headed monster to do the bulk of their damage. Isaiah Thomas earned his first start since joining the Lakers, and the point guard finished the night with 20 points and seven assists. Brook Lopez added 20 points, six rebounds and five blocks from the center position, while Julius Randle continued his strong play with a team-high 22 points on 8/10 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Lonzo Ball continued his shooting struggles and missed seven of eight three-point attempts on the night, which means the 20-year-old has only made four of his last 29 three-point attempts over a shooting slump that has extended to its fourth game.

Ball, though, continues to contribute all over the court and fill up the box score. On Wednesday night, the rookie finished the night with 11 assists, eight rebounds, eight points, two steals, a block and a memorable halftime buzzer beater.

Despite only getting two points from their bench during the first half, the Lakers miraculously entered the locker room level at 55-55 after Ball's tip-in.

Unfortunately for LA, the third quarter started with the Warriors going on a 15-4 run out of the gates. By the midway point in the quarter, LA trailed by a dozen points, and the game looked like it may get out of hand when Walton was forced to turn to his bench.

The Lakers' coach opted to insert Tyler Ennis into the rotation for the second half, and the move helped the second unit be more productive and stay in the game. Ennis finished the night as the only player off LA's bench to hit double figures with 12 points on 5/6 shooting from the field.

After three quarter, the Lakers trailed by seven points, and the idea of stealing a road game against the deformed Warriors didn't seem entirely crazy. Only, the Lakers didn't exactly look like themselves either, and the heavy minutes on back-to-back nights seemed to catch up with the short-handed Lakers.

After the Lakers drew within six points early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors expanded their advantage to double digits two minutes into the final quarter. From that point forward, the Lakers never got closer than eight points, while the Warriors led by as many as 15 points until the clock ran out with the home team leading 117-106.

Randle and Thomas Argue on Sidelines

Perhaps, the most meaningful moment of the game came during a timeout, when Thomas and Randle got into an argument and had to be separated by teammates.

"It's great, honestly," Randle explained the incident with Thomas to reporters in Oakland after the game. "We expect a lot out of each other. It's just communicating. We expect a lot out of each other. We want to win. We expect to win these games. We expect each other to play at certain levels, so it's just us being teammates. There's nobody I'd rather go to war with than I.T. (Thomas), so it's nothing personal. We're just trying to get the best out of each other and win the game."

Randle added, "It's great that we can come into games and really expect to win these games. We expect a lot out of each other. That hasn't always been the case in the past."

When asked about the incident after the game, Thomas explained the incident to reporters in Oakland as, "Just two basketball players competing. That's all it was--yelling."

After being told that his coach liked the incident, Thomas replied, "He should. We want the best for each other. We just want to win, and we're two of the leaders on a team that were competing.  And it was a misunderstanding at one point. And then, we talked about it, and we're good--as teammates should."

Thomas concluded, "I'm a leader. It's not me getting after anybody. It's just me leading. If I see something, I'm going to say something. And that goes vice versa. If they see something, they should say something. That's just how it's supposed to be on basketball teams."

Quotes via Spectrum SportsNet

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Announce Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 21:06:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/DYSBBNrU8AEM3Ym.jpg

Meet the new members of the Mob Squad. 

The Los Angeles Rams introduced their two new cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, at their training facility in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday. 

It didn't take long for the former Denver Bronco and Kansas Chiefs, old friends in the AFC West to start to act like best friends as they laughed and joked with members of the media during a brief press conference. 

"Oh, let's do it," Peters said of joining the Rams. "For me, I get to have another All-Pro corner on the other side, so now you don't know where you're going to go. And then when you've got a safety like Joyner and then you're adding Sam Shields and you keep Robey? Come on now. It's just going to be fun. You've got to find a way. Pick your poison."

Peters was referring to the team's re-signing of safety LaMarcus Joyner via the franchise tag, and Nickell Robey-Coleman who re-signed on Tuesday. Sam Shields was signed via free agency after playing with the Green Bay Packers the last seven seasons. 

The reigning NFC West champions began the offseaon by acquiring two of the best cornerbacks in the league in order to address a weak spot in the secondary which played its first full season under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

“This is a great day for our organization," said head coach Sean McVay "Anytime that you're able to acquire two players of this caliber, we'll take that all day. These guys are special players [and] they bring a great passion for the game."

The moves could not officially be announced until the 2018 NFL season oficially began on Wednesday.

"These guys are special players," head coach Sean McVay said. "They bring a great passion for the game. You can see these are both cerebral players, and then they have the physical talents to match up. Guys that love football, these are the types of guys we love to be around."

In order to assemble his arsenal in the secondar, Rams' general manager Les Snead needed to part ways with to stellar linebackers and fan favorites in Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn in order to make room for Talib and Peters.

"It's rare to be able to acquire two players of this caliber," said McVay. "So when the opportunity does present itself, you want to be ready."

In additon to their defensive captain and leader in sacks behind Aaron Donald, the Rams lost cornerback Trumaine Johsnon after the signed a $15 million/year deal with the New York Jets. 

The Rams placed the franchise tag on Johnson each of the last two seasons, but were able to acquire Pro-Bowlers Talib and Peters for significantly less money that it would have cost them to re-sign Johnson. 

Talib and Peters are excited to finally be playing alongside each other, and the duo who have seven Pro-Bowl selections between them are even more thrilled to join an upstart Rams team that had one of the single greatest turnarounds in 2017 under McVay.

"I saw a bunch of guys having fun," Talib said of watching the Rams last season. "They were playing for somebody who they believed in. You watch half the teams in the league, they just go through the motions and kind of collect a check, but there's another half of those teams, and playoff teams, they've got a coach who they respect, and whatever he's preaching, he's got guys believing that they can really go do it."

Despite the fact that Talib and Peters are among the best in the game at their position, it's their attitudes on the field, and their off-the-field problems that have many fans concerned. 

Talib has had legal issues off the field over the last 10 years, and famously shout himself in the leg after the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015. Last season, his rivalry with Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree reached a boiling point when the two fought on the field, each ejected from the game, and suspended for the following week's game.

Peters, was kicked off his college team at Washington, and was suspended for one game last season after he threw the referee's flag into the stands following an overtime loss to the New York Jets. During that same game, Peters was caught on camera arguing with a Chiefs assistant coach. 

"When we look back into the game, passionate players have always been the ones that got the bad rep of not being a team player and being selfish," Peters said of his reputation. "That's not the case for me. My ultimate goal is to be a winner. I was born a champion."

Time will tell how the two passionate players pan out, but one thing is for certain, the duo will be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and receivers in 2018.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LARams?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LARams</a> LIVE: Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib Introductory Press Conference <a href="https://t.co/JGLyq14XLY">https://t.co/JGLyq14XLY</a></p>&mdash; Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) <a href="https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/974042823933673472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 14, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Photo Credit: Nick Hamilton
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<![CDATA[Dodgers Renew Contracts of Seager, Bellinger, and Taylor]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:52:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-865576410.jpg

The kids are alright.

The Los Angeles Dodgers renewed the contracts of four of their young stars as Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and Austin Barnes all reached agreements on Wednesday morning.

Seager, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year winner will make $605,000 in 2018, with the reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year, Bellinger, receiving $585,000 for the upcoming season.

Both Seager and Bellinger were also given minor league salaries of $287,500 and $239,000 in the unlikely event that they are sent down during the season.

This is the second season in a row that the Dodgers renewed their contract on Seager who is eligible for arbitration next winter. 

"It is what it is," Seager said of the second year renewal.

Bellinger hit .267 with an N.L. record 39 home runs in his rookie season and will not be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2019 season.

Seager has not started a Cactus League game at shorstop during spring traning, instead batting in the DH during the team's games. 

Seager experienced elbow discomfort at the end of last season, but opted not to undergo surgery in the offseason. Thus far, Seager has played two minor leagues at the position and said he hasn't experienced any pain in the elbow.

"It was good," Seager said of the elbow after playing seven innings in a minor league game on Wednesday. "It was fine. Nothing arm-wise. I'm just trying to get reps and reads off the bat. It's getting my timing back."

Center fielder and shortstop Chris Taylor will make $575,000 this upcoming season with Austin Barnes set to make $555,000.

The team also reached agreements with Kyle Farmer ($547,500), Andrew Toles ($555,000), Alex Verdugo ($547,500), Ross Stripling ($555,000), Dylan Baker ($547,500), Wilmer Font ($550,000), Scott Alexander ($555,000) and Adam Liberatore ($565,000).

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Family Finds Yet Another Super Rare Ty Cobb Baseball Card]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 20:16:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/cobbAP_1603030154204291.jpg

What could be better than becoming a millionaire after finding seven vintage baseball cards while cleaning out your late great-grandfather's house? 

How about finding an eighth?

The family that two years ago made one of the greatest finds in sports collectibles history when they found seven Ty Cobb baseball cards printed between 1909 and 1911 have now found one more in the matching set. 

"It falls under the category of 'you can't make this stuff up,'" said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator of Newport Beach, California. The company verified the new card and valued it at $250,000. 

The first seven cards were in a rumpled paper bag that may well have ended up in the trash if someone didn't peek inside. 

"The initial discovery, it was a real shock to them," Orlando said. "They put the cleaning on hold for a while ... later they knew what they were looking for, and in a dusty box between two books, there was another one." 

The great-grandfather himself apparently had no idea that he was leaving a fortune to his descendants. 

"He wasn't even a collector," Orlando said. "He just held on to these cards that were most likely given to him after buying a particular tobacco product." (Baseball cards were associated with tobacco, not bubble gum, in their earliest days.) 

The family, which is from the rural South and wants to remain anonymous, intends to keep this one as a memento. 

There are now 24 known copies of the card featuring the famed Detroit Tigers slugger that on the back reads, "Ty Cobb -- King of the Smoking Tobacco World." 

That's less than half the known remaining number of Honus Wagner cards from the same time that have long been considered the holy grail of collecting. 

And while the surge in numbers for the Cobb cards may have diminished the value somewhat by making them less rare, Orlando said the excitement surrounding them, and the possibility that more could exist, have made up the difference. 

"Sometimes a card can be so rare that no one bothers to talk about it," Orlando said. "This raised the importance of the Ty Cobb card."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Beat Nuggets in Emotionally Charged Game]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 01:09:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-vs-Nuggets.jpg

On a festive Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets. 112-103, behind an impressive second half from rookie Kyle Kuzma and a vintage fourth quarter from Isaiah Thomas.

""It was a tough, physical game, and we were the tougher team, so we definitely took that from them," Thomas said after the game, though he laughed off the suggestion of the Nuggets and Lakers being a rivalry game.

Even if it wasn't a traditional rivalry game, the night began with a chorus of boos raining down on Denver's Jamal Murray during the introductions. The Lakers' faithful carried on expressing their distaste of the Nuggets' point guard throughout the game. In the latter stages, the crowd even took to chanting "Murray sucks," even when the Nuggets' guard wasn't at the free throw line or holding the basketball.

"Definitely heard the crowd, especially when we're shooting free throws," Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball said after the game. "I don't know if I like them screaming when we're shooting free throws, but I mean, I like the energy they had."

The aggressive atmosphere was reminiscent of Dwight Howard's visits to STAPLES Center following his decision to ditch town a half-decade ago.

Tuesday's game on the court, though, was anything but straight forward.

In the first quarter, the Lakers looked like they had revenge on their minds and jumped out to 13-point lead with Brook Lopez and Julius Randle leading the way with 11 points apiece. Lopez hit his first three trio of-pointers, and the Lakers looked ready to ride a supercharged STAPLES Center crowd to a victory.

Only, the second quarter featured 12 minutes where the Lakers missed 11 of their 12 three-point attempts and 15 of their 18 field goal attempts overall. At one point, the Lakers went nearly five and a half minutes without scoring a single point. Over that barren stretch for the purple and gold, the unusually loud first half home crowd lost its verve in concert with the Lakers losing their lead.

By halftime, the Lakers were caught up in a back-and-forth contests that saw LA leading by a single point entering the locker room.

After the intermission, the Lakers simply did not match Denver's energy, with Wilson Chandler particularly hot on the evening for the Nuggets. Chandler made 10 of his first 14 field goals and entered the fourth quarter with a game high 23 points and with his team leading by five points.

The Lakers would have trailed by significantly more entering the final quarter of regulation had rookie Kyle Kuzma not caught fire and scored 16 points in the third quarter. After only scoring two points over the first two quarters, the 21-year-old made three of five three-point attempts over his 12-minute shift in the third period.

"After that first half, I missed a couple of shots, I just tried to refocus on mechanics," Kuzma said after the game.

On the final play of the third quarter, however, Kuzma seemed to roll his ankle, and the rookie momentarily went to the locker room and had his right ankle taped up and was available to play.

"It kind of hurts now, but I just got x-rays, so I'm good," Kuzma confirmed that he had not suffered a fracture. "[I have to] just wake up tomorrow, see how it feels, run around."

While Kuzma was away, Randle scored five points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to lift the Lakers. When Ball hit his first three-pointer of the night with 7:40 remaining in the game, the Lakers took a 90-89 lead. Ball had missed his first six attempts from distance, but he hit a big shot for the Lakers in the fourth quarter.

"He hit a really big three for us, which is one of my favorite things about Lonzo: he likes the pressure of the game," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "But he also had eight assists and nine rebounds."

By the time Kuzma returned to the game with 6:50 remaining in the contest, the Lakers led by three points. Noticeably hobbling, the Flint, Michigan native nevertheless proceeded to hit his first three shots and helped the Lakers take a seven-point lead with five minutes remaining in the game.

The Nuggets continued to battle, but Isaiah Thomas wasn't interested in letting Denver back into the game. The guard that made his name scoring points in the fourth quarter came through in the clutch with 12 of his 23 points in the deciding quarter.

"If I play in the fourth quarter, I'll play and do things like I used to do," Thomas responded when asked if he's feeling like the "King in the Fourth" again. "[Walton's] giving me the opportunity to play and make plays, and the easy part is going out there and doing it."

Late in the game, Denver intentionally fouled Ball to mark the first time the Lakers had to deal with a "Hack-a-Lonzo" situation. Ball is an awful free throw shooter at 48.2 percent, so it's a wonder that more teams have not employed the strategy. The Lakers' point guard missed both foul shots.

"I'm not surprised at all," Ball responded when asked about the strategy to intentionally foul him, while also saying he had never dealt with that situation at any level of his career. "If I’m on the court, teams are probably going to do that. I just got to knock down free throws."

After that, the STAPLES Center crowd decided to voice its disapproval of Murray, who had drawn the ire of the Lakers' fans by his actions in previous meetings between the two teams. Eventually, Randle and Nikola Jokic had to be separated, and both earned technical fouls for their troubles.

Randle claimed Jokic tugged at his arm, and the Lakers' bruising forward did not appreciate the Nuggets' big man attempting the cheap tactic. Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed and no one was ejected from the game.

If nothing else, Tuesday night's game was chalk full of entertainment.

Notes: Chandler finished as the Nuggets' leading scorer with 26 points, while Murray tabbed 18 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss. Both Randle and Kuzma finished the night with 26 points, 13 rebounds and two assists. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bonnies Stun UCLA 65-58 for 1st NCAA Tourney Win in 48 Years]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 21:39:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/AP_18073127560554.jpg

The basketball was still high in the air — flung to start the celebration — when the buzzer sounded and the Bonnies' long-awaited March celebration commenced. Players chest-bumped on court. Coach Mark Schmidt jumped and waved his arms.

The crowd at the University of Dayton Arena — a place where St. Bonaventure is usually booed — got caught up in the moment, too. And why not? It had been 48 years since anyone saw something like this out of St. Bonaventure.

Courtney Stockard returned from a hamstring injury and scored 26 points, and Jaylen Adams hit a jumper and three free throws in the final minute Tuesday night, rallying the Bonnies to a 65-58 victory over UCLA and their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970.

At long last, it was time to party in March .

"It can't get better," Schmidt said.

They'll have more chances. The 11th-seeded Bonnies (26-7) will play sixth-seeded Florida (20-12) in Dallas on Thursday night in the East region. They did interviews, showered and headed for a flight to their next destination.

"Florida's got four or five days on us, so we'll be watching tape on the plane," Schmidt said. "We've got a 2 a.m. flight, but it couldn't be a better flight. Ever."

St. Bonaventure set a school record with its 26th win. Stockard got the Bonnies in position for the drought-busting tournament victory by leading a late 12-0 run. Adams — who missed 14 of his first 15 shots — closed it out in the final 49 seconds.

"I'm still not 100 percent," Stockard said, "but I'm feeling way better than when I did when I left the Richmond game. So I can't really let an opportunity like this pass."

UCLA (21-12) was surprised that it got relegated to the First Four for the first time in its history — the Bruins have been to 18 Final Fours. They had trouble making shots against the Bonnies' zone defense and matched their season high with 20 turnovers, a disappointing ending to a season that started with an international incident .

Freshmen Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball were accused of shoplifting during a trip to China in November. All three were suspended for the season, and Ball left the school.

UCLA's Aaron Holiday led the Pac-12 in scoring but couldn't put his touch on the First Four game. He scored 20 points but had 10 turnovers, including three in the final 29 seconds as the game slipped away.

"I felt like we matched them pretty well," Holiday said. "We just turned the ball over too much."

Adams is the Bonnies' all-time leading scorer as a guard but had a rough time as well until the final minute. He finished with eight points on 2-of-16 shooting.


St. Bonaventure: The undersized Bonnies lack depth and were glad to get Stockard back from the hamstring injury. He's scored 21, 31, 22, 19 and 26 points in the last five games.

UCLA: Holiday was the Bruins' indispensable player on offense in the last six games, averaging 26 points while sitting out for only 43 seconds total. The Pac-12's leading scorer got the Bruins going early, hitting his first three shots as they pulled ahead 14-5. He missed his next eight shots as St. Bonaventure rallied.


St. Bonaventure's 26 wins surpass the 25 by the 1969-70 team that reached the Final Four.


UCLA was booed by the Dayton crowd when it took the court. St. Bonaventure — like the Flyers, an Atlantic 10 team — got a loud ovation. St. Bonaventure also played at UD Arena on Jan. 3 and lost to the Flyers 82-72. That time they were booed, of course.


Holiday is the first UCLA guard to average at least 19 points in a season since Reggie Miller had 22.3 as a senior in 1986-87.


St. Bonaventure will try to win two games in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1970, when it beat Davidson, N.C. State and Villanova before losing to Jacksonville. The Bonnies had lost three NCAA Tournament games — in 1978, 2000 and 2012 — since that last win in 1970.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Former Raider Sean Smith Pleads Guilty to Pasadena Assault]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:23:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-894491324.jpg

Former Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith pleaded guilty Tuesday to assaulting his sister's boyfriend last July 4th in Old Town Pasadena, and was immediately sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation.

Smith, 30, was taken into custody after pleading guilty to one felony count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and admitting an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury on the victim, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Smith assaulted and then stomped on the victim's head near the corner of Arroyo Parkway and Colorado Boulevard on Independence Day, according to Deputy District Attorney Christopher Stogel.

The longtime boyfriend of Smith's sister was trying to intervene in a dispute between the siblings, the prosecutor said.

Smith was released Monday by the Oakland Raiders after two seasons with the team. A Pasadena native who attended William Blair High School, he played three seasons of college football at the University of Utah, beginning as a wide receiver before moving to cornerback. He played four years with the Miami Dolphins and three years with the Kansas City Chiefs before going to the Raiders.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Host Nuggets Only Days After Bust-Up]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:11:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Lakers-vs-Nuggets-3-13-18.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets have played three times, and all three of those meetings have provided memorable moments.

The first time the Lakers met the Nuggets, Lonzo Ball recorded his second triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds in a 127-109 victory at STAPLES Center to become the youngest player in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles. That was back in November.

In the second meeting between the two teams, Ball again played in a role in making the game memorable, but this time, the Lakers lost 115-100 in Colorado. In the closing stages with the clock running down, Jamal Murray decided to dribble around Ball as the Lakers' point guard walked towards the bench with the game decided.

It was a showboating play from Murray, who had a 28-point outing and decided to show up the rookie in the closing seconds. Off the bench, center Andrew Bogut took exception and looked like he was going to get rush the court until Julius Randle decided to take a hard foul on Murray with 3.0 seconds remaining. The Lakers did not take kindly to Murray's antics.

Both those early meetings occurred in 2017, but Murray's dribble still seemed fresh when the teams met in Denver on Friday, Mar. 9. At one point, Lakers coach Luke Walton seemed to get agitated with Murray to the point that he appeared to be shouting expletives at the Nuggets' player and toward's the Nuggets' bench.

Speaking to reporters in Denver after the game, Ball called Murray's antics "circus stuff," but the rookie point guard didn't seem to be interest in getting involved in a war or words or getting sucked into mind games.

Ahead of the final meeting between the two teams, which comes only five days after the Walton lost his temper on the sidelines, the Lakers' coach downplayed Murray any bad blood between the teams.

"No different than any other team," Walton said on Tuesday morning, making a point to mention that the Nuggets and Lakers aren't traditional rivals with any notable history.

Walton and Ball both claimed that Tuesday's game did not provide any extra motivation, and the coach said that he did not anticipate any retaliation against the Nuggets from his team.

When asked if he's good at ignoring people trying to bait him, Ball responded, "For sure, it's been happening my whole life."

Ball did say that his team and coach coming to his defense meant a lot to him, and the 20-year-old rookie added regarding Murray's antics, "That's two times in a row that he's done it, so we're going to see what happens tonight."

Injury Updates

Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Channing Frye were all visible shooting on the court at Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday. Walton shared that Ingram would travel with the team to Golden State for the back-to-back on Wednesday night, while the other two members of the walking wounded would stay back.

Ingram has already been ruled out for Tuesday and Wednesday's games, and the 20-year-old is expected to be reevaluated for his groin strain on Thursday.

Hart suffered a fracture in his hand and underwent surgery, so his activity on the court did not necessarily translate into being available anytime soon. Walton pointed out that Hart's hand is still swollen, so Ingram will probably be the first of the injured contingent to return to the court.

Frye is out due to an appendectomy he underwent during All Star break. The veteran is improving according to his coach, but the sharp shooting forward has still only gone through non-contact work on the court.

Travis Wear Signs Second 10-Day

On Tuesday, the Lakers also announced that former UCLA Bruin Travis Wear had signed a second 10-day contract with the team, and Walton said that the 27-year-old had "earned" the contract with his play.

Wear is shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three-point land in five appearances since starting the first 10-day contract. Wear has been positive on the defensive side of the ball, too, and Walton cited the forward's defense and willingness to fill in the gaps when explaining the decision to fill up the Lakers' final roster spot.

The second 10-day contract will make the 6-foot 10-inch forward available for another five games. The Lakers will hope to have Brandon Ingram back available by the time Wear's second contract ends. Teams are not allowed to give the same player a third 10-day contract, so the Lakers would need to sign Wear for the remainder of the season if they wanted to continue utilizing the Southern California native's services.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Feel The Bern! Bernie Sanders Gives Yasiel Puig Batting Tips]]>Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:30:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/BernieandPuig2.png

Feel the Bern.

As the temperatures in Arizona creep up to triple digits, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the heat turned up on Sunday when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders decided to visit the team's spring training facility at Camelback Ranch.

A native of New York, Sanders grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and announced through his Twitter page that he was at the spring training facility to convince the Dodgers to move back to Brooklyn.

The Former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was in Arizona for a rally in Phoenix, and for one afternoon, was able to create a change of pace from the monotony that is spring training baseball.

"My memories of the Dodgers go back a little bit before L.A.," Sanders told a small group of reporters wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers hat. "We were in Brooklyn. The Dodgers were more than a team. They were a way of life. The team meant the world to the kids of Brooklyn. I'm sure that's the case now."

Sanders signed autographs for fans, spoke to players, and stopped by the batting cages to give Yasiel Puig a few pointers.

Puig hit a career-high 28 home runs last season, but after mentioning a few tweaks he could make in his swing, Sanders thinks Puig could hit 30 home runs in 2018.

After his hitting session with Puig, Sanders headed for the manager's office where he tried to coax Dave Roberts into signing him to play shortstop.

"The reason I'm really here," said Sanders with a smile. "I think it would be great for the team to have a 76-year-old shortstop. What do you think?"

Seeing as how former Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager, has not started at the position this spring due to a sore elbow, Roberts mentioned that the team could use his services.

"We need a 76-year-old," joked Roberts. "You're right. I just want you to catch what you can get to."

Sanders trip to spring training coincides with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros visiting President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday.

The Astros famously beat the Dodgers in seven games at Dodger Stadium last November, with Games 1-6 proving to be arguably some of the best in the Fall Classic's history.

Nonetheless, that didn't stop Trump from incorrectly proclaiming during the press conference, "Game 7 of the World Series was one of the greatest games anyone has ever seen."

In his defense, he probably didn't watch any of the games.

Photo Credit: Twitter/@BernieSanders
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<![CDATA[Brandon Ingram Out At Least Two More Games]]>Mon, 12 Mar 2018 09:01:35 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Brandon-Ingram-groin-injury-update.jpg

On Mar. 1 in Miami, Brandon Ingram suffered a groin strain when Miami Heat forward Justice Winslow fouled Ingram in an awkward fashion. After an MRI confirmed the injury, Ingram was set to be reevaluated in about a week's time.

On Sunday, a week had passed, and the Lakers announced that Ingram had indeed been reevaluated and was progressing but would not be available for Tuesday and Wednesday's back-to-back games.

Now, the forward is set to be reevaluated on Thursday.

NBCLA.com briefly caught up with Ingram in the Lakers' locker room ahead of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the former Duke Blue Devil expressed that he was feeling better and itching to get back on the court.

Ingram told NBCLA.com that he had not yet been shooting, running or doing anything more than resting, which left the North Carolina native feeling a bit stir crazy. Unlike fellow injured Laker Josh Hart, Ingram isn't into video games.

At one point, Ingram even said that he was thinking about putting on his game jersey before going in for a weight lifting session because he missed playing basketball so much. The 20-year-old forward, who is so much of a gym rat that he had to be locked out of the Lakers' practice facility over the summer at one stage, said that he was set to finally get on the exercise bike, which was a welcome sign of progress.

The next official progress report will come on Thursday, with the Lakers hosting Winslow and the Miami Heat on Friday at STAPLES Center.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle Leads Lakers Over Cavs]]>Sun, 11 Mar 2018 23:37:42 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-vs-Cavs.png

On Sunday night, Julius Randle was the best player on a court that featured LeBron James.

Randle led the Los Angeles Lakers in a 127-113 win over James' Cleveland Cavaliers with a national audience watching. James has been heavily rumored to be a top free agent target for LA, and the buildup to the game featured a fan putting up billboards around town to recruit the 33-year-old. At STAPLES Center on Sunday, one courtside fan even turned up with a custom Lakers' jersey with "James" written on the back.

While James finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on the night, Randle had a career night and was the best player on the night for either team, which included James. Randle scored a career-high with 36 points on 14-18 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two blocks.

"He was really good tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Randle after the game, sharing a small joke he told the forward afterwards. "I told him it was nice having him back. I missed him for the last two games. But, he was pretty special, showed a lot of what he can do. The crazy thing is, I think he can still be better. He had some lapses on defense, where he had a hand down. I told him, I said, 'You are so gifted that if you want to do multiple things on every possession, you can.'"

Walton concluded, "He was unbelievable tonight and still has room for improvement."

Isaiah Thomas, who was facing the team that traded him earlier in the season, also had a standout performance off the bench with 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds.

After the game, Thomas insisted that his tumultuous tenure in Cleveland had not served as extra motivation, but the backup point guard had one of his best performances since joining the purple and gold.

"He was great tonight," Walton said about Thomas after the game. "The thing about Isaiah that's so good for our team is everything that we're yelling at the players from the bench about, he’s actually on the court telling them the same things, as far as getting them to the right sports. Some of those passes he was getting to Julius on Julius' role, that's what Julius needs to feel."

Walton added, "It's really nice having him out there as far as keeping us structured and organized with what we are trying to do."

Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, who joined Cleveland in the trade for Thomas and Channing Frye, also met the team that drafted them for the first time. Clarkson only made one of eight shots on the night and finished with four points and four assists in 16 minutes on the court. Nance, meanwhile, contributed 16 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes as a starter.

"It was weird, but it was fun," Randle said about playing against Nance and Clarkson. "Took me back to the practice days, just talking trash and going at each other. So, it was fun."

"It was cool," Clarkson said about facing his former team. "I definitely wanted to win, but they played well tonight. It was a fun game to play."

In terms of game flow, the Lakers and Cavs played relatively evenly for the first half, with LA leading by five points at the intermission. In the third quarter, though, the Lakers looked to Randle and found separation. The bruising forward scored 10 points and grabbed seven points in the period, and the Lakers outscored the Cavs 33-22 over those crucial 12 minutes to carry a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The final 12 minutes featured the Cavs never got closer than a 14-point difference, while the Lakers led by as many as 22 points over the final 12 minutes.

While James may have grabbed the attention in the lead-up to the game, Randle stole the spotlight and had fans talking about how the Lakers' current power forward would potentially look next to James.

It may have been James' weekend, but Sunday was Randle's night.

Notes: Lonzo Ball struggled with his shot and only made two of 11 attempts, including only 1-6 from three. The rookie did record seven assists, three rebounds and a steal with zero turnovers on the night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continued his strong play and made four of his eight three-point shots for 20 pints and six rebounds on the night. Kyle Kuzma added a double-double to the starting lineup with 14 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. Rounding out the Lakers' starters, Brook Lopez scored 22 points on 10-18 shooting, which meant he scored 20-plus points for the third straight game, while shooting 55 percent or better from the field in each outing.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA, CSUF Have NCAA Opponents]]>Sun, 11 Mar 2018 16:50:13 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ucla+fullerton+basketball.jpg

The NCAA Tournament beckons, and both UCLA and Cal State Fullerton now know who their opponents will be.

At Sunday's NCAA tournament bracket unveiling, the Bruins drew St. Bonaventure, while the Titans will go up against Purdue University.

The Bruins head into the NCAA Tournament short of momentum after their 67-78 loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals on Friday. It should be noted, however, that Arizona did go on to win the Pac-12 Tournament outright after beating USC.

While they've drawn 11th-seeded St. Bonaventure in the East Bracket, the Bruins' is a "First Four" game at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, meaning that should they win, UCLA will play sixth-seeded Florida in an East Region first-round game Thursday, March 15, in Dallas.

The Titans earned an automatic bid to the big dance after winning the Big West Tournament title for the first time since 2008 against UC Irvine on Saturday night. Fullerton put the Anteaters to the sword with a decisive 71-55 victory in which junior guard Kyle Allman Jr. earned Big West Tournament MPVP honors.

Fifteenth-seeded CSUF will take on second-seeded Purdue in the East Region on Friday, March 16 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Photo Credit: Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[LAFC Starts 2-0-0 with 5-1 Win Over Real Salt Lake]]>Sat, 10 Mar 2018 21:16:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Diego-Rossi-LAFC-beat-Real-Salt-Lake.jpg

On Saturday, Los Angeles Football Club, LAFC, went to Real Salt Lake and collected a 5-1 victory to improve to 2-0-0, a perfect start and top of MLS on goal differential.

LAFC's stadium, which sits on Figueroa Ave. next to the LA Memorial Coliseum, is still under construction, so the MLS newcomers start life in the league as traveling nomads until late April. After claiming a surprising 1-0 scalp away to the Seattle Sounders, LAFC traveled to Real Salt Lake to strike its next victim.

Saturday's match, though, saw the visitors trailing in the 20th minute.

LAFC's Canadian defender, Dejan Jakovic, lunged in recklessly as Salt Lake's Joao Plata stormed into the LAFC penalty area. A whistle blew, a man pointed to a spot, and the aggrieved party stepped up to take the penalty kick.

Plata failed to beat LAFC goal keeper Tyler Miller on the spot kick, but the 26-year-old Ecuadorian did managed to convert the chance on the rebound. Real Salt Lake led 1-0 despite Miller's heroics.

In the 30th minute, LAFC midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Marco Ureña combined to launch no. 9 Diego Rossi in on goal from the right side. The Uruguay may not yet be old enough to drink alcohol, but the quality of his finish argued otherwise.

One-third of the way through the match, the teams had played to an even 1-1. Foreshadowing LAFC's stampede of goals, the visitors took the lead only three minutes after drawing level.

No. 7 Latif Blessing got the final touch and took credit for a goal that involved Carlos Vela providing service into the box, Ureña controlling a bullet pass and finding Rossi. The 20-year-old Uruguayan tapped the ball to an on-rushing Steven Beitashourin. The San Jose born Iranian national, Beitashourin, claimed the assist when he thumped in a pass that found an alert Blessing waiting at the back post.

Real Salt Lake's calls for an offside flag went unheard, and the 2-1 scoreline held until the half but not much longer after that.

The 31-year-old Iranian national played a vital role in LAFC's next goal, too, which arrived fewer than two minutes into the second half. Rossi again picked out Beitashourin charging up the right side. The Persian full back played a first-time pass to the center of the box, and Feilhaber opened his scoring account for the season.

After a level 1-1 for the first 30 minutes, the final hour featured an LAFC rout of 4-0. Rossi collected his brace in the 81st minute, and Vela ended the day's scoring with a fifth and final LAFC tally four minutes shy of full time.

Vela assisted Rossi's goal and vice versa.

Even better than expected, designated players Rossi and Vela have been at the heart of LAFC's strong start. The designated duo's chemistry combined to create the lone goal in Seattle a week earlier, and both put their footprints down all over the park in Salt Lake City.

Two weeks into its MLS life, LAFC is top of the standings, and the star players are delivering.

Next, LAFC takes a three-week hiatus before traveling to the LA Galaxy on Mar. 31 in what promises to be the first of many LA derbies, or rivalry games, between the two teams. LAFC plays its first home game on Apr. 29, while the LA Galaxy don't visit Banc of California Stadium until July 26.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Collapse Late, Lose in Denver]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 22:47:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Nuggets-3-9-18.jpg

On Friday night, the Los Angeles nearly stole a road victory in Colorado, but the sharp shooting Denver Nuggets took advantage of the visitors' poor execution down the stretch to claim their 25th home victory in 35 tries, 125-116.

The Denver Nuggets started the night by hitting two three-pointers, and that set the tone for the evening. Denver would go on to make 15 three-pointers on 31 attempts on a night when giving an extra point for the long range try seemed unnecessary. Both team ended the night shooting at least 40 percent from beyond the three-point line, with the Nuggets finishing at 48.4 from three.

After starting with a couple treys, the Nuggets hung 37 points on the Lakers in the first quarter. In the second quarter, though, the Lakers returned serve with a 34-point outburst, and the game went into the intermission with the two teams only separated by three points: 65-62.

In particular, Lakers center Brook Lopez continued his strong offensive showing from a couple nights earlier. Lopez topped his 27 points against Orlando on Wednesday with 29 points on 12-18 shooting against Denver on Friday. After failing to record a single rebound against Orlando, the center grabbed five boards and two assists, but the 29-year-old free agent-to-be couldn't grab back-to-back victory for his club.

After leading 4-3 within the first 70 seconds of the game, the Lakers trailed all the way until late in the third quarter when they took a 91-90. The Nuggets had led by as many as 13 points, but LA seemed to always stay close enough to make a run. As mentioned earlier, the three-point shot was dropping for both ball clubs, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting five of his 10 attempts and three other Lakers making at least two three-pointers each.

On the road, the Lakers found themselves leading by three points at the midway point in the fourth quarter: 110-107. Then, they fell apart. The Lakers missed four shots and committed two turnovers before Lopez got a put-back dunk to stop the bleeding and keep the Lakers within four points.

While the Lakers had stumbled, Jamal Murray, Paul Milsap and Will Barton had found the bottom of the net and put the Nuggets in pole position for the win. Murray ended the night with a team-high 22 points, including 10-11 from the foul line, and eight assists. Milsap finished with 21 points and six rebounds, while Barton hit three of his six three-point attempts and tabbed 13 points on the night.

Lopez would follow up hit put-back dunk with another bucket to draw the Lakers within two points with 2:40 remaining in the game. That was as close as the Lakers would get. The purple and gold only scored two more points for the remainder of the game to record a dismal total of 20 points in the final quarter and only six points in the final six minutes.

Those final two points came via a tip dunk from Lonzo Ball, who had a positive outing in the loss. The rookie continued to stuff the box score with 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block. Though he missed seven of his eight attempts from distance, the point guard made six of his eight attempts from two-point territory.

Ultimately, allowing the Nuggets to score 30 points in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over seven times in the final 12 minutes and shooting 2-11 from distance in the fourth quarter doomed LA.

With the defeat, LA fell to 29-36 on the season. Next, the Lakers hosts LeBron James, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

Notes: All five starters for the Lakers scored in double figures. The Lakers added Derrick Williams on a 10-day contract ahead of the game, but Williams did not enter the game. Late in the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton seemed to be upset at something said by one of the Nuggets' players, and the Spectrum broadcast seemed to suggest that Murray was responsible. Murray had previously had a skirmish with the Lakers after dribbling around Ball in an earlier meeting after the game had effectively ended. Incidentally, the Lakers and Nuggets faceoff again on Tuesday at STAPLES Center.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[In LA, LeBron James Calls Billboards "Flattering"]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:25:03 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LeBron-James-LA-Billboards-3-9-18.jpg

On Friday, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers held a morning shootaround on the campus of UCLA, and of course, a question about the recent billboards put up by a super fan recruiting the three-time NBA champion to the Los Angeles Lakers found James' ear.

"I saw them online," James said that he had not seen any of the four billboards in person, though one of them is in Westwood, close to the campus of UCLA.

"I'm 15 years into my career and fans in cities want me to play for their team and have dreams, I think it's pretty cool," James said, while grouping the billboards in LA with a similar stunt pulled in Philadelphia recently. "Listen, my kids see things like that. They think it's cool. I think it's cool. It's flattering more than anything that a fan of a team or somewhere will want me to play in their city. It's very flattering."

James stayed mum on his potential free agent destinations and instead said he was focused on the Clippers on Friday night. That response, of course, is expected from a veteran that has been the center of attention and controversy since he was a teenager.

"I understand that I'm a free agent at the end of the summer, so I understand the frenzy that comes with it," the Ohio native, though, didn't pretend to be oblivious of the rampant rumors linking him to the Lakers. "It's not my first rodeo. I don't talk about it too much. Like I said, I'll handle that when it comes."

Then, James added a bit more fuel to the raging wild fires of Lakers rumors, "I understand that the conversation happens here because, first of all, they have cap space. And this league is much better when the Lakers, the Knicks and the Celtics are all good at the same time. That's just how it is, so that's what also creates the frenzy."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Send Local Arizona Students to Spring Training Game]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 02:14:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-926050126.jpg

The Los Angeles Dodgers are known for their community outreach in and around the L.A. area, but little know that during their six-week stay in Glendale, Arizona each year, that outreach continues.

For the third consecutive year, the Dodgers sent over 80 local students from a nearby Arizona charter school to attend a Los Angeles Dodgers Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch.

This year, the team picked up the tab and sent luxury buses to Heritage Elementary School, located just five miles away from the Dodgers Spring Training facility.

Each student received a Dodgers t-shirt, food, and the thrill of seeing a Major League baseball game. For many, that might not seem like much, but most of the students come from low-income households, so to arrive at Spring Training like a superstar is a memory they will never forget.

The kids arrived in style for the Dodgers March 1st game against the Cleveland Indians, a battle of two teams with the best records in the American and National League last season.

The students got to see a home run from Jake Peter in the seventh inning that put the Dodgers up 7-1, followed by a thrilling comeback by the Indians who scored six runs in the eight inning to tie the game, and one in the ninth to win it, 8-7.

Admittedly, the Dodgers were shorthanded at the time, as 26 different players were sent home the day before with flulike symptoms.

"I haven't seen anything like this," Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts told reporters. "It's a minor setback, I don't think it's much of an issue."

The outbreak that swept through the clubhouse turned out to be the norovirus, and it affected nearly half the team over a three-day span.

The team is still unsure of the origin of the contamination, but believe it might have been the hot tub located in the facility. 

A hazardous materials team scrubbed the hot tub, clubhouse, and weight room at the facility last Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation will continue to send local students in L.A. to various games throughout the season as part of their annual outreach.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Trade For Another All-Pro Cornerback]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 22:43:40 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873391142.jpg

The Rams are making money moves.

The reigning NFC West champions continued their busy offseason on Thursday as they traded for All-Pro cornerback Aquib Talib from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in next month's NFL Draft.

The move reunites Talib with his former defensive coordinator in Denver, Wade Phillips, who will enter into his sophomore season as the Rams defensive coach.

"Man, I'm so excited," said the five-time Pro Bowler on Thursday night. "I can't wait to play for Coach Sean McVay, go back with working with Wade, and playing with my young man, Marcus Peters. He's going to bring that young energy to me."

Talib was referring to former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters who was traded to the Rams last month.

"I'm super excited to play with those guys," continued Talib. "Aaron Donald is a good friend of mine, too, so I get to go from playing behind Von Miller to playing behind Aaron Donald. That's not too shabby. I got another MVP in front of me."

Talib was rumored to be reuniting with the New England Patriots earlier in the day, but by late afternoon, the NFL Network reported the trade to the Rams.

As part of the deal, the Rams will inherit all of Talib's six-year, $57 million deal signed with the Broncos in 2014. Talib is due $11 million this season and $8 million next season.

Talib and Phillips helped lead the Broncos to an NFL Championship in Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season.

Shortly thereafter, Talib famously shot himself in the leg during a night of partying celebrating the Super Bowl, but was able to bounce back and have an All-Pro season the following year.

Much like Peters, Talib has a strong personality and is no stranger to controversy both on and off the field. Talib was suspended for one game last season after fighting with Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree.

Talib was not the only addition to the Rams defense on Thursday, as Los Angeles has made a flurry of moves in the last few weeks.

On Wednesday, the team agreed to trade defensive captain and linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants in exchange for two draft picks. On Monday, they placed the franchise tag on safety LaMarcus Joyner, and signed former Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields on Thursday morning.

Shields made 23 interceptions, including the playoffs, from 2010-2015. He also won a Super Bowl with the Packers. But his 2016 season was cut short after one game after he suffered a concussion and he didn't play at all in 2017.

Ogletree spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Rams, and was the team's leading tackler last season. The first round pick out of Georgia in 2013, has been the play caller on the field for the defense for the last two seasons and was known as a strong leader in the locker room.

The flurry of moves likely means that the Rams will not re-sign All-Pro cornerback Trumaine Johnson. None of the trades can be announced until March 14th.

Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams, Chargers Ready to Sell Best Seats in New Stadium]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 22:01:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Stadium+Bowl.jpg

The massive football stadium complex at Hollywood Park is currently a bustling construction site. The $2.6 billion project won't welcome fans through its doors for another two years.

But the Rams and the Chargers are eager to show you to your seat.

Los Angeles' two NFL teams will begin selling season ticket memberships for their new stadium for the first time next week. Both will start with only their premium seating, offering an array of privileges and amenities befitting the sizable price tags for the best 13,000-odd seats in what could be the most expensive arena in the world.

With relocation fading into memory after a pair of winning seasons in LA, both franchises are eager to move into the bright future promised by the palatial project rising in Inglewood. The 70,240-seat arena will also host the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff title game and Olympic events in its first decade of existence after it opens in 2020.

"This has been a long time coming," said A.G. Spanos, the Chargers' president of business operations. "When I was at USC, we were talking about a new stadium in LA back then. This has been a slow pot to boil in Los Angeles, but the future is here. This venue is incredibly exciting."

In an office building in coastal Playa Vista, the teams will begin showing off the project to their fans on Tuesday, starting with visits from many current season ticket holders for both clubs. The sleek LA Stadium Premiere Center features detailed scale models, video hype reels and a staff with carefully curated sales pitches for the privately financed project spearheaded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

"It's exciting when you fly in and you see the steel coming out of the ground, or when you drive up and you see the stadium starting to take shape," Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said. "And now this is the first chance the fans really get to participate in being part of the stadium and seeing Stan's vision come to life."

The Rams and Chargers have also unveiled the first prices for tickets — and the prices for the stadium seat licenses that provide the opportunity to buy tickets.

Instead of selling the now-ubiquitous personal seat licenses, with which fans pay a sometimes-hefty fee for the opportunity to buy their tickets, the Chargers and Rams are selling a similar concept with a similar name, but one big difference: For the first time in NFL stadium history, that money will be returned to the fans — albeit in 50 years.

Instead of the naked cash grab of a PSL, the SSL is essentially an interest-free loan to finance the stadium construction. The structure also allows both the teams and the fans to avoid paying taxes on the licenses.

"We really feel like they are making an investment, and they're a shareholder in the team and the stadium project," Demoff said. "For us, rather than fan money going to taxes, it can go directly to the construction of the building. It builds a better building, and it requires no taxpayer money to do so. It's a unique concept that we expect will be replicated from here on out."

The Rams' stadium seat licenses will begin at $100,000 for the stadium's 500 "all-access" seats, located in two sections on either end of the 50-yard line. The Chargers' SSLs will be $75,000 for the same seats, which include food and beverages, access to clubs, special parking and the guaranteed opportunity to buy tickets to the Super Bowl and every other event controlled by the stadium owners.

Those prices are higher than the most top PSLs for many recent NFL stadiums, but significantly lower than the reported $150,000 charged by the Dallas Cowboys for their top seats at AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009. The 49ers charged $80,000 for the PSLs for the top 1,000 seats at Levis Stadium, which opened in 2014.

The Rams' remaining SSLs for the premium seats range from $80,000 to $15,000, with most falling in the lower category for club seats. The Chargers' other SSLs range from $50,000 to $10,000.

The Rams and Chargers are confident the structure will help as they persuade fans to pay for the licenses while knowing they'll get all the money back in 2068 — or at least their heirs will.

Once the SSL is purchased, the Rams' tickets for those premium seats are $375 per game, and the Chargers' are $350.

Both teams obviously will sell the other three-quarters of the stadium at much lower prices, and the ticket prices won't change during the stadium's first three years.

"It's very hard to compete at the highest level if you don't have a first-class facility, and that's something that our family has been working toward for a long time," said John Spanos, the Chargers' president of football operations. "We're excited that it's here soon."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Stadium]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers and Clippers at the Forefront of Female Leadership]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 21:41:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/171*120/GettyImages-925087958.jpg

Thursday is International Women's Day and both the Lakers and Clippers are celebrating strong female leadership, albeit in different ways.

On Wednesday night, Jeanie Buss, the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers watched as the Lake Show defeated the Orlando Magic, 108-107, for their sixth win in their last seven games.

Buss has had a tumultuous year: last winter she fired her brother Jim Buss the team's president of basketball operations along with the team's longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. Days later, she hired family friend Magic Johnson and has worked diligently on trying to turnaround one of the league's more historic franchises.

The Lakers will likely miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row, but will be guaranteed their most wins since the 2012-2013 season. Regardless of their record, the Lakers are trending in the right direction, and they are guided by one of the most powerful women in sports.

Down the hallway at Staples Center, the Clippers are gleaming from ear-to-ear, fresh off their announcement of a global partnership with the dating app Bumble.

On Tuesday night, the Clippers wore a Bumble patch on their jerseys for the first time, a branding move that marks the beginning of a multi-year agreement between two companies that have strong female leadership in male-dominated businesses.

The Bumble patch is known as the "Empowerment Badge," and is meant to inspire and advance gender equality in sports. In the year of the #MeToo movement, and Frances McDormand's "Inclusion Rider," during her 2018 Oscars speech for Best Actress, the badge will serve as a powerful reminder to include different perspectives and backgrounds in the workplace.

The partnership will also extend to youth by expansion of the Clippers’ community initiatives to strengthen the skills, confidence and knowledge necessary for young women to achieve their full potential.

Bumble’s partnership with the Clippers was inspired by the NBA’s global footprint and the recognition that the Clippers are one of the most progressive organizations in sports and entertainment, led by the NBA’s largest female leadership team, which includes Gillian Zucker, the only female to hold the title of president among NBA teams.

“Never before has a major professional sports team partnered in this way with a female-driven brand like Bumble,” said Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble Founder and CEO. “It’s an honor to partner with an organization as progressive and compassionate as the Clippers. Like us, they know generating awareness for diversity and gender equality is critical to business success.”

“Through Steve Ballmer’s leadership, the Clippers have a clear commitment to diversity and equal opportunity,” said Zucker, Clippers President of Business Operations. “From our players on the court to our leadership team, we are proud to stand with Bumble and do our part to emphasize that diversity and gender equality in the workplace is essential to organizational excellence. Bumble’s message and technology provide a platform for women in new and non-traditional spaces and it’s important to the Clippers that we innovate and reach our fans wherever our fans are.”

Bumble prioritizes investing in partnerships with companies who share its brand values. Moving forward, Bumble will continue to commit marketing dollars to working with brands that have strong female representation in executive management, as well as an emphasis on mentoring the next gen of female rising stars.

To view the debut of the “Empowerment Badge” click HERE.

Since 2014, Bumble has facilitated over 500 million women-led first moves and over four billion messages sent. Bumble is free and available from the App Store and Google Play

About Bumble:

Since its launch in 2014, Bumble has grown to become one of the most relevant social networks worldwide. Today, Bumble, the "female first" app with over 26 million users, connects people across dating, friendship, and professional networking. No matter the type of relationship, women make the first move on Bumble. Bumble recognizes the importance of relationships and how crucial they are to a healthy, happy life. They've built their platform around kindness, respect, and equality – and their users play an important part in that. Bumble holds its users accountable for their actions and has zero tolerance for hate, aggression, or bullying. Bumble is available in 144 countries. Since 2014, Bumble has facilitated over 440 million women-led first moves and over four billion messages sent. Bumble is free and available in the App Store and Google Play.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Edge Magic 108-107 in Bizarre Finish]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 03:41:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Magic-Brook-Lopez.jpg

On Wednesday night at STAPLES Center, the Los Angeles Lakers escaped with an odd 108-107 victory with Brook Lopez acting as the hero on a night when the veteran center scored 27 points and stepped up to hit the game-tying and game-winning free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining.

Wednesday's game started with the Lakers seeming to forget how to play defense and falling behind by 15 points early.

"We weren't engaged in the fight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said regarding the slow start from his team. "(The Magic) were playing more physical than we were. They had 22 points in our paint in the first quarter."

Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 28 points on the night and started by throwing down a couple highlight dunks. At one point in the opening quarter, Gordon had 12 points to match the Lakers' 12 points as a team.

As would be expected, the Lakers tightened up and began to get into their groove. LA closed the gap to single digits by the end of the quarter and entered the second period trailing by single digits.

In that second quarter, LA's defense came to life, as did Isaiah Thomas' jump shot. Thomas would make three of his four long range attempts in the first half and also managed to combine well with Ivica Zubac and Julius Randle. Thomas entered the intermission with nine points, two rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes, which helped cover up a couple forgettable turnovers the backup point guard committed.

In the third quarter, Lonzo Ball caught fire and hit his first five shots after only shooting 1/7 in the first half. In addition, Ball made a spectacular defensive play where he ran in a full sprint down the court and managed to catch up to Jonathan Isaac and save two points. On the play, Ball managed to simultaneously display his under-rated athleticism, as well as his heralded basketball instincts.

"That's just a winning play," Walton said about Ball's play.

The coach added, "When he plays, he makes winning plays all over the court."

In addition to Ball, starters Kyle Kuzma and Randle had already tabbed double-doubles by the time the fourth quarter began. Randle finished the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Kuzma added 20 points and 10 rebounds in a solid performance for the rookie.

By the end of three quarters, the Lakers led by two points.

In the fourth quarter, Thomas began to control the tempo with Kuzma and Brook Lopez building on their earlier offensive outputs. Thomas finished with 13 points and nine assists, tabbing six of those assists in the fourth quarter.

With Lopez and Kuzma both topping the 20-point mark, the Lakers jumped out to a 12-point advantage with 5:20 remaining in the game.

"It felt like we started playing like we had won the game a little bit," Walton remarked about what happened next.

Orlando would cut that difference to six points a couple minutes later. The Magic continued to claw and chip away at the lead until it was a four point difference at the one-minute mark. With 30 seconds remaining, the Lakers were hanging onto a one-point lead with momentum squarely on Orlando's side.

After Ball missed a three-point heave, Gordon increased his personal tally to a game-high 28 points on a running layup to give the Magic a one-point lead with only 5.0 seconds remaining.

"We don't know how to win yet," Thomas said after the game. "It's obvious. We have a young group. We're not executing down the stretch."

Facing a spirit breaking defeat and with the game on the line, Walton opted to toss the ball into Lopez, who had Thomas later referred to as "the best player on the floor tonight."

After making a strong move, Lopez got fouled and earned two clutch free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining. The first make tied the game, and the second one game the Lakers a lead.

With 0.6 seconds remaining, the Magic called at timeout to advance the ball and hoped to get a tip-in for the win. That's when this game turned bizarre. After the ball was tossed in and before any player had touched the it, the game clock expired.

After convening, the referees decided on a jump ball rather than having the Magic re-attempt the play because the ball was in the air when the the clock malfunctioned. As a result, a jump ball with 0.6 seconds all but guaranteed the Lakers a victory.

"I was initially upset because we stopped the play," Walton said about the ruling. "We go the deflection, so I was upset that happened. Obviously, when I heard the explanation, (Magic coach) Frank [Vogel] was a little bit more upset than I was. That is a tough rule. I was unaware of that rule."

Lopez, who won the jump ball to end the game, said, "That was bizarre. I guess we had the game-winning jump ball."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA-Bron Billboards Go Up in LA For LeBron James]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 20:27:42 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LeBron-James-Lakers-Billboards.jpg

LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles.

Well, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in town to play the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers on the upcoming weekend, and one self-described "super fan" is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to wanting James on the Lakers.

Personal injury attorney Jacob Emrani regularly runs ads on LA radio stations, but he opted for a different technique to recruit James. Emrani wants James to choose Southern California as his free agent destination, so he's put up billboards around the city.

According to ESPN, Emrani paid for four billboards after Cleveland and Philadelphia put up similar marketing pitches in recent weeks. On the billboards, Emrani chose to write "LABron," which obviously mixes "LA" and "LeBron." In addition, the billboard reads, "Cleveland and Philly, You Can't Compete With LA." The sign also features a no. 23 jersey and a crown in reference to James' number and nickname of "King."

Finally, Emrani added, "Paid for by Super Fan" and put up a URL to his professional website. Regardless of his intentions as a fan, one can't help but notice that the billboards are also a marketing ploy for his law firm.

James expects to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018, and the Los Angeles Lakers have put themselves in position to sign the 2018 All Star Game MVP. The Lakers have been rumored to be interested in James' services, but of course, 29 other teams would likely also be interested in a player that could go down as the greatest basketball player of all time by the time he retires.

James will turn 34 during the 2018-19 season, so his best years are behind him, but he is still a franchise changing player that has made seven straight NBA Finals. In fact, the last time James did not make the finals, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in 2010, and Kobe Bryant won his fifth and final NBA championship.

While these billboards are not team sanctioned, the Lakers did put on a campaign that featured billboards when Dwight Howard was a free agent. The "Stay D12" campaign did not work as intended, and Howard chose to go to Houston in free agency. Considering the center's play since his departure, the Lakers seemingly dodged a bullet. Still the point remains that billboard advertising doesn't seem to be the most effective method to convince superstar players to sign with an NBA team.

Regardless, James will be in LA for the weekend and will likely at least hear about the billboards. While the Lakers cannot officially recruit James until the summer, fans like Emrani are free to make their feelings known without penalty.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Channing Frye Tells Story of Appendix Surgery]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 13:54:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Channing-Frye-Appendix.jpg

On Monday, Channing Frye suddenly appeared in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room after having emergency surgery over All Star break to remove his appendix, and the forward took time to share the story at his locker.

"If it had burst, I probably would be dead," Frye says about his appendix. "Because I'd been on a lot of airplanes, so when you get it, you have to get emergency surgery."

Frye had been in Cleveland, met the Lakers in Dallas after being traded by the Cavs at the trade deadline. Then, the team returned to Los Angeles to practice before taking a flight to New Orleans. From there, Frye went to Minnesota with the team before returning to Cleveland for personal reasons.

Frye explains why he may not be here to tell the story if his appendix had burst, "If it had burst on more than a three-hour flight, they would have had to have an emergency stop."

Luckily, Frye and the doctors caught the issue before anything like that occurred, but that was due more to chance than to planning.

"I thought it was a pulled groin," Frye tells the story. "I had just been grinding through the pain. Talked to the doctors, and we had agreed like 'Let's get an MRI.' The MRI doctor was kind of freaked out. He was like 'Are you sick? Are you OK?' He was like, 'You're going to need to have surgery today, immediately.' The first day of All Star break—so lucky me.

"Luckily, it didn't burst or do any of that. It's just a weird thing because they had to take it out through my belly button, so they had to twist my belly button back, so I have a scar. But it's good. It could be worse. It could be worse."

Laughing about going Hollywood, Frye adds, "I had an outie. Now I have an innie. It's very aesthetically pleasing, especially I'm near the beach now."

The veteran forward admitted that he didn't know what an appendix was and looked it up on WebMD after getting the surprising news that he would need surgery.

"I'm thinking he's going to tell me I have a pulled groin. And he's like, 'No, go see this doctor, go to the hospital. You're going to have surgery tonight. So, I sat at the house, me and wife, for three days.

"Getting surgery on your stomach sucks—coughing, sneezing, laughing hard. I had a pillow, and you just hold it."

For anyone wondering, Frye doesn't miss the appendix, and now, he can move his leg without pain. So, he's more than happy to have it removed from his body.

"They sent me a picture," Frye says his appendix was three times the size of any picture that pops up on a Google search. "It's gross. They kept that thing. It's disgusting. It's huge."

As of Wednesday, Frye had been cleared to take part in on court non-contact activities, as he slowly worked his way back to being available.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Damian Lillard Catches Fire, Torches Lakers' Streaks]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 02:02:14 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Damian-Lillard-3-5-18.jpg

"Dame Time" is an expression familiar to fans of the Portland Trail Blazers, and on Monday night, Damian Lillard took pains to act out the expression's meaning during the fourth quarter of Portland's 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, including a stretch where he hit four straight three-pointers. When the ashes settled, a stunned STAPLES Center crowd walked out on the Lakers' first home defeat since Jan. 5. Along with snapping a nine-game home streak, the Lakers also snapped their five game winning streak after winning their previous four games on the road.

This was an odd game on several levels.

First of all, the Lakers started the game ice cold and missed 11 of their first 14 shots to fall behind by double digits within the first 10 minutes.

Thanks largely to Isaiah Thomas off the Lakers' bench, Portland only led by three points at the end of the first quarter.

Then, the second quarter provided more lackluster play from LA and the Blazers jumping out to a 14-point advantage. A couple quick three-pointers, and the Lakers had cut the deficit to six points and ended up going into the intermission only trailing by three points.

When the second half started, the Lakers seemed determined to attack. Julius Randle, in particular, began to dominate the game and gave the Lakers the lead 64 seconds into the third quarter. Back-to-back three-pointers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Lakers led by 12 points seven minutes into the second half.

With 5:26 remaining in the game, the Lakers led by 11 points and looked set to cruise to their sixth straight win and 10th straight win at STAPLES Center. They had controlled the second half and maintained the right level of intensity, even if Lonzo Ball seemed off his game and Thomas struggled to find his stroke.

But then, Lillard took over the game.

The Blazers' point guard gave Portland its first lead of the quarter with a 29-foot three-pointer with 3:14 remaining in the game. It was the third three he had hit in less than a minute of game time. The 27-year-old's previous three-pointer had tied the game.

Lillard his his fourth and final three pointer with 2:22 remaining in the contest, stunning a standing sold out crowd at STAPLES Center and giving the Blazers a four-point lead. Moments later, the crowd regained its enthusiasm when Ball hit a clutch three-pointer and tied the game at 103-103 with 1:51 remaining in the game.

The Lakers did not score another point, and all five of the Blazers' winning points came from the foul line. But that hardly explains the bizarre finish.

After Lillard and Josef Nurkic combined for three free throw makes, the Blazers held a three-point edge. On the ensuing possession, Caldwell-Pope missed a layup and the Blazers took possession with 56.2 seconds remaining.

The Blazers milked the clock, and the Lakers finally got a stop when Lillard missed a step-back three pointer. Only, the point guard ended up with the rebound. After milking the clock again, Nurkic proceeded to miss at the rim, but Shahbazz Napier got his hands on the offensive rebound.

Napier got the ball to C.J. McCollum, who was fouled with 7.7 seconds to play. McCollum, who is an 84.5 percent foul shooter for his career, proceeded to miss both free throws. Randle collected the rebound and called timeout.

The Lakers now had the opportunity to tie the game with a three-pointer. Only, before the Lakers could inbound the ball, McCollum fouled Caldwell-Pope, so the Lakers got one free throw and the ball back.

Thomas, who is an 87.7 percent foul shooter for his career and had hit all eight of his free throws on the night to that point, missed the crucial free throw. So, the Lakers now had to launch a three-pointer to tie the game.

After a less than confident entry pass to center Brook Lopez, the 7-footer gave the ball to Thomas. As Thomas rose to shoot, Napier got his hands on the ball and denied the attempt.

Lopez fouled Napier, who converted both his free throws and gave the Blazers their seventh straight victory. Portland is currently third in the Western Conference.


-Randle finished with a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals and was one of only two Lakers that shot 50 percent or better. The other was Ivica Zubac, who made two of his three field goals on the night.

-Ball seemed off his game and finished with 10 points, two assists, two rebounds and two steals, which are modest numbers for the guard renowned for filling the box score. Ball did hit three of his seven three-point attempts on the night.

-The Lakers only made one more three-pointer than Portland despite attempting 14 more long range attempts. Portland finished with three players scoring in double figures, while the Lakers finished with six scorers in double figures.

-Lillard finished with 39 points, six assists and five rebounds on the night. McCollum was next in the fantasy spotlight with 22 points, five assists, five rebounds and one assist.

-Travis Wear, who is on a 10-day contract, played well for the second game in a row. The former UCLA Bruin finished the night with three blocks, six rebounds and five points in 16 minutes on 2-5 shooting from the field.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Spring Training Interviews and Highlights]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 09:57:54 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DodgersST_1200x675_1177644099593.jpg

Highlights and interviews from the first three weeks of the Los Angeles Dodgers Spring Training Camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.]]>
<![CDATA[Is the NCAA Headed for March Sadness?]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 15:19:41 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GOING_ROGGIN_NCAA_FBI_SCANDAL_1200x675_1177299011909.jpg

As players and coaches around the country are named in the FBI’s NCAA investigation Pac-12 schools are trying to clear their names of any wrongdoing. FS1’s Rob Parker and KPCC’s A Martinez tell Fred Roggin that the NCAA will soon be a thing of the past. Originally Aired on Going Roggin on March 4, 2018.

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<![CDATA[Rapid Fire: Is Lonzo’s Shot “Fugly?”]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 15:18:49 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GOING_ROGGIN_RAPID_FIRE_03_04_18_1200x675_1177305155521.jpg

Is Lonzo Ball’s shot the worst in the NBA? Fred Roggin asks KPCC’s A Martinez and FS1’s Rob Parker that, and who’s more likely to land Lebron: Philly, or LA? Originally Aired on Going Roggin on March 4, 2018.

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<![CDATA[Did Darnold Make a Huge Mistake at NFL Combine?]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 15:17:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GOING_ROGGIN_DARNOLD_ROSEN_COMBINE_1200x675_1177304643677.jpg

It’s “Goff or Wentz” all over again. Josh, or Sam. USC Quarterback Sam Darnold elected to not throw at the NFL Scouting Combine, relying on the upcoming Trojans’ Pro Day to pad his numbers. The All-Pac-12 QB risks losing ground over crosstown-rival UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who impressed scouts in Indianapolis. Who will go first come draft day? FS1’ Rob Parker and KPCC’s A Martinez tell Fred Roggin what they think. Originally Aired on Going Roggin on March 4, 2018.

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<![CDATA[Are the Clippers Better Off Without Blake Griffin?]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 14:40:38 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GOING_ROGGIN_BLAKE_TRADE_IMPACT_1200x675_1177222723638.jpg

A month after trading away Blake Griffin, the Clippers find themselves just out of the playoff picture. Has the trade paid off for the team? Or do they need to sell the farm and build from the ground up. FS1’s Rob Parker and KPCC’s A Martinez told Fred Roggin that Doc Rivers and the front office need to do more. Originally Aired on Going Roggin on March 4, 2018.

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<![CDATA[The Vault: Man vs. Machine]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 14:10:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GR_VAULT_ROGGIN_ROBOT_1200x675_1177258563549.jpg

They're coming for our jobs! Fred Roggin takes on a robot in a series of sporting challenges in this segment from 1983.]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Shootaround: Brandon Ingram Out with Groin Strain]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 13:46:40 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Brandon-Ingram-groin-strain-Lakers.jpg

On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers held a morning shootaround in El Segundo and shared that an MRI had revealed a left groin strain for Brandon Ingram and that the forward would be reevaluated in approximately one week.

Ingram suffered the injury on a foul and hard fall in Miami, where he did not finish the game, and subsequently missed the Lakers' comeback victory in San Antonio. At the minimum, Ingram will miss four games with the strain.

"Obviously, I was hopeful it was only a bruise type of thing," Lakers coach Luke Walton said, while refusing to rule out a return on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Walton added, "(Ingram's) done a lot for us. It's not just his scoring that we're going to miss. He's really been a huge piece in the success we've had recently in playing the point guard position, playmaking, really stepping up the way he rebounds the ball, using his length to get in there and help us finish off our possessions on defense, his versatility, the amount of positions he could guard--there's a lot that we're trying to figure out a way to fill in for without him out there on the court."

In addition to everything Walton mentioned, Ingram also shot 52.2 percent from beyond the the three-point line in February and is the team's leading scorer at 16.1 points per game.

"I don't think I was surprised," Ingram said about learning the details of his injury, claiming to have had a similar issue previously. "I pretty much knew what it was exactly when it happened."

Ingram added, "I'm happy it's not that serious where I can't be back on the floor with my teammates (soon)."

In addition to Ingram, the Lakers will also be without Josh Hart after the rookie returned home early from Miami and underwent surgery on a fracture suffered in practice. The timeline for Hart's return was listed at 4-6 weeks with the season expiring in fewer than six weeks.

As such, Hart could potentially miss the remainder of the season.

"I think I kind of showed that I can be productive in this league, so that's always good," Hart said when asked to evaluate his season, if he's unable to return before the season wraps. "But hopefully, I'll be able to get back out there."

Walton referred to Hart as the team's best post defender and also pointed to Hart leading the team from distance at 39.7 percent when talking about the team's current injury crisis.

Asked if the team planned to use the open roster spot to bring a player in a wing role on a 10-day contract to held soften the blow from the two injuries, Walton confirmed with conviction, "Yea, we're looking at more players right now."

Of course, Sunday's news of Walton's former teammate winning an Academy Award trickled into the shootaround questions, and Walton said he was happy for Bryant was far from surprised. When told that Bryant had said something to the effect of winning an Oscar meaning more than winning an NBA championship, Walton seemed dumbfounded.

"He said that?" Walton asked. "With a straight face? I didn't see it, but I imagine there's some sarcasm in there. But hey, that's his call."

When asked if he'd rather win an Oscar or a championship, Walton immediately responded, "Championship."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball, Isaiah Thomas Combo Working For Lakers]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 04:06:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

After Kobe Bryant grabbed the national spotlight by winning an Oscar on Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers return to STAPLES Center on Monday riding a five-game winning streak and a perfect post-All Star break start.

At home, the Lakers have not lost since Jan. 5, a streak that can extend to 10 straight games with a win over Portland on Monday. In fact, the Lakers have won 17 of 24 total games dating back to the start of the current home streak, and Lakers coach Luke Walton had to coach 16 of those games without star rookie guard Lonzo Ball. Add in a trade deadline move that led to three straight losses, and even the 17 wins in 24 games doesn't seem to do the Lakers' current level of play justice.

Certainly, the Lakers are playing better than their 28-34 record suggests.

The Lakers are playing winning team basketball with Ball back healthy and new trade addition Isaiah Thomas helping carry the short-handed team. Josh Hart underwent surgery on a fracture in his hand, so he's likely out for the remainder of the season, and Brandon Ingram sat out Saturday's game with a hip injury.

The Truth About Lonzo Ball's Shot

On Saturday, Ball opened a few eyes with his trio of three-pointers in the final three minutes of a come-from-behind victory in San Antonio. Two of those three-pointers gave the Lakers the late lead, highlighting the clutch nature of those shots and the confidence with which Ball shot them.

Ball, though, has been far more proficient with his outside shot than his season average of 33.6 percent suggests. The Lakers' season started on Oct. 19, and in his first month as an NBA pro, Ball struggled with his shot and only made 22.8 percent of his three-pointers. However, even that low number wasn't representative of the kid's play from Oct. 19 to Nov. 19.

Ball only seemed to shoot poorly at STAPLES Center at that early stage in his career, as he clearly struggled to adjust to playing on the big stage in his home town. In LA and often in front of a national audience, Ball only shot 11.9 percent from three that first month. On the road, however, the rookie shot 35.1 percent from distance over that same stretch of time.

Sensible minds expected Ball to settle in at STAPLES Center, so what happened next should not have been surprising.

Over Ball's next 23 games, which span from Nov. 21 against Chicago to Saturday's win in San Antonio, Ball shot 41.7 percent from three. In truth, the rumors of a broken shot were always greatly exaggerated, and the conversation around reconstructing the former UCLA Bruin's shot should have never received national attention. But they did, and the narrative of Ball's broken shot continued to persist.

Ball's shot is unorthodox, but clearly, it's not broken, and opposing teams are becoming more and more acutely aware of that fact. In the four games Ball has played since the All Star break, the rookie has made 14 of 22 three-point attempts, which calculates out to a scorching 63.6 percent. While that level of long range proficiency is not expected to continue, the overwhelming data suggests that the kid could always shoot. He simply needed time to settle in at STAPLES Center.

Lonzo Ball and Isaiah Thomas: Early Returns

In addition to Ball, Thomas has provided a recent spark to the team off the bench. The 29-year-old play-making point guard is averaging 19.4 points and 5.2 assists over the five-game winning streak that launched when the All Star break ended.

In particular, Thomas and Ball play well together.

According to NBA.com/stats, the combination of Ball and Thomas on the court together has yielded an offensive rating of 122.4 and a defensive rating of 100.0. Those ratings represent the number of points scored and allowed, respectively, per 100 possessions. While the four game sample size is admittedly small, the early returns of the duo playing in tandem are eye-popping.

For comparison's sake, the Lakers as a team have an offensive rating of 103.8 and a defensive rating of 105.4. That offensive rating ranks the Lakers 23rd out of 30 teams, while that defensive rating ranks the Lakers at 11th in the NBA.

With Ball and Thomas together, the Lakers have been scoring more efficiently, while still playing defense at a high level. A rating of 122.4 would top the Warriors' league-leading 114.0 and a defensive rating of 100.0 would top the Celtics' league leading rating of 101.4.

In addition, the Thomas and Ball combo on the court pushes the Lakers' pace up to 108.6 possessions per game, which is faster than the 103.2 possessions per game the team has been averaging for the season. As a note, the Lakers already lead the NBA in pace, and Walton and his staff have emphasized pushing the ball and speeding up the game.

While Thomas' slight size poses obvious defensive issues, Walton has utilized the length of a player like Ivica Zubac in the second unit and the athleticism of players like Ball and Julius Randle to diminish Thomas' obvious size disadvantage. When Randle and Thomas are on the court together, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 102.2 and an offensive rating of 112.0.

While Randle and Thomas' on-court stats may overlap slightly with Ball and Thomas' on-court stats, the clear early indication is that Ball and Thomas can play together, push the Lakers' lead-leading pace even faster, score more points offensively and defend with activity and length in support.

Twenty games remain before the 2017-18 season expires, and Walton will likely call on Ball and Thomas to play together far more often down the stretch. Even before the All Star break, when Ball first returned to practice from his MCL sprain and Thomas was a brand new addition to the squad, Walton put Thomas and Ball together in practice and liked what he saw.

Riding a five-game winning streak fueled by Ball and Thomas, it's easy to see what Walton liked.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Rally to Hand Nets 8th Straight Road Loss, 123-120]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 22:27:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/175*120/AP_18064177054542.jpg

Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Tobias Harris added 26 as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied for a 123-120 victory over Brooklyn, handing the Nets their ninth consecutive road loss.

Rivers hit a go-head 3-pointer with 33.5 seconds left, Lou Williams completed his 21 points with a 15-foot jumper with 8.9 seconds left and rookie Sindarius Thornwell blocked Joe Harris' 3-point attempt before the buzzer to seal the victory.

Caris LeVert led the Nets with 27 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-pointers, and DeMarre Carroll had 20 points.

The Nets have lost 10 of their last 11 overall.

The Clippers opened with a 10-0 run and led almost the entire game, but could never really pull away. Their biggest lead was 15 points, but the Nets kept picking away until a pair of 3s gave them a 97-96 lead with 9:41 to play.

The Nets went up 118-110 before the Clippers rallied.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[LAFC Takeover: Benny Feilhaber with Fred Roggin]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 20:16:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/FRED_FEILHABER_GOING_ROGGIN_1200x675_1176575555509.jpg

They're the new team in town. LAFC midfielder Benny Feilhaber joined Fred Roggin to show off the new uniforms and talk about their chances in year one. Then, since Benny had his own YouTube series, Fred gave him control of the show. Originally aired on Going Roggin, March 4, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[LAFC Wins 1-0 in MLS Debut]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 18:09:43 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-927239584.jpg

One day shy of his 21st birthday, Uruguayan forward Diego Rossi scored on Sunday in Seattle to give Los Angeles FC its first ever MLS goal in its first ever game.

The 11th minute shaped shot into the upper right corner derived from a slick team move that featured Mexican international Carlos Vela providing the assist to put the Uruguayan in on goal.

Both Rossi and Vela are designated players for LAFC, so the franchise could not have imagined a more positive start to its inaugural season. Dealing with a turf pitch and inclement weather the visitors made the most of their limited chances.

In fact, the 11th minute goal wound up as LAFC's only shot on target over the 90 minutes plus stoppage time. Meanwhile, Seattle peppered in efforts and even had a goal ruled out for offside.

The Sounders controlled 60 percent of the possession on the day and counted up 22 shots, which added up to more than four times as many efforts as LAFC. Seven of the Sounders' shots wound up on target, but Tyler Miller proved to be a wall in goal on the day. Miller, who was drafted by the Sounder in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, produced multiple jaw-dropping saves to deny Seattle the equalizer.

With seven minutes remaining in the regulation 90 minutes, Sounders defender Tony Alfaro collected his second booking of the day and traded the rain for an early shower. Obviously, a numerical advantage on the pitch for the final minutes assisted in LAFC manager Bob Bradley guiding his men to victory.

LAFC is a project funded by some of LA's most prominent personalities, including Will Farrell and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Farrell made the trip north on Oscar Sunday to watch the match live, while Johnson offered his support via social media.

The Lakers president of basketball operations tweeted, "I'm so excited my @LAFC soccer team won our first MLS game 1-0 over Seattle. Congratulations to my partners, our manager Bob Bradley, players, and fans."

While LAFC started its season on Sunday, the team's stadium is still under construction, so the club will not host a home game until Apr. 29. However, LAFC will be the visitors at the Stubhub Center on Mar. 31, when the newest local MLS rivalry plays out its first chapter with the LA Galaxy hosting the occasion. 

Next, LAFC faces Real Salt Lake on Mar. 10.

Photo Credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Here Are the Watch Parties for LAFC's Inaugural Game]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:30:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/banc+of+california+stadium+thumbnail.jpg

The new Los Angeles Football Club will play its inaugural game on the road in Seattle on Sunday, but local soccer clubs and civics groups plan "watch parties"scattered around the Southland.

The game will be telecast on ESPN at 2 p.m.

The official watch party will be held at Busby's West, 3110 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica. Supporters groups will host parties in downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena:

    • Beer Belly, 255 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach;
    • Big Wangs Downtown, 801 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles;
    • Casey's Irish Pub, 613 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles;
    • The Greyhound Bar & Grill, 5570 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park;
    • Lucky Baldwin's Pub, 17 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena;
    • Mi Pueblo Viejo, 4000 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles; and
    • Rocco's Tavern, 3843 Main St., Culver City.

The District 9 Ultras are the hosts of the party at Mi Pueblo Viejo.

LAFC describes the group as "not just about soccer, they believe in social commitment and a life of service among members and to the community. They are a family-oriented supporter group that represents love for the beautiful game through respect, freedom of choice and conviction to embrace a new cause and banner."

The party at Lucky Baldwin's Pub is organized by Lucky Boys, a supporters group whose founding members consist of both Americans and expatriate Europeans who are supporters of English Premier League and other European teams.

Long Beach Chrome is the host for the party at Beer Belly. The Los Angeles Brewsers Support Group is the host of the party at Big Wangs Downtown. LAFC will face Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday and on April 29 in its first home game at Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC will play its first six games on the road as construction is completed for the stadium at the former site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Exposition Park.

LAFC has sold all 17,500 full season memberships in the 22,000-seat stadium. A limited amount of tickets will still be available to purchase for "The North End" Supporters Section, partial plans, groups and single games.

The 22-player LAFC roster consists of players from 14 nations, including four who could play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup -- Mexican forward Carlos Vela, Belgian defender Laurent Ciman, Costa Rican forward Marco Urena and Egyptian defender Omar Gaber.

Ciman and Gaber are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

The roster also includes two players raised in Orange County -- midfielder Benny Feilhaber, an alumnus of Northwood High in Irvine who played 44 games with the U.S. national team, and defender Jordan Harvey, a graduate of Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo. Feilhaber and Harvey also both played at UCLA.

Tyler Miller, expected to be LAFC's starting goalkeeper, was 1-1 in two games with Seattle Sounders FC over the past two seasons.

LAFC is coached by former U.S. men's national team coach Bob Bradley.

Creation of the team was announced on Oct. 30, 2014, three days after the league disbanded Chivas USA, which played for 10 seasons at StubHub Center in Carson. Its name was announced on Sept. 15, 2015.

"The name we chose is true to Los Angeles, authentic to world football and speaks to our global ambitions," vice chairman and owner Henry Nguyen said at the time.

The team's owners include Basketball Hall of Fame member Earvin "Magic" Johnson, actor Will Ferrell, National Soccer Hall of Fame member Mia Hamm Garciaparra and her husband, former Major League Baseball player Nomar Garciaparra, self-help author Tony Robbins and entertainment executive Peter Guber.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Football Club]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA Earns Pac-12 Tourney Bye With Win Over USC]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 10:39:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ap+ucla+basketball+vs+usc+03042018.jpg

Down to its last regular season game, UCLA needed a win to avoid playing a day early in the Pac-12 tournament and gain a resume-building road victory against a good team.

Mission accomplished.

Aaron Holiday scored 34 points, Kris Wilkes added 22 and UCLA rallied over the final eight minutes to beat Southern California 83-72 on Saturday night and complete a season sweep in the crosstown rivalry.

"It puts us in a great situation," Bruins coach Steve Alford said. "Now we get a little bit more rest."

The Bruins earned a bye for next week's Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. They finished in a tie with Stanford and Utah for third in the league. The Utes earned the No. 3 seed based on a combined 2-1 record against the Cardinal and Bruins.

UCLA, which split the season series with Stanford, clinched the No. 4 seed on the strength of its victory over league champion Arizona. The Cardinal fell to the fifth seed.

Holiday and Wilkes notched career highs while engineering the Bruins' comeback and stopping their two-game skid. UCLA (20-10, 11-7 Pac-12) trailed by eight early in the second half after being down 10 in the first half.

"I'm glad we worked together as a team and got this win," Wilkes said. "When we play together as a team, anything is possible."

The Trojans (21-10, 12-6) had already clinched second place in the league for the first time since 2002. Their four-game winning streak ended.

"This game won't define our season because UCLA played extremely well," Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. "They played exceptional basketball on the offensive end and we missed a lot of easy shots. We missed a lot of open 3s and a lot of shots at the rim. So we'll give UCLA credit because they certainly outplayed us in the last 10 minutes."

Jordan McLaughlin led USC with 19 points while playing 38 minutes, Chimezie Metu had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Elijah Stewart added 12 points.

"You don't want to lose. Especially against a rival. Senior night, too," said McLaughlin, one of three seniors along with Stewart who was honored before the game.

Holiday's basket tied the game at 60-all. USC led just once after that and got outscored 23-12 over the final eight minutes. The Trojans were held to just two field goals in that stretch.

"We just couldn't get stops," McLaughlin said.

Playing all 40 minutes, Holiday scored UCLA's last nine points to finish off the sweep. The Bruins won 82-79 on Thomas Welsh's 3-pointer at UCLA on Feb. 3.


UCLA guard Jaylen Hands sat out with a sprained right ankle that he sustained in practice. The freshman is averaging 10.5 points and 2.8 assists and had started the last nine games.


The Bruins went 3-0 against Arizona and USC, the league's top two teams. They upset the Wildcats in Tucson and swept the Trojans. "Every win gives us confidence that we can beat the next team," Wilkes said.


Wilkes got five stiches on his upper lip after accidentally being head-butted by teammate Prince Ali at the end of the first half.


USC: The Trojans have won 20 or more games for the third straight season. They did so despite being caught up in the FBI investigation involving corruption in college basketball that saw assistant Tony Bland let go after his arrest and guard De'Anthony Melton held out all season until he announced he was leaving school on Feb. 21. They also lost second-leading scorer and rebounder Bennie Boatwright, who was injured Feb. 18 and is out for the rest of the season. 

UCLA: After a shoplifting incident that led to the suspension of three players to start the season, the Bruins went 11-3 in the early going. They struggled at times once league play began, but now head into the postseason with some momentum.


USC opens Pac-12 tournament play on Thursday in Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed. The Trojans play the winner of seventh-seeded Washington and No. 10 Oregon State.

UCLA heads to Vegas as the No. 4 seed. The Bruins play the winner of fifth-seeded Stanford and No. 12 California on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Clutch, Lakers Win Fifth Straight]]>Sat, 03 Mar 2018 23:13:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Lakers-vs-Spurs.jpg

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a shocking 17-point comeback to beat the San Antonio Spurs 116-112, with Lonzo Ball hitting a trio of big three pointers in the victory. Ball finished with 18 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, one steal and 6-10 from three-point land.

Maybe Ball's shot isn't broken? Ball has made 11 of 16 three-pointers since returning from a knee injury. Over his last 20 games, which is a time period that spans over three months, Ball is shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Saturday's victory meant LA swept its road trip 4-0, which was the first time the team went 4-0 on the road since 2008-09, when current Lakers coach Luke Walton was a player with the team and had yet to win a championship.

Overall, the Lakers have won five in a row and 17 of their last 24. At 28-34, the Lakers are already two wins better than they were a season ago. Add in that LA still has 20 games to play, with 13 of those 20 games are at STAPLES Center, and the young Lakers continue to grow and improve at a rate faster than most anyone expected.

Walton deserves a healthy pat on the back. Taking into account the offcourt issues and media circus the coach has dealt with originating from Ball's father, Walton deserves consideration for Coach of the Year if the team finishes strong down the stretch.

Back to Saturday night's game in San Antonio, the Lakers did not lead at any point in the first 46 minutes of the regulation 48-minute game. Yet, they won this game thanks largely to the heavily scrutinized three-point shot of the Lakers' talented 20-year-old rookie point guard.

On his eight three-point attempt of the night, Ball made his fourth three-pointer to bring the Lakers within one point with 2:46 remaining. One tick below the two-minutes, Randle made a pair of free throws to give the Lakers their first lead of the game.

San Antonio seemed stunned, but Pau Gasol, who was Walton's teammate the last time the Lakers went 4-0 on a road trip, hit a 19-foot jump shot to give the home team a one-point lead with a seesaw battle set up down the stretch.

Immediately after Gasol's jumper, Ball's fifth three-point make of the night touched the bottom of the net with 75 seconds remaining in the game and gave the Lakers a two-point lead.

Again, Gasol responded.

This time, the Spaniard managed to draw and make two free throws to tie the game at 109-109 with the game clock into the final minute. Gasol finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks against his former team.

To break the deadlock, Ball stepped up and hit his third three-pointer in the span of 77 seconds to give the Lakers a three-point lead with 42.2 seconds remaining.

A San Antonio turnover led to Ball connecting with Randle on a screen and roll, where Randle converted with his left and handed the Lakers a five-point lead with 10.1 seconds remaining gave the Lakers a healthy cushion.

Though the Spurs made it interesting late, Isaiah Thomas came in to hit a couple free throws and ice the game for good. Thomas led the Lakers' thin bench with 21 points and seven assists in 29 minutes.

Until the fourth quarter, the Lakers did not look like a good bet to win the game. LA started the fourth quarter down by double digits after never leading at any stage in the game. LA was also without the services of Josh Hart (hand) and Brandon Ingram (hip), but San Antonio could counter that handicap with the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle). 

Due to the Lakers' injuries, Walton dug deep into his bench and found the most unlikely of heroes. Former UCLA Bruin Travis Wear stepped forward to make a trio of shots in the fourth quarter. Wear only signed a 10-day contract with the team a day earlier after Corey Brewer negotiated a contract buyout and Hart suffered a  fracture in his hand earlier in the week.

"I played with him in Summer League,. so, I know he could shoot it," Ball said to Spectrum SportsNet about Wear after the game. "I told him, 'Just come off the screens and let them go.' He was open and he was knocking them down."

Wear, who has been a standout player with the G-League South Bay Lakers, played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and scored all seven of his points when the team needed them most.

Talking up Randle's play sounds like a broken record, but the forward put together crucial stretches where he impacted the game on both ends. It was his basket that effectively put the nail in the coffin, even if Rudy Gay's late three-pointer gave the Spurs one final taste of fresh air.

Randle finished the night with a game-high 25 points, along with six rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. For the second game in a row, Randle converted nine free throws, though he missed a couple foul shots on this night.

On the night, six different Spurs scored in double figures, and the Lakers matched that balance with six different scorers in double figures of their own. 

Notes: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 13 rebounds, 18 points and three steals in 43 minutes on the floor. Kyle Kuzma earned the start for Ingram, and Kuzma finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, two steals nd one assist in 33 minutes. Until the fourth quarter when he involved Wear, Walton primarily stuck with an eight-man rotation in the first half, with Tyler Ennis earning rare minutes. Ivica Zubac continued to earn bench minutes and only managed two points on the night, but the Lakers' backup center contested shots at the rim and avoided fouling.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Isaiah Thomas Catches Fire, Lakers Beat the Heat]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:28:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Isaiah-Thomas-Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-Heat.jpg

On Thursday night, Isaiah Thomas caught fire and put the game to bed early in the fourth quarter, as the Los Angeles Lakers continued to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA when they collected their fourth straight win by beating the Miami Heat in South Florida, 131-113.

Following a nine-game losing streak that concluded in early January, the Lakers have won 16 of 23 games heading down the home stretch of the season and finished the night 27-34.

Thursday night in Miami continued the team's positive play, as LA led by double digits for the majority of the second half. The Lakers started the game with energy, as Lonzo Ball returned to the starting lineup after Josh Hart returned to LA with a fractured hand.

LA led 20-7 early in the contest, but neither team appeared interested in a low scoring first half. Miami managed to rally and erase the Lakers' early 13-point advantage and took a three-point lead by the end of the first 12 minutes.

Dwyane Wade had a perfect first half from the field and even made a trick shot over the backboard at one stage. The Miami veteran eventually finished the contest with 25 points, tied for game-high honors.

In the second quarter, the Lakers poured in the points and dropped a 40-point period to record 73 points in the first half, which was a season-high for LA.

As is often the case for the Lakers when they play well, the purple and gold shared the ball. Fewer than two minutes into the second half, Brook Lopez became the fifth Lakers' player to score in double figures on the night. Before the midway point in the third quarter, Brandon Ingram became the sixth visitor to score in double figures.

Still, Miami remained competitive with Goran Dragic leading the charge. Dragic would eventually finish with 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the loss. Entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers led by 10 points with Miami still a threat to make a push at home.

However, an 11-4 run to start the fourth quarter ended the hometown hopes, as Thomas scored all 11 points for the Lakers during that well-timed run to start the decisive quarter. Suddenly, a 10-point game turned into a 20-point game, and Miami never recovered.

Thomas finished with a season-high 29 points, which is the guard's highest output since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when he was still with the Boston Celtics. After an offseason trade to Cleveland and a midseason trade to Los Angeles, Thomas appears to be finding his comfort zone in LA. "I.T." also added six assists and four rebounds in the win.

In terms of stuffing the box score, several Lakers excelled in that department on this day. Julius Randle's 25 points, which tied for game-high honors, included 9/9 from the foul line, and the bulky forward also added six rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. Ingram had yet another balanced all-around game with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block on the night.

The master of stuffing the box score, though, is Ball. In his first start since Jan. 13, Ball finished the night with eight points, seven assists, six rebounds and six steals. As a note, the entire Miami team combined for six steals on the night. Ball was also a game-high +24, meaning the Lakers clearly benefited from having the 20-year-old on the court. LA has been cautious with Ball's minutes since his return from a knee injury, but Thursday featured the rookie out of UCLA playing 34 active minutes in the victory.

With Corey Brewer waived on Wednesday and Hart fracturing his hand the same day, Lakers coach Luke Walton used an eight-man rotation in Miami. Along with Thomas, Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac got minutes off the bench. Kuzma hit three of his four attempts from distance for 16 points on the night, and Thomas and Kuzma combined for 9/13 from three-point land for LA. As a team, Miami made 9/31 from three on the night.

Zubac played 18 minutes and only scored six points on 1/3 shooting, but the seven-footer tabbed four assists, three rebounds and a steal in 18 minutes on the floor.

All in all, the Lakers cruised to their fourth straight win and started their four-game road trip 3-0. Next, LA plays in San Antonio on Saturday night before returning home.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Barricade Rockets Locker Room After Jan. Incident]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 04:46:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/200*120/clippers+welcome+prank.jpg

Well, that's one way to keep them out.

The growing feud between the Los Angeles Clippers, former teammate Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets, reached a hilarious turn both on and off the court on Wednesday night.

To preface, the Clippers defeated the Rockets--wihtout James Harden--by a score of 113-102 back on Jan. 15. The contentious game was filled with bad blood on both sides, and afterwards, it spilled into the locker rooms as Paul led his Houston teammates, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Harden through a back corridor into the Clippers' locker room to confront Blake Griffin and James Harden.

Paul, who knows the corridors of Staples Center well after playing for the Clippers for seven years, led his teammates through a side door in the visitor's locker room, down a back corridor, into the back entrance of the Clippers locker room where things got heated before security was able to break it up and restore order.

Extra security and the LAPD was ultimately called to the scene, and the NBA investigated the incident, handing out two game suspensions to Ariza and Green for their roles in the incident.

Flash forward to Wednesday, where the Rockets, now with Harden, returned to Staples Center riding a 13-game win streak to face the now Blake Griffin-less Clippers. 

The Rockets won the game, crusing the Clippers, 105-92, but not without some more hilarious moments to add to the rivalry along the way. 

First, as the Rockets jumped out to a 26-point first quarter lead over Los Angeles, Harden had a highlight reel play as he broke the ankles of Clippers' forward Wesley Johnson with this devastating crossover that saw the M.V.P. frontrunner stare down Johnson before draining a three-pointer

 "I was trying to figure out what was going on. I was confused," said Harden of the play. "I was looking at him and he was looking at me, and I was wondering what he was going to say. I was always going to shoot it, but I just wanted to see what was going on first."

After the game, as the teams returned to the locker room, the Rockets were greeted with some yellow caution tape barricading the side door that leads to the back corridor between the Clippers and visiting locker rooms. 

While most of the players on the Rockets found the prank--and homage to the Jan. incident--hilarious, they would not have been surprised had they heard the words of Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers during his pregame press conference.

Rivers promised that the Clippers would "build a wall," between the two locker rooms in order to make sure there would be no repeat incident between the two teams in their rematch on Wednesday.

"We've kind of barricaded all of the secret passageways," joked Rivers. "I'm going to stay away from the barricades. We're going to build a wall, and I'm not paying for it! Houston's paying for it!"

Rivers' was playing on President Donald Trump's campaign claims that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico and make Mexico pay for the wall.

Despite Rivers insinuation that it was the Clippers that would put up the barricades, the yellow caution tape inside the Houston locker room was actually put there by Rockets equipment manager Tony Nila. 

Both Paul and Harden took pictures of the caution tape that hilariously read, "Caution. Do Not Enter," and posted it to social media with Harden telling reporters, "You guys should take a picture of that. I want you all to see that."

We did.

Photo Credit: Michael Duarte
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<![CDATA[Flu Outbreak Sweeps Through Dodgers Clubhouse ]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 00:24:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-923876872.jpg

The country's worst flu season in decades has bitten the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The flu reached the National League pennant winning Dodgers this week when 25 players were sent home from Camelback Ranch on Wednesday with flulike symptoms.

Manager Dave Roberts told reporters before the team's preseason game against the San Diego Padres that the team sent 25 different players home with what seems to be a flu virus that has made its way through the clubhouse.

"I haven't seen anything like this," Roberts said.

According to Roberts, the players each had symptoms of fatigue, chills, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. The medical staff said that the symptoms should subside within the next few days.

The clubhouse, which is usually busy and bustling with 55 players during camp, was mostly empty on Wednesday with some players walking around in surgical masks.

Pitcher Brock Stewart and outfielder Matt Kemp were two of those players walking around Camelback Ranch in masks, hoping they would not catch what was ailing their teammates.

The Dodgers brought in air filtration systems, and disinfected the clubhouse and the weight room on Wednesday. Strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel even passed out immune boosting vitamins.

On Saturday, Corey Seager was scratched from his start with flulike symptoms, but was able to start the following day against his brother, Kyle, in a matchup with the Seattle Mariners. It is unknown if it was the same flu, or was unrelated.

Among the sick players are Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe, Enrique Hernandez, Kyle Farmer, Trayce Thompson, Josh Fields, as well as several members of the coaching and training staff.

The Dodgers current bout with the flu, comes at a time when America is battling one of the worst flu seasons in a decade said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 63 children have died  from the flu and hospitalizations are at the highest rate since 2009.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA City Council Moves to Help Dodgers Land All-Star Game]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 00:26:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-868778812.jpg

In a move to help the Dodgers secure the 2020 Major League All-Star Game, the Los Angeles City Council signed off Wednesday on a motion to negotiate a contract with the team over the use of city resources associated with the event.

The Dodgers have not hosted an MLB All-Star Game since 1980, and Councilman Gil Cedillo said league officials will be vising Los Angeles soon to scout Dodger Stadium as a potential site for the game. The motion authorizes the city to receive $100,000 from the Dodgers as payment for the provision of city services that may be required to host the game, and for city staff to negotiate a contract with the team.

Hosting an All-Star game brings an average economic impact of $89.4 million to host cities, according to the motion.

"They're (league officials) coming to town soon, and so it looks good if we move this item, because it demonstrates to them our commitment to working with them," Cedillo, who represents the stadium area, told the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee last week.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LAFC Sells Out of Season Tickets at New Stadium]]>Wed, 28 Feb 2018 19:04:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/banc+of+california+stadium+thumbnail.jpg

The expansion Los Angeles Football Club has sold out of season-ticket packages for its inaugural season in its new downtown stadium.

LAFC announced the sellout of 17,500 full-season memberships Wednesday, four days before the team makes its MLS regular-season debut Sunday at Seattle.

The franchise's $350 million Banc of California Stadium is still being completed ahead of LAFC's home debut on April 29, but the team has already sold as many season tickets as it will allow in the 22,000-seat arena.

Fans can still buy single-game tickets in the North End supporters' section and other spots around the field.

LAFC is MLS' 23rd franchise. The club is attracting significant attention throughout Los Angeles' revitalized downtown, where it is building the city's first new open-air stadium in more than 30 years.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Football Club]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Josh Hart Fractures Hand]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 10:46:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Josh-Hart-fracture-left-hand.jpg

On Wednesday, reports originating out of Miami that would later be confirmed by official team-related social media accounts stated that Los Angeles Lakers rookie Josh Hart had suffered a small fracture in his left hand and would be examined in LA on Thursday to make a determination on whether the injury required surgery.

Only six weeks remain in the 2017-18 NBA season, and the Lakers don't need any more game footage on Hart to evaluate the type of player he is. Excluding Channing Frye, who is 1/1 on three-pointers this season, Hart is the Lakers' best long range shooter with 39.7 percent accuracy from beyond the three-point line.

The rookie out of Villanova, though, is best known for his defensive abilities and strong rebounding instincts. While the injury is not ideal, Hart's value to the Lakers moving forward is a known commodity. And so, if surgery is deemed to be the best coarse of action, 6-8 weeks on the sidelines would be expected with no reason to rush the kid back a week or two early.

While a cloud hangs over the severity of Hart's injury and the timeline for recovery is yet to be determined, the injury leaves the Lakers a bit short on bodies at the small forward position. Corey Brewer, who would have expected to earn minutes with Hart out, agreed to a buyout of his contract that went official on Wednesday, so he will not be available to play on Thursday.

Luckily, Lonzo Ball has played two games and looked sharp in those two appearances. On Monday in Atlanta, Ball played 24 minutes, made all four of his shots, hit a trio of three-pointers, grabbed seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in a lopsided victory for the Lakers.

Likely, Ball will return to the starting lineup in place of Hart on Thursday with his minutes restriction increasing from the 24 minutes he played in Atlanta. With Lakers coach Luke Walton enjoying the combination of Isaiah Thomas and Ball in the back court, Walton may call on Thomas and Ball to spend more time on the floor together, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing spot minutes behind Brandon Ingram.

In addition, Brewer's departure opened up a second extra roster spot, so the team will likely look for a small forward to come in on a 10-day contract and possibly earn minutes in the even that the team is in foul trouble or succumbs to another injury. With two open roster spots, giving out a 10-day contract immediately would be a logical next step.

Of course, Walton could call on Luol Deng to be available on the bench and promise the veteran forward minutes. Deng played in Miami from 2014-16, so Thursday could even feel like a bit of a throwback game.

Sadly, calling on Deng wouldn't make sense at this stage. With two years left on his contract after the 2017-18 season, the team has made it clear that Deng has no future playing with the team. The 32-year-old may technically be available to play, traveling with the team, practicing and even cashing a paycheck from the Lakers, but playing Deng for any amount of minutes would ultimatley give minutes to a player that is not part of the future of the team and, thus, take away minutes from a player that could develop with that time on the floor.

Alternatively, the Lakers could also call on rookie Kyle Kuzma to play spot minutes at small forward. Kuzma often slid down to that role with varying levels of success early in the season when Walton attempted to juggle minutes for Kuzma, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.

One way or another, Walton and the Lakers will find a way to plug in the gap left by Hart's injury, regardless of how long the rookie is out. If he undergoes surgery, however, one would imagine Hart's season is over.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Lakers Agree Buyout With Brewer]]>Wed, 28 Feb 2018 10:41:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Corey-Brewer-Lakers-buyout.jpg

Thirty-one-year-old Corey Brewer had not played in two of the Los Angeles Lakers' three games following the All-Star Break and considering his age, his uncertain future with the team beyond the next couple months and the emergence of rookie Josh Hart at the position, a contract buyout always seemed probable.

On Wednesday, Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania reported that the two parties had indeed agreed to a buyout of Brewer's contract, meaning the veteran swingman should now be able to join a playoff team for the remainder of the season and carry his season beyond Apr. 11, when the Lakers wrap up their year against the Clippers.

Since arriving via trade from Houston in 2016-17, Brewer featured in 78 games with the purple and gold, with five starts. In 2017-18, Brewer averaged a career-low 12.9 minutes per game, which led to career-lows in points, rebounds and assists.

While Brewer's impact on the court may have diminished with Hart getting more and more minutes at the position as the season progressed, the former University of Florida Gator was widely considered a positive influence in the locker room and still an able body capable of contributing when called upon.

Early rumors suggest that Brewer could reunite with his former Florida coach, Billy Donovan, who is currently coaching the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Earlier in the season, the Lakers also agreed to a buyout with veteran center Andrew Bogut. As such, Brewer's buyout would provide the Lakers two open roster spots to sign players on 10-day contracts in the final weeks of the season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Council Keeps City in Pursuit of World Cup Hosting Duties]]>Tue, 27 Feb 2018 20:13:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/crop+copa+fifa+tuhmb.jpg

The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution Tuesday that keeps the city pursuing host duties for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The city's participation in the event was thrown into doubt earlier this month when potential logistical problems and financial liability risks were noted in a report to the City Council. But those issues appeared to be resolved when local sports companies, including the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles Football Club and the Los Angeles Rams, formed a limited liability company with the intent on taking the lead on executing the host city contract.

Among the concerns that had arisen before the LLC was created was that while Los Angeles would be the official host city, the games would likely be played at a venue outside the city -- the new NFL stadium under construction in Inglewood or the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The contract would have called for the city to provide police officers and other services at the venues, along with other guarantees, including that the airspace be free of commercial signage and advertising.

The formation of the LLC allows the city "to ease some of the risks that we'll take on if a game or match is not held in the city of L.A.," Councilman Joe Buscaino said before the vote.

Approval of the resolution, and a second agreement between Los Angeles World Airports and the United States Soccer Federation over airport obligations for any FIFA events, was far from routine, with several council members voicing concerns during a debate that went on for nearly two hours.

The two biggest concerns expressed were that the LLC only officially formed Tuesday and the council had not seen the actual LLC documents, and that the LAWA agreement gives FIFA the power to make unilateral changes.

The resolution was approved on a 14-1 vote, while the LAWA agreement was passed with an 11-4 vote. Councilman Mitch O'Farrell cast the lone vote against the resolution. The council also voted 11-4 against an amendment to the LAWA agreement introduced by O'Farrell that would have asked the Board of Airport Commissioners to renegotiate with U.S. Soccer and remove the clause that gave FIFA, as a third party in the contract, unilateral power to change it down the road. Council members Mike Bonin, David Ryu and Bob Blumenfield voted with O'Farrell on the LAWA votes.

The United Bid Committee, which is leading the North American bid for the World Cup, had already granted two extensions to Los Angeles to work out its issues with the host agreements, and the second deadline expires Wednesday, which put the council under the gun to approve the documents.

"There's just not enough information and security in knowing that we're prepared to make the best decision at this moment with tomorrow's looming deadline for these votes we're about to take, so I just wanted to raise that concern," O'Farrell said. "I wish we had a better process legislatively quite frankly. I'm just not comfortable with this."

The council ultimately sided with the arguments of Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, who laid out a detailed analysis of why he believed the risks in the agreements were minimal compared to the potential rewards. He cited statistics from the Los Angeles Trade and Convention Bureau, which estimated the event could have a $400 million to $600 million total economic impact in the area if Los Angeles serves as a World Cup host.

Krekorian also pointed out that the LLC would relieve the city from any serious liability related to the bid.

"As we've talked it through I've gone from thinking, 'Oh we really don't have enough before us, I'm really a little apprehensive' -- and you guys know I'm not one that's really afraid to ask questions about things, you know I'm usually the fly in the ointment on these things, but as we talked it through I'm just not seeing that it's that big of a risk," he said.

FIFA, soccer's international governing body, rejected amendments to the host city contract proposed by the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Board, according to the city staff report from the offices of the chief legislative officer, city administrator and city attorney. The board was originally to be the signee of the host city contract with FIFA, while the city would sign a memorandum of understanding with the LACTB, officials said.

"Not only could the city be liable for partial performance, or nonperformance, the city could also incur liability for damages resulting from the performance of other governmental entities or private parties," according to the city staff report.

As a result of the contract problems that arose earlier this month, Council President Herb Wesson never scheduled a vote for the host city agreement, but Mayor Eric Garcetti intervened and asked the United Bid Committee, which is leading the North American bid, to extend a deadline so the contract issues could be worked out.

In the last two weeks since the extension was granted, the LLC has been formed, and the cities of Inglewood and Pasadena have also provided letters of support to serve as potential venue hosts. The resolution approved by the City Council says the city will work "in good faith" with the host committee to negotiate a contract specifying the types and level of city services to be provided by the city for 2026 World Cup events.

If the North American bid is successful, the United States would stage 60 matches, and Mexico and Canada 10 apiece, and at least 12 cities will be selected as venues for games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[After 60 Games, Lakers Have Improved, Measurably]]>Tue, 27 Feb 2018 11:57:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Kuzma.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers winning 26 out of 60 games may not sound impressive, but it is definite, measurable progress for a team that won 26 games over 82 games in 2016-17. The season prior, the Lakers only managed 17 wins and the year before featured 21 wins.

With 22 games remaining, the Lakers should easily reach 30 wins, which would be the first time since 2012-13 the purple and gold hit that mark. Modest as it may be considering it would still be well shy of a playoff berth, the Lakers are on the upswing and should be an entertaining, fun team to watch down the stretch. Also, the Lakers have no incentive to tank since they do not own their first round draft pick.

Monday's game in Atlanta provided a fun lopsided 123-104 victory for the Lakers and the first time the team had nine different players score in double figures since 1987 according to the team's PR staff. As a reference point, Corey Brewer, Luol Deng and Channing Frye are the only three Lakers on the current roster that were alive when the Lakers accomplished that feat. Lonzo Ball would not be born for another decade.

On the topic of Ball, he can shoot.

It's time to kill that tired narrative that his shot is broken and needs to be fixed. Yes, his shot is unorthodox, but the kid can stroke the basketball from distance. He's played two games and made six three pointers out of nine attempts since returning from an MCL sprain that forced him to miss six weeks.

In a vacuum, that two-game sample size means nothing, but going back to Ball's past 20 games, which takes us all the way back to Nov. 22nd in Sacramento, the rookie point guard is shooting 38.5 percent from three-point land. His last 10 games, that number is actually 40.9 percent from three.

Ball was awful from distance for the first month of the season, particularly at STAPLES Center, but he's been pretty darn solid from three-point range for a while now. He isn't shy when he's open even if there are a few extra feet between him and the line, and the numbers suggest he has every reason to step into a shot and take it with confidence.

Speaking of confidence, Brandon Ingram is growing by the game in that department. One has to keep in mind that Ingram is not even two full months older than Ball and still not old enough to legally buy an alcoholic beverage in the United States. Ingram is special and has the intangible and tangible ingredients to become a great player in the league.

Ingram is a documented gym rat and passionate about basketball, putting in the work in practice and enjoying the process. Beyond his attitude, Ingram possesses elite length that provides an unfair advantage on both ends of the court. More than any other player on the roster, Ingram clearly possesses all the ingredients to become a top five player in the NBA one day. With every passing game, he seems to figure out how to have a greater impact on a nightly basis, and the fact that he appears to relish the defensive challenges only further pushes his potential greatness.

Ingram's 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists against Atlanta meant that the 20-year-old averaged 18.6 points, 5.6 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 52.2 percent from three-point land and 54.5 percent from the field for the month of February—a moderate sample size of 10 games.

Consistency is the key for Ingram, and the Kinston, North Carolina native is playing the most consistent basketball of his young career. Monday's win in Atlanta marked the 13th straight game that the no. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft scored in double figures, which is the longest streak of his career. Sixty games into the 2017-18 NBA season, Ingram leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game and is becoming one of the most consistent players on the team.

Again, it's easy to forget that Ingram is only 20.

When discussing consistency, Julius Randle has more of an impact on a nightly basis than any other Laker. Randle, who started the Lakers' lottery rebuild back in 2014, is putting together an impressive run of 17 straight games scoring in double figures with seven double-doubles embedded in that set. Over the Lakers' current three-game winning streak, Randle has two double-doubles and a triple-double.

Randle's been so strong that the bruising forward is regularly drawing double teams, but that seems to only increase his impact on the game.

Randle, Ball and Ingram may be the three names at the tip of the tongue when discussing the Lakers these days, and all three of those players provide clear evidence of measurable improvement, but those players only scratch the surface of what Luke Walton is doing with the Lakers. The Lakers' coach has been obsessed with the defensive end of the floor since his arrival, and that obsession is yielding results.

The Lakers are playing defense.

Numerically speaking, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 105.3, which means they allow 105.3 points per 100 possessions. That ranks the Lakers 11th in defensive rating in the NBA out of 30 teams, which is a dramatic improvement on ranking 30th or 29th the past three seasons. What Walton has accomplished with the team's defense over the first 60 games of the season is possibly the most impressive aspect of his tenure thus far.

Offensively, the Lakers have struggled all season long. Isaiah Thomas may not be 100 percent healthy or able to hit the heights of a season ago, but Walton has thus far utilized the veteran point guard and pushed him to his strengths. Those strengths focus on Thomas making decisions on the offensive end of the floor, an area where he is the most successful player on the roster from a historical standpoint. A season ago, Thomas ranked third in the NBA in scoring and was considered the top fourth quarter scorer in the NBA.

How Thomas ultimately fits into the Lakers' future or even the end of the season is yet to be determined, as Walton will likely alter lineups down the stretch. Thus far,  Thomas appears to fill a shooting need and improve the team in an area that needed addressing.

After Monday's win, the Lakers rank 24th in offensive rating, so adding a player with Thomas' offensive instincts shouldn't hurt as long as he keeps sharing the basketball. Ten field goal attempts, five assists and only one turnover in 27 minutes against Atlanta on Monday served as a reminder that Thomas is a playmaking point guard that understands how to move the basketball and feed teammates.

While Thomas' long-term future is up for debate, rookies Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma don't expect to go anywhere anytime soon. Both have both played vital roles in improving the Lakers from a season ago. At 39.3 percent from distance, Hart is the team's leading three-point shooter. His tough defense has been an asset throughout the season, and the rookie's addition to the starting unit has been so successful that Walton did not immediately push Ball back into the starting lineup upon his return. After three straight wins, Walton may well wait for a loss before he decides to shake up the starters.

Kuzma's move to the bench earlier in the season reduced the rookie's scoring numbers, but the 22-year-old forward's smooth three-point stroke looked to be on target in Atlanta. Kuzma made three three-pointers on Monday and brought his three-point shooting percentage to 35.8 percent for the season, which ranks fourth on the team. The rookie from Flint, Michigan is down to averaging below 30 minutes per game for the season, and that is likely due to the coaching staff managing minutes after calling on the rookie to play 35-plus minutes in eight straight games at the end of December. Kuzma went over 40 minutes in five of those eight games and seemed to be tiring heading into the All Star break.

After that eight-game run of heavy minutes, the rookie out of the University of Utah has not played over 40 minutes even once and only topped the 30-minute mark four times in the 25 games played in January and February of 2018.

Seemingly, everywhere one looks, the Lakers have improved from the team that finished 26-56 a season ago. At 26-34, the Lakers can point to measurable improvement. In fact, even the 26-34 doesn't entirely represent the strides the Lakers have made. A two-week period that stretched from Dec. 22 to Jan. 5 featured nine straight defeats. Remove those two weeks of the season, and the Lakers would be 26-25, a shade over .500. If the Lakers can play .500 basketball over the final 22 games of the season, LA would finish with 37 victories and count the season as a massive step in the right direction.

Before the season started, the Lakers promised to be more competitive, put out an entertaining product on the court and display improvement. Sixty games in, the Lakers have kept their promises.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Trade for Chiefs CB Marcus Peters]]>Mon, 26 Feb 2018 15:48:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-863284764.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams have added another Pro Bowler to their already talented roster.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFC West Champion Rams have agreed to a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters.

The trade is expected to include a sixth-round 2018 NFL Draft pick from the Chiefs, in exchange for two draft picks from the Rams, a 2018 fourth-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick.

The trade cannot be processed until March 14th when the 2018 NFL season officially begins and teams can submit all notices of transactions to the league office. The official "NFL Trading Period" begins at 4:00PM EST after all 2017 contracts officially expire.

Peters is the second Pro Bowler the Chiefs have traded recently, as the team also recently shipped quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins.

Peters, 25, is considered one of the NFL's best cornerbacks and has at least five interceptions in each of his first three seasons in the league.

However, Peters is prone to eruptions of anger, and a less-than-ideal attitude at times in the locker room. Peters was famously kicked off his college team at Washington after repeated arguments with coaches.

He's been caught on camera on the sidelines arguing with coaches, and was suspended for a game during the 2017 season after he threw a referee's penalty flag into the stands. Peters then left the field, thinking he was ejected, only to find out he wasn't ejected and emerged from the locker room in shorts and without socks.

The Rams appear willing to look past his character issues in order to fill a need at the cornerback position, as Trumaine Johnson is expected to leave the team via free agency.

Johnson received the franchise tag from the Rams each of the last two seasons, but with the trade for Peters, will now be able to sign elsewhere, as the team is expected to direct their attention to re-signing safety LaMarcus Joyner—who could receive the franchise tag this year—and WR Sammy Watkins.

Joyner is a key piece in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips scheme, as is a shutdown corner. The 70-year-old coach will now have both this season.

After news of the trade was broken, the Rams official Twitter account tweeted out this hilarious photo of a one-way flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles with the caption: "Looking for a friend."

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw Talks Potential Contract Extension ]]>Mon, 26 Feb 2018 15:51:02 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-869151688.jpg

Clayton Kershaw's looming free agency at the end of the 2018 season has all of Los Angeles already on pins and needles.

However, fans have room for optimism after the 2014 MVP confirmed that he was currently engaged in an "open dialogue" with the Dodgers' front office regarding a potential contract extension.

Fresh off the Dodgers first World Series appearance since 1988, Kershaw can become a free agent at the end of this season. It would be the first time in his 11-year career that he would become a free agent.

His current seven-year, $215 million contract, has a player option after the 2018 season, one that expects to be lucrative for big name targets like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Andrew Miller.

Earlier this week, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi declined to comment on specifics regarding Kershaw's pending free agency, but said that the front office and the three-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher have an "open dialogue" going.

"He's our franchise player," Zaidi told reporters last Tuesday from the team's facility at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

Kershaw confirmed that there was an ongoing dialogue after his first start of Spring Training against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria on Sunday.

"That's a good way to put it," Kershaw said. "We just talk. Farhan, Andrew [Friedman] and I have good communication, and we are all on the same page as far as everything is going."

The Dodgers front office has made it a priority to re-sign their own players after they shelled out over $192 million last offseason to ink pitcher Rich Hill, closer Kenley Jansen, and third baseman Justin Turner to multiyear contracts.

However, the same front office has also made a conscious effort to remain under the luxury tax and not overspend for free agents. The team declined to match an offer to Zack Greinke in the winter of 2015 that exceeded $206 million over six years.

They also opted not to re-sign starting pitcher Yu Darvish who was with the team for the second half of last season, helping guide the Dodgers to the World Series where he was hit hard in two devastating starts to the Houston Astros in Games 3 and 7.

Darvish waited throughout the winter in the hopes the Dodgers would be willing to exceed the current $197-million luxury tax threshold, or make a trade to free up money.

Darvish waited until three days before pitchers and catchers were set to report to spring training before signing a six-year, $126 million dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Kershaw could opt to avoid becoming a free agent by agreeing to a contract extension during the season, but he could also choose to see what it's like becoming a free agent in order to test the market and see what other teams are willing to offer for his services.

Kershaw prioritizes winning above all else and will likely either re-sign or go to a team that he believes has the best chance of reaching the playoffs and the World Series year after year.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Take a Look at LAFC's Inaugural Season Kit]]>Sun, 25 Feb 2018 13:59:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lfc+2018+kit+thubnail+1.jpgThe Los Angeles Football Club has unveiled its uniforms for its inaugural season, with YouTube TV as its jersey sponsor.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Football Club]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Edge Kings in Sacramento 113-108]]>Sat, 24 Feb 2018 23:27:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kentavious-Caldwell-Pope-Lakers-vs-Kings.jpg

On Saturday night in Sacramento, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope caught fire from distance and made eight three-pointers, which tied a career-high, en route to a season-high 34 points in a 113-108 road victory for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Caldwell-Pope hit seven of his first 10 three-point attempts before cooling down and only making one of his final five long range tries. On this night, though, there was something in the water in Sacramento, as both teams seemed to be uncharacteristically sharp from the arc.

The Kings finished the game with 13 makes in 25 three-point attempts, which calculated out to a ridiculous 52 percent for the night. The Lakers shot 45 percent from distance and made a season-high 17 three-pointers as a team.

After Caldwell-Pope's hot hand delivered the Lakers an early lead in the first quarter, the Kings settled in on an eight-point halftime lead that grew to 10 points early in the third quarter. Then, the Lakers' starting shooting guard caught fire and made five three-pointers in the third quarter to help the Lakers jump from down 10 points to leading by seven. In total, the Lakers outscored the Kings 37 to 25 in the third quarter.

At the start the of the fourth quarter, the Lakers held a four-point lead, and the Kings were in a dogfight. A minute into the fourth quarter, the two team were tied at 87-87. Four minutes later, the score was 94-94, but neither team appeared to have the edge.

Over the next five minutes, the Lakers put together an 11-3 run fueled by Isaiah Thomas providing a couple assists and Caldwell-Pope ditching the three-point line for a smart cut the basket and a tough step-back 20-foot jump shot.

Holding a 105-97 lead with two minutes remaining in the game, the Lakers looked set for a comfortable victory on the road. Only, the Lakers have a habit of complicating late game situations. Saturday was no exception, as the Lakers almost gave the game away.

The Lakers' hero on the day, Caldwell-Pope, almost turned villain when he fouled Bogdan Bogdanovic and gave up a four-point play that brought the Kings within one point with 12.7 seconds remaining.

Thanks to clutch free throw shooting by Thomas and the Kings opting to try for a quick lay-up, which they missed, over a potential game-tying three-pointer, the Lakers escaped by the skin of their teeth and snapped a three-game road losing streak. In addition, Friday and Saturday's wins marked the first time the team swept a back-to-back since Nov. 18-19 of 2014.

Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield both scored 21 points to lead the way for the Kings, while Willie Cauley-Stein put up a monstrous 18 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

For the Lakers, the frontcourt duo of Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle continued to play well and fill up the box score. While Randle did not match his triple-double from a night earlier, the 23-year-old recorded 12 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in the victory. Randle continued to be a largely unstoppable force.

Ingram tabbed 13 points, seven rebounds and a team-high eight assists in the win and continued to display his dynamism as a two-way player.

Next, the Lakers play on Monday night in Atlanta. With a win in Georgia, the Lakers can claim their 26th win of the season, which would match the entire win total from the 2016-17 season.

Notes: Josh Hart finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes as a starter. Thomas led the bench with 17 points and four assists, while Kuzma added 10 points. In total, the Lakers had seven different players score in double figures, including all five starters.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle Records Triple-Double, Lonzo Ball Returns]]>Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:08:39 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Lakers-vs-Mavs.jpg

Forty-one days after injuring his left knee in Dallas, Lonzo Ball returned to game action against the same Dallas Mavericks team on Friday night at STAPLES Center in a game that never felt like a contest.

The Los Angeles Lakers won by a final count of 124-102, and that final score fully represented the difference between the two teams on the night.

For the first time in his career, Ball did not start the game, but LA jumped out to an 8-0 lead before fans could even get comfortable in their seats. Six minutes into the game, the Lakers led by 15, and that lead expanded to 19 points in the first quarter. 

By halftime, the Lakers led by 22 points with Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram dominating the flow of the game and keeping the Lakers comfortably ahead of the Mavericks. Ingram would finish with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes on the court, and the 20-year-old forward seemed to grow longer on the defensive side of the ball. 

Midway through the first quarter, both Isaiah Thomas and Ball entered the game at the same time, and the STAPLES Center crowd serenaded the two guards with a loud ovation. Despite joining the Lakers 15 days earlier, Thomas had not played at home due to three straight away games and the All Star break, and Ball's six weeks on the sidelines almost felt like the team had added a new player.

Thomas finished the night with 17 points on 5-12 shooting from the field, while Ball filled the box score in his typical fashion with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists in 17 minutes on the court. The rookie point guard was on a minutes restriction, and Walton admitted that he left a couple minutes on the table.

"I feel pretty good," Ball said after the game. "I only played 17 minutes so it wasn't nothing [sic] crazy out there. I'm just happy to be back."

Though Walton ruled the rookie out for Sacramento's game on Saturday, the former UCLA Bruin should be back on the court on Sunday in Atlanta. Ball admitted that his timing felt a little off but said that would return with time. Also, the 20-year-old said he liked the combination of two playmakers on the court when playing with Thomas in tandem. 

This day, though, belonged to Randle. Through three quarters, the powerful forward had tabbed 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in 27 minutes on the court. With the Lakers leading by 19 points after three quarters, Randle returning to grab a fifth career triple-double seemed unlikely.

However, Lakers coach Luke Walton called on his big forward to go back in the game with about seven and a half minutes remaining and the Lakers sitting on a comfortable 20-point cushion.

After the game, Randle admitted that he knew exactly where he stood statistically. The forward made fun of rookie Kyle Kuzma missing a layup that would have been assist no. 9. However, Randle found Kuzma open at the three-point line soon after, and the rookie forward drained a three-pointer to get Randle within one assist of the statistical achievement. 

Moments later, Randle found Ingram for another three-pointer, and Randle recorded his fifth career triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 30 minutes of work.

"I won't take anything--now," Ingram joked when asked what Randle owed him for hitting that shot.

Ingram added, "The good thing about Julius is when he's really big in the paint, I don't think no one can stop him. I think when he attacks and he's the aggressor for our team, I don't think he can be stopped down low." 

No. 30 had himself a memorable night and got a loud ovation when Walton subbed him out of the game on the next dead ball after grabbing his triple-double.

"Teams are doubling me in the post, so I just try to be patient and make the right reads," Randle said after the game.

On the topic of Randle, Walton shared his view of why the forward was so successful on this night: "He's been getting much better at letting the game slow down to him. We've been working a lot on him because he's been starting to get double-teamed in the last few games, and especially last time in Dallas they started doubling him every time. So, we've been working on him playing at a better pace once he gets into attack mode, and then getting reps in practice, recognizing the double team and knowing where our shooters are going to be and where our cutters are coming from."

The coach concluded, "I think (Randle) just did a really nice job tonight of reading the defense and making the simply play, and then, guys knocked down shots for him."

Next, the Lakers head to Sacramento on Saturday night. Ball is not expected to play on the back-to-back.

Notes: Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews both scored 19 points to lead the Mavs. Dallas made 19-42 three-pointers on the night, but the Lakers outscored Dallas 62-26 in the painted area. Ivica Zubac finished with 14 points on 6/7 shooting, along with six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball: "Everybody's Getting Paid...Make it Legal"]]>Fri, 23 Feb 2018 21:13:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lakers-Lonzo-Ball-NCAA-violations.jpg

On the morning of his long-awaited return to the court after six week on the sidelines with a knee sprain, Los Angeles Lakers rookie and former UCLA Bruin Lonzo Ball expected to make headlines, but these weren't the headlines most expected on this day.

"I do," Ball said when asked if he believed college players should be paid. "All the money they generate for the programs and stuff, it's kind of an unfair system."

Ball added, "Everybody knows everybody's getting paid, and that's how it is. Everybody's getting paid anyway. You might as well make it legal, so that's how I feel."

Ball spoke about March Madness and how the money involved in college basketball didn't equate to the benefits players received but he denied receiving any money at UCLA and credited his father from keeping him away from agents.

Fellow Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, though, was one of the players named in the Yahoo Sports bombshell report, but Kuzma did not meet with reporters on Friday morning to address the $9,500 he allegedly received from agents while at the University of Utah.

Instead, Ball fielded a question for his forward.

"(Kuzma)'s in the NBA now," Ball said when asked how his teammate was handling being named in the report. "He really don't [sic] care, so whatever happened was in the past. Now, he's living life."

The idea that college athletes that generate immense revenues for schools should be paid is far from an isolated opinion in NBA locker rooms.

"Yes," Lakers coach Luke Walton provided a one word answer when asked if college athletes should be paid.

Walton, who played at the University of Arizona from 1999-2003, expanded, "They bring in a lot of money for universities. I was fortunate enough that I had my family help pay throughout college, but a lot of them, they're living on those scholarship checks, check to check, as far as paying rent, eating and to me, when there's that much money involved, players should be getting a bigger piece of that as far as being able to live in a nice place, go to a nice restaurant instead of just fast food type of places."

Walton added, "Obviously, that's a long story that you'd have to find a way to make it work, but at some level, I think, yes, they should be getting paid more."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lonzo Ball Practices in Full, Talks Isaiah Thomas]]>Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:08:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_3120_1200x675_1167971395648.jpg

Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball practiced in full on Thursday and looks set to return for Friday's game against the Dallas Mavericks depending on how he feels in the morning, and the rookie's chemistry with Isaiah Thomas was a topic at practice on Feb. 22, 2018 in El Segundo, California (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Former US Figure Skater Sues USFS Over Coach's Sexual Abuse]]>Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:49:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lagenerics-ice-skating.jpg

A onetime member of the U.S. National Figure Skating Team who says he was abused by his former coach is suing the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

The 22-year-old plaintiff in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Wednesday is identified only as John S. Doe. He also is suing former coach Donald James Vincent and two Los Angeles County ice skating facilities.

The suit alleges the defendants concealed from the plaintiff's parents and law enforcement officials that Doe and others were or may have been sexually abused, harassed and molested by Vincent.

U.S. Figure Skating Association spokeswoman Barbara Reichert issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.

"Donald J. Vincent is in jail for his conviction of a heinous crime," she said. "He is permanently banned from U.S. Figure Skating. U.S. Figure Skating has just become aware of the filing of this lawsuit. U.S. Figure Skating will be reviewing it and has no further comment at this time."

Vincent was convicted of repeatedly sexually molesting two of his students, a boy and a girl, including the plaintiff, between 2007 and 2011. He was sentenced in 2014 in Pomona Superior Court to 98 years and eight months to life in state prison.

According to the complaint, from 2007 to around 2008, Doe trained at the Lakewood Glacial Gardens with Vincent as his coach. Doe was about 11 years old when he began sleeping at Vincent's home about two to three nights weekly thinking that such stays would help him focus on training for ice skating, the suit states.

Vincent's true motive in having the boy stay over was to begin sexually touching, fondling and abusing him, the suit states.

The United States Figure Skating Association received information that Vincent had engaged in inappropriate conduct with other minors and failed to report him to the authorities as required by law, the suit alleges.

"Our client is an extremely talented young athlete who dreamed of nothing more than to stand on an Olympic podium and hear our National Anthem," said his lawyer, Vince Finaldi. "Instead, he had to stop competing in the sport he loved because of the physical and emotional damage allegedly done to him by his coach."

The U.S. Figure Skating Association and the ice rinks where Vincent worked ignored complaints against him for years, Finaldi said, who added that if they had reported Vincent to the police, Doe and children "could have been protected from this monster."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Welcome All Star Break, Lonzo Ball Ready To Return]]>Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:41:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-knee-injury-Lakers-practice.jpg

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers officially wrap up All Star break, open their doors and prepare to address the final 25 games of the season. The Lakers entered All Star break with 23 wins in 57 games, which is only three wins shy of where the team finished for the 2016-17 season.

"Yea, I mean, playing 50-plus games is definitely hard on your body, especially if you haven't really gone through it," Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma responded when asked if he needed a bit of a break, mentally and physically, after the Rising Stars game at All Star Weekend. "It's really good, not only for me, but for the Lakers in general. I feel we need to cleanse after winning a lot and taking a couple steps back. I think it's a good thing all around."

Kuzma said he would soon be on the beach somewhere, "Chillin'." Based on his social media accounts, the Michigan native and an army of "Kuzmania" t-shirts found time to relax on the sand in Miami.

A season ago, Brandon Ingram needed the All-Star break to provide him a physical break. He took the opportunity to reexamine the season and finished the year on a notably higher note.

"I definitely think it's a good time for a break," Ingram said following his limited minutes outing in the Rising Stars game. "I think everything that I've done over these last couple months and last couple weeks, I think it's a good time to come back and reflect on the first half of the season and come back and try to be better in the second half—even better—and make a bigger push in what we're doing for our organization."

With a full professional season and NBA offseason under his belt, NBCLA.com wondered if Ingram needed this break more on a mental level than a physical level.

"Yes, definitely, mentally more than physically because going through it last year, I know what more to expect now," Ingram confirmed. "Mentally, taking on more responsibility, becoming a leader and just trying to figure out different schemes on how I can be the best player on the floor every single night."

Of course, taking part in All Star weekend for the second year in a row and knowing his eligibility for the Rising Stars game had run out, Ingram eyed the Sunday All Star Game, "That's my next goal, I think, to make it to the All Star Game."

Perhaps, the Lakers' player that benefited from the break more than anyone else was Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. The 20-year-old no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has not played since Jan. 13 and missed 15 straight games leading into the All Star break with a sprained MCL. The chance to heal for an extra 10 days without the pressure of missing practices and games should have come as a welcome relief for the rookie.

When the Lakers open their practice doors on Thursday, one of the first questions will be about Ball's return to practice and availability on Friday. Thursday arrives exactly 40 days since he suffered the injury, which was originally considered a "minor" knee sprain. Effectively, the Lakers gave up Ball for lent.

"Sitting out is not fun, ever," Ball said in a crowded media mixed zone following the Rising Stars game on Friday. Ball did some pregame shooting with Kuzma on the court and watched the exhibition contest from the bench before taking on questions about his music, his brand, his dad, his game and of course, his health.

"I want to get back on the court as soon as possible," Ball said and targeted a return on day no. 41. "I should be back versus Dallas. I'll be ready to work again."

Pressed slightly to clarify his improvement, Ball added, "I can run and jump. Like I said, I can feel (the knee) a little bit, but if it was a playoff game, I could definitely play."

Six days after those comments, the Lakers' have scheduled a practice on Thursday. Friday, the Lakers host Dallas, and anything short of Ball returning to the starting lineup will begin a grand inquisition about the rookie's knee.

Asked how much better he needed to feel before he could return, Ball shut down any thought of him missing added time. In the crowded media mixed zone at STAPLES Center, Ball didn't exactly answer the question but provided the answer nonetheless: "I'm looking forward to playing next game back, so definitely going to be excited for that."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Back to Work, Months After Falling a Game Short]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 00:25:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/dodgers+spring+training1.JPG

The Los Angeles Dodgers entered spring training with five consecutive NL West titles and a major league-high 473 victories in that span. 

It is not enough for a team that was so close to winning it all in 2017. 

"You can sense the hunger in this clubhouse," said Enrique Hernandez, noting that the majority of the Dodgers' position players arrived days ahead of the required reporting date. 

The first full-squad workout was set for Monday. 

"We have five straight division titles and pretty much nothing to show for it besides the National League championship. This core of position players has been together for a few years now," he said Sunday. 

"I think it is a cumulative thing that has been growing for years. Getting so close to it last year and seeing the other team celebrate at our home stadium, maybe that's the last bit of fuel that we needed to make that fire burn. We're ready," he said. 

The Dodgers added old friend Matt Kemp to basically the same position player group that took them to a major league-most 104 victories and Game 7 of a captivating World Series against Houston last year.

Trading deadline addition Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, but the bulk of the rotation also returned. 

The Dodgers had an NL-best 3.38 ERA in 2017 before falling one game short of their first World Series title since the Orel Hershiser/Kirk Gibson 1988 team. 

Gibson has been invited to throw out the first pitch in the season opener this year, perhaps symbolic of the team's expectations. 

"Last year happened," Hernandez said. "There is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is try to take care of business this year and not fall one game short." 

"We feel like we have the team. We feel we are the team to beat in the National League. Last year we felt like we were the team to beat in all of baseball, and we were until the end. This is the same team. A little more hunger," he said. 

Hernandez typified manager Dave Roberts' commitment to versatility and team approach last year, when he played every position but catcher and started at six. Only two Dodgers played more than his 140 games. 

Roberts said he likes what he has seen in the first few days of camp. 

"Outside of the kind of normal pleasantries of seeing guys you haven't seen, it's sort of business of usual, and I like that mindset. It's very workmanlike and methodical, and that's what we like our ballclub to be," he said.

The Dodgers swept Arizona in the NL Division Series and beat the defending world champion Chicago Cubs in five games in the NLCS before falling to the big-hitting Astros in the Series.

"You can look at it and say it was a down note, or you can look at it and say look what we gained in experience. I think that's the way you have to take it," said left-hander Rich Hill, who tied a career high with 12 victories and figures to slot into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw.

"You can't sit there and say, Poor us, we lost in the World Series.' No, it's like we gained so much more in experience playing than the 28 teams that did not get the opportunity."

"So moving forward into this spring training, that's where everybody's mindset is. What do we have to do today? What do we have to do tomorrow? That's where the process ensues. The process is just one little drop in the bucket every single day, understanding that it is about today," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Yasiel Puig's Drone: We Do Not Have Liftoff]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 06:23:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/2-19-2018-puig-drone.JPG

All right, so Yasiel Puig needs some work. Alysha Del Valle is at Camelback Ranch with the Dodgers sluggers and the rest of the team as spring training gets underway.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Team LeBron Wins All-Star Game, LeBron MVP]]>Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:25:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LeBron-James-MVP-All-Star.jpg

On Sunday, the 2018 NBA All-Star Game came to STAPLES Center to wrap up an eventful All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, and the headlining act for the weekend, LeBron James, led his team to victory over Team Stephen 148-145.

James finished the night two assists short of a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and took home the All-Star Game MVP honors. James eared the third All-Star Game MVP trophy of his career but the first time he'd claimed the honor since 2008, a full decade earlier.

Rather than the traditional East versus West format, the NBA named the two top vote-getters, James and Stephen Curry, as team captains to try and add life to the Sunday showcase. The two picked their teams of All-Stars by taking turns in a playground style prior to the weekend.

The new format hoped to reverse the recent trend of a lack of defense and competition in the mid-season exhibition, and Sunday's game provided exactly what the league hoped for. Defense was on display throughout the night, and the final game-winning play featured a defensive stop by Team LeBron.

Trailing by three points, Team Stephen had a multitude of shooters able to drain a long range attempt and force overtime, but James' team played such stiffling defense that Team Stephen failed to even get a shot off before time expired.

For Team Stephen, third-time All-Star Damian Lillard led led the way with 21 points, as the Portland Trail Blazers guard made nine of his 14 attempts on the day and played an efficient game. Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni chose to go with his starters down the stretch and took Lillard out, which was a decision that seemed to cost the Houston Rockets' coach the game.

Lillard finished the night as a plus-18, which was the best plus-minus of any player on the night.

Other standout performers included Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with a double-double in his first All-Star appearance. "KAT" scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to highlight a new wave of young All-Stars. Joel Embiid also fell into that category, as the Sixers center tabbed 19 points, eight rebounds and a couple blocks in only 20 minutes on the floor. 

Surprisingly, Curry struggled to get going and even chose to sit out to start the second half. The Golden State Warriors star only scored 11 points and missed 10 of his 14 field goal attempts on the night. Klay Thompson, one of four Warriors in the game, caught fire from distance early and hit five of his 10 three-point attempts on the night. Thompson finished with 15 points. Kevin Durant, who was the only Warriors player on Team LeBron, finished with 19 points to lead the way for the Golden State foursome.

"It's not the first time I played with LeBron," Durant reminded reporters after the game. "We played in the Olympics together, so I kind of knew (how to play with him)."

Highlighting the modern style of the NBA, the two teams combined for 123 three-point attempts, meaning more than half of the shots in the game came from beyond the three-point line. Unfortunately for Team Stephen, only 17 of its 65 three-point attempts felt the bottom of the net. Team LeBron was only slightly sharper with 19 makes in 58 attempts.

Ultimately, the new format achieved its goal of making a more competitive game and added meaning to a game that had seemingly lost more and more of its shine with every passing year.

"We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke," Durant said after the game. "Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game."

James winning the MVP provided the perfect conclusion to the weekend, as the basketball star had been the center of attention all weekend long after becoming embroiled in a national controversy with a Fox News host. Added to that, James is also considered a prime target free agent target for the Los Angeles Lakers in the upcoming summer.

James added fuel to that latter fire with his post-game comments suggesting Los Angeles was a perfect host city for the event: "[LA]'s built for stars. It's built for entertainment. It's built for cameras and bright lights. It's a great place for [the All-Star Game]."

All in all, the 2018 NBA All-Star Game was a success, and the league will likely repeat the same team captain format in Charlotte in 2019.

<![CDATA[Highlights: Mitchell Wins Slam Dunk Contest]]>Sat, 17 Feb 2018 21:19:11 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Larry-Nance-jr-Slam-Dunk-contest.jpg

On Saturday night, the NBA's All Star weekend featured the annual trio of fan favorite competitions: the 3-Point Contest; Slam Dunk Contest and the Skills Competition.

First up, Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets claimed the title in the Skills Competition, as the LA-native took advantage of being close to home.

"I'm not actually from the valley," Dinwiddie said when asked about being from Woodland Hills. "I just went to school out there. I'm actually from L.A."

After Dinwiddie cleared the court, the festivities turned to the sharp shooting talents in the league. The three-point contest featured another hometown hopeful in Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Unfortunately, George threw up blanks and promptly exited the competition in the opening round. LA Clippers forward Tobias Harris, though, caught fire in the opening round and joined Klay Thompson and Devin Booker into the final round of the sharp shooting contest.

Entering the night as the favorite, Thompson recorded a strong score of 25 points, but Booker's record tally of 28 gave the Phoenix Suns guard the three-point shooting title.

"I'm going dunk contest next," Booker joked after the victory. "No, I'm just kidding. No, you know, obviously, hopefully I can come back and maybe win it again."

Finally, the night concluded with the highly anticipated Slam Dunk contest. Former Laker Larry Nance Jr., who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the NBA Trade Deadline, changed into his dad's old Phoenix Suns jersey for his first dunk of the night. Nance's father, who was in attendance, won the first ever Slam Dunk Contest and appreciated his son recreating pop's classic dunk.

"It was awesome," Nance said about mimicking his father in front of an international audience. "Very cool moment for my family."

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell took the lead after the first round, with Nance finishing second and qualifying for the final round.

In the final round, Mitchell and Nance went head-to-head, and both players put up 50-point perfect dunks. Mitchell eventually claimed the victory with a 360 dunk that gave him a two-point edge in the final round: 98-96.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LeBron James Responds to Fox News Anchor]]>Sat, 17 Feb 2018 17:04:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/LeBron-James-All-Star-Fox-News.jpg

On Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the largest huddle of reporters awaited LeBron James' arrival at a podium designated for the NBA superstar.

Under normal circumstances, James would have spoken about his peers, the All-Star festivities, rumors of a move to LA in the summer or other basketball related topics.

Instead, this press conference began with a question about Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham who had labelled James as a "cautionary tale" and scolded one of the most famous athletes of all time to "shut up and dribble."

"We will definitely not shut up and dribble," James said. "I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don't have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation that they're in. Also, I wish she would have done a little bit more fact checking because I actually did finish high school and didn't leave early. I graduated high school."

James is one of the most successful athletes of all time, and the criticism Ingraham levelled at the star has been met with support across the sports world, with Philadelphia Eagles star Chris Long bringing attention to the fact that Fox News regularly calls upon musicians, athletes and other under-qualified political analysts on their network.

The tone of Ingraham's comments rubbed a great deal of athletes the wrong way. Kevin Durant, who was also in the original video that launched the Fox News host's rant, called the rant "racist."

"To be an African-American kid and grow up in an inner city with a single parent mother and not being financially stable and to make it where I've made it today, I think I’ve defeated the odds," James said, clearly the center of attention in a room filled with All-Stars.

James added, "I think I've defeated the odds and I want every kid to know that, and I want everybody to know that. The youth, they can do that as well. And that's why I will not just 'shut up and dribble' because I mean too much to my two boys here, their best friend right here, my daughter back home, my wife, my family and all these other kids that look up to me for inspiration and trying to find a way out, and find some leeway on how they can become as great as they can, being how those dreams can become reality."

The 33-year-old father of three managed to go the entire press conference without naming Ingraham. At one point, he asked what her name was and got a response that nobody knew from former NBA player Tiago Splitter. "That's perfect," James smiled.

"So, thank you, whatever her name is, I don't even know her name," James said.

Ingraham has since invited James onto her show, which has obviously been met with a stern response from James' many supporters. Also, the invitation from the Fox News host seems to only further undermine her original point that James had no right or qualification to speak on politics. In fact, she started her now infamous commentary with, "Must they run their mouths like that?"

James' LA home had been vandalized with a racial slur during the NBA Finals in 2017, and James had spoken about racial tensions in response then, too. Asked if he was being used as a symbol, James said he didn't know before providing a response. 

"When I did it at the finals or when I'm doing it here at All-Star weekend, if it's for the greater good, then I don’t mind being a symbol. I don’t sit up here trying to get a reward for it. I don't think Muhammad Ali sat up there trying to get a reward. I don't think Jim Brown or Bill Russell or Jackie Robinson and the list goes on and on, they sat up there trying to get rewarded for it. It's just who we are. We know it’s bigger than us. It’s not about us."

James added, "I'm going to do what I have to do to continue to play this game that I love to play, but this is bigger than me playing the game of basketball."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[2018 All-Star Los Angeles Free Public Events]]>Fri, 16 Feb 2018 08:26:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Staples-Center-NBA-All-Star-2018.jpg

With the 2018 All-Star Weekend finally here, Los Angeles is now hosting festivities. Along with the private parties popping up around town and celebrities hosting events in Hollywood, here are a couple events that came across our wires that are open to the public.

NBA Crossover at the Majestic downtown: (Free/Open to Public)

650 South Spring St.

Friday: Feb 16 - 12 p.m. - 8 p.m
Saturday: Feb. 17 - 12 p.m. - 6 p.m
Sunday: Feb 18 - 12 p.m. - 8 p.m

Art, Music, Fashion, Technology, along with Daily NBA Player and Celebrity Appearances is how this space is advertised. This is an official event promoted by the NBA, so it should have star powers popping through the venue all weekend long. However, this event requires registration: http://nbaeventregistration.com/crossover

American Express All-Star Experience (Free/Open to Public)

1147 South Hope Street

Friday: Feb 16 - 12 p.m. - 9 p.m
Saturday: Feb. 17 - 10 a.m. - 9 p.m

Pop-up within a couple blocks of L.A. Live. Interactive rooms and installations with a “Lakers’ Vault” that includes a throne, a crown for photo ops, Elgin Baylor’s shoes, a replica trophy and more. If you love the gram, this spot is great for Instagram posts. There’s even a cool gif creator where you can smash act like Shaq and shatter the backboard.

Register Here: www.thebasketballexperience.com

Along with the above official installations, various parties in night clubs and in mansions around town, nearly every shoe brand has a pop-up shop springing up. Some are open to the public, while others are invite-only. We got an invite to the exclusive Jordan Brand pop-up shop called "Studio 23" at a secret, private location in Little Tokyo.

The folks at Jordan are not only sponsoring the weekend, they are also making the jerseys for the All-Star game. So, we took a look at the pop-up factory that promises customized clothing and shoes for invitees, all of whom require a high school, college or middle school ID card to get in the door.

The space also features two professional recording music studios modeled after those at Interscope Records, and there were whispers of getting Jordan athlete Victor Oladipo to record in the studio. Here are some NBCLA exclusive photos of the pop-up installation:

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy Butler, T-Wolves Rip Up Lakers Late]]>Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:48:04 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jimmy-Butler-Lakers-Wolves.jpg

Jimmy Butler came up with a couple big blocks late and former USC Trojan Taj Gibson poured in 28 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves get the 119-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and enter the All Star break with a 36-25 record.

That record places the Timberwolves in the no. 4 slot in the Western Conference, which means home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Currently, that looks like a matchup against Oklahoma City and All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Thursday provided the Lakers their third straight defeat, winning 12 of 16. Of course, that run of play came on the back of a nine-game losing streak, so it's been up and down for the purple and gold.

Isaiah Thomas had a rough shooting night, and the point guard, who is notably slight of height in the tallest league on the planet, only made three of his 15 attempts. Coupled with Kyle Kuzma hitting three of his 12 attempts on the night, the Lakers' bench would have been all but doomed were it not for Ivica Zubac.

Yes, Zubac got a little run, and he looked good. The 20-year-old center played 12 or more minutes in a game for only the second time all season. Incidentally, the only other occasion also came against the Timberwolves back on New Year's Day: four points, four rebounds and three fouls on 2-3 from the field in 12 minutes.

On Thursday night, the Bosnian-born Croatian made all eight of his field goals and hit three of his six foul shots for 19 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. He only committed one foul and the team was plus-five with Zubac on the court. One would hardly be shocked if the Lakers gave the 7-footer a closer look at the tail end of the season.

While Julius Randle continued to be a terror at times and finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two assists and a block and Brandon Ingram confidently tabbed 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, the Lakers simply failed when it mattered most against a team that had no interest of laying down.

Down the stretch, the Lakers fell apart, and Minnesota smelled blood instantly. The Lakers led by seven points entering the final quarter. Jamaal Crawford hit a couple big three-pointers, and Minnesota took a 102-101 lead with six minutes remaining in the game on a Jimmy Butler jumper. 

In that moment, Butler took over the game and outscored the Lakers 10-2 if one counts the five free throws he drew and made following the jump shot, along with the assist he dropped to Gibson for an old-fashioned three-point play.

With the Lakers suddenly trailing by six points and four minutes on the clock, Lakers coach Luke Walton went back to Thomas for the final four minutes. It didn't work. The Lakers couldn't throw a rock in the Great Lakes. 120 seconds later, the Lakers had managed only two points and Karl-Anthony Town's short range shot effectively killed the game with 1:58 remaining.

Ingram's quick score provided a glimmer of hope, but the clock was the enemy. Minnesota milked the seconds and even the defensive stop meant only the slightest chance. Thomas set up Randle on a potential alley-oop, but Randle gathered the ball before going up. Butler came from behind and made a game-ending block. When Thomas offered the next attempt, Butler added to his highlight reel and flexed for the fans.

Carrying an eight-point lead and the Lakers incapable of scoring with only a minute showing on the clock, the contest had ended, save for the clock countdown inevitably interrupted by needless fouls.

The Lakers enter the All-Star break with a record of 23-34. A season ago, the Lakers were 19-39 at the break, so they have displayed signs of improvement. That said, the Lakers have yet to win since trading Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson and acquiring Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, along with a first round draft pick. In addition, Lonzo Ball missed the final 15 games leading into the All Star break with a MCL sprain in his left knee.

The rookie point guard had been ramping up his practice activity ahead of the road trip, so the Lakers hope to have the 20-year-old back for the final segment of the season. With the Lakers on a three-game losing streak, Thomas joining Ball for the first time and a full eight days to think it over, don't be surprised if Walton offers a new look starting lineup against Dallas on Feb. 23.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Anthony Davis, Pelicans Shatter Lakers' Hearts]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:39:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Anthony-Davis-Lakers-Pelicans+%282%29.jpg

On Valentine's Day, Anthony Davis broke the Los Angeles Lakers' hearts with 42 points, 15 rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks in a wire-to-wire 139-117 victory.

The game started with an eventful first quarter where the Lakers showed that they had left their forgotten their defense at home, meaning this date could turn ugly in a hurry. The New Orleans Pelicans scored 46 points in the first 12 minutes and led by as many as 23 points during the opening quarter, as they stepped on the Lakers' exposed hearts without any mercy.

In that first quarter, the Lakers dug a hole so massive that they were likely receiving job offers from cemeteries across New Orleans.

In addition, former Boston Celtics point guards Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo began verbally jabbing with one another and quickly earned ejections from the game. Prior to the jawing, Davis sufferred a groin injury and went back to the locker room area, but when the second quarter started, the "Unibrow" was on the court ready to ruin the Lakers' night.

By halftime, Davis already had 31 points and eight rebounds, and the Pelicans would have been completely out of sight had Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma not run in off the bench to perform mouth-to-mouth on the Lakers. Kuzma scored 19 points in that first half, and thanks to the Flint, Michigan native, the Lakers only trailed by 13 points at the break: 79-66.

By the time the second half came around, Lakers coach Luke Walton had also joined Thomas in earning an expulsion from the court. Without their coach, Walton's men quickly trimmed the difference to only two points and looked ready to win the game against the longest odds, which is what Valentine's Day is all about, of course.

Sadly for the Lakers, this was a story of heart break. The Pelicans put up the fence and filed the restraining order. By the time the clock wound down, the Pelicans sat securely in their home, softly petting a 139-point performance, which tied a franchise record. The Pelicans won by 22 points, as the Lakers found a dark locker room to drown their sorrows and mend their broken hearts.

Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle both played efficient offensive games, as did rookie Josh Hart, but the inability to stop Davis and shoot down positive performances from Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and Darius Miller helped pull the plug on the Lakers' hopes.

Holiday, who attended UCLA, finished with 24 points, 11 assists, four rebounds and four steals in the victory, while Mirotic and Miller combined for 35 points, 10 rebounds and six assists off the Pelicans' bench.

For the Lakers, Ingram finished with 21 points, five assists and five turnovers, while Randle finished with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and four turnovers. While both Ingram and Randle shot the ball at a high percentage, both forwards shared blame when analyzing the 20-11 turnover differential between the two teams.

Kuzma finished as the Lakers' leading scorer with 23 points off the bench despite not attempting a single foul shot on the night.

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 23-33 on the season. Next, the Lakers play in Minnesota on Thursday night before hitting the All-Star break and taking a much-needed break.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers Hold First Spring Training Workout on Valentine's Day]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 00:25:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/AP_18045712011605.jpg

All-Star closer Kenley Jansen likes the way the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers are getting started again — with a very familiar rotation.

Even with Yu Darvish already in a different NL blue after his short stint as a midseason acquisition, the Dodgers return five pitchers who made at least 24 starts last season. That quintet combined to start 126 of the 162 regular-season games.

"Sometimes people say, 'Oh, the Dodgers didn't make no moves.' That's why, because we don't need to make moves," Jansen said. "You see the rotation that we have, it's going to help us tremendously again."

Three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star Clayton Kershaw had a team-high 27 starts plus five more in the postseason. Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda each had 25 starts, and Hyun-Jin Ryu 24.

Exactly 15 weeks after the Game 7 loss to Houston in the World Series, Dodgers pitchers and catchers held their first spring training workout in Arizona on Wednesday.

"I'm sure everybody took a week or however long they needed to kind of process everything," Hill said. "If you can't do that, you're going to be kind of spinning your wheels. ... Everybody is ready to get on with 2018 and understand that last year was a good year but obviously the ultimate goal was failed, and learn from that, and continue to keep moving forward."

Manager Dave Roberts spoke about a good nucleus of pitchers and catchers that have been part of the Dodgers have done and are trying to do. His opening message to them was welcoming them back and reminding them that spring training is a long time.

"You have five guys coming back that really have that continuity with the catchers, with Rick — It's huge for us," Roberts said. "To have those guys that really we know them, they know us.".

The five key starters were among 26 pitchers used by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for a team that won 104 games.

"We can draw from where we were last year and the year prior to that moving into the 2018 season," Hill said. "With these five guys that are in the rotation, I think everybody does an unbelievable job of staying in the moment and understanding what that means."

Darvish made nine starts for the Dodgers the last two months of the regular season after being traded from Texas on July 31. He won his NL Division Series and Championship Series starts but lost two short World Series starts, including the finale. Darvish agreed to a $126 million, six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs this week.

Even before his bullpen session on the first official day of workouts, Kershaw had already been tabbed to make his Dodgers-record eighth start on opening day.

Kershaw, who turns 30 during spring training, went 18-4 in the regular season and then 3-1 in his five postseason starts. He was the Game 1 winner in the World Series, but blew a four-run lead and didn't make it out of the fifth inning of Game 5 — which the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings.

The 27-year-old Wood, 16-3 in the regular season, took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning of Game 4 before World Series MVP George Springer's two-out homer. Wood was done after that, but the Dodgers won that game.

Wood acknowledged that it "took a little bit longer" to turn the page after the World Series ended, but is ready for the new season.

"We've got some great guys, guys that have been there, guys that have done a lot of great things," Wood said. "It starts with Clayton, he's an easy guy to follow. I think we feel confident in our group. We work really well with our catchers, we believe in what we're putting out there every day. It's exciting for us. I know we're ready to get going."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[MLB Pitcher Arrested, Padres Taking it 'Very Seriously']]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 14:32:50 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jose-Torres-Muro_Mugshot.jpg

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Jose Torres faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage and making threats or intimidation, NBC 7 has confirmed

The charges were filed on Dec. 27 and stem from an incident that occurred four days earlier at a home on West Campbell Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona.

Torres allegedly knocked a door off its hinges, punched a hole in another door and pointed a 9mm handgun at the victim in the laundry room of their home, according to the charging complaint filed in Maricopa County, Arizona. 

In the complaint, officers said the 24-year-old Torres is married to the victim and lives with her in the home. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were consulted because Torres is a Venezuelan citizen who is in the U.S. on a work visa. 

According to the charging complaint, Torres is not allowed to be around firearms.

The team issued the following statement: 

“We are aware of the allegations involving Jose Torres, and he will not be reporting to spring training. We take this matter very seriously and are fully cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the Commissioner’s Office. We will not have any further comment at this time.”

NBCSports reports that Torres was placed on Major League Baseball’s restricted list Monday.


Photo Credit: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Sitting Lonzo Ball Until After All-Star Break]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 18:03:55 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Lonzo-Ball-out.jpg

Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is still out.

The "minor knee sprain," which was later clarified as a "minor MCL sprain" will force the 20-year-old to miss his 14th and 15th straight games with the affliction on Wednesday and Thursday night.

Tuesday's practice in El Segundo, though, provided positive news on the Ball injury front, even if the ultimate news of the day was that the rookie would miss the next two games with his coach assuming Ball would also be ruled out of Friday's Rising Stars game, too.

"There was some contact, which is the first time he's really done that," Lakers coach Luke Walton shared details of Ball's involvement in Tuesday's practice. "It wasn't up and down full court scrimmaging. It was half court. He looked good, but there was some discomfort."

Walton added, "He did the most since hurting himself today, and he didn't pull himself out. He practiced the entire practice, so the progress is good."

Ball hurt himself on Jan. 13 in Dallas and now has the entire All-Star Break to recover. Should he make his return in the first game after the NBA's mid-season recess, Ball will return to the court on Feb. 23 against the same Dallas Mavericks team at Staples Center. At the minimum, Ball will sit out for a month and 10 days, roughly six weeks.

Over that time, the Lakers have added a dynamic new player that has fans curious. Isaiah Thomas was an MVP candidate at this same point a season ago when he was with the Boston Celtics, but a hip injury limited the point guard in the playoffs and a trade to Cleveland dramatically impacted the career trajectory of the point guard.

At the trade deadline, Thomas landed in LA.

"They were in the same group today," Walton said when asked if Ball and Thomas got any playing time together at Tuesday's practice. "They looked good. It's funny when you put skilled, intelligent basketball players on the same team, they seem to make each other, them and their unit, look good."

Walton would not comment on whether he would start Thomas and Ball together when both players were healthy, but he confirmed that he would continue to stick with the same starters since changing the lineup in Brooklyn, which means Thomas will come off the bench in New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Laker Isaiah Thomas Talks Failure with Cavs]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 23:55:43 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_2977_2_1200x675_1160298563662.jpg

Isaiah Thomas, who recently joined the Los Angeles Lakers via trade, talks about a crazy year and why he thinks he didn't work out with the Cleveland Cavaliers (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Lifelong Fan Isaiah Thomas Joins Lakers]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 23:54:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_2977_1200x675_1160263747867.jpg

Isaiah Thomas speaks about joining the Los Angeles Lakers after being "brainwashed" to love the team as a child and also touches on the fun culture of the young team following Thomas' first practice at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo. (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-MLB Pitcher Arrested With More Than 20 Kilos of Drugs]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 15:18:52 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Esteban-Loaiza-GettyImages-76784676.jpg

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Antonio Loaiza was in the custody of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Monday for multiple drug charges. 

Deputies confirmed Loaiza's arrest Friday was part of an ongoing narcotics investigation. 

The former major leaguer was driving a vehicle believed to be smuggling narcotics, deputies said. That led deputies to a search of an Imperial Beach home Loaiza had leased in early February.

Inside the home, deputies said they found 20 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated value of $500,000.  

Loaiza, 46, was booked into the South Bay Detention Center in Chula Vista, California before 6 p.m. Friday. 

Loaiza was being held on $200,000 bail of possession over 20 kilograms along with two counts of transporting and possessing narcotics with the intent to sell.  All three charges are felonies. 

Loaiza's agent says he was saddened by the news of the arrest of the former All-Star pitcher on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California.

John Boggs told The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that he had no information about Friday's arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently.

He said his office received a call from Loaiza last week but Boggs was unavailable.

Boggs says he was "shocked and saddened" and "had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation."

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Loaiza attended Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. After his 1995 debut in the major leagues, he went on to pitch for the Pirates, Yankees, Oakland A's, Dodgers and others.

Loaiza was also the husband of Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American pop star who died with six others in a 2012 plane crash.  The 43-year-old superstar filed for divorce from Loaiza two months before the crash.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Isaiah Thomas Scores 22 in Debut, Lakers Lose to Mavs]]>Sat, 10 Feb 2018 22:11:03 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Mavs-Dirk-Nowitzki-Isaiah-Thomas.jpg

On Saturday night, there was no "D" in Dallas, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks played to a 130-123 Texas shootout with neither team able to adequately display any form of consistent defense.

The Mavericks eventually holstered their guns after shooting 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the three-point line and claiming the victory in a seesaw game that witnessed the Mavericks target new addition Isaiah Thomas on the defensive end.

Thomas came off the bench and hit his first shot and finished the game with 22 points, six assists but also six turnovers in his Lakers' debut. Considering Thomas has not yet practiced with his new teammates, the sloppy play should hardly come as a surprise.

"Individually, I think I played okay," Thomas said after the game on Spectrum SportsNet. "I wish we would have came out [sic] with the win. That would have been even better, but we'll learn from this."

Thomas added, "This is a young team. We made a few key mistakes defensively down the stretch that probably cost us the game."

At times, Thomas looked like the same MVP-caliber player that led Boston to the best record in the Eastern Conference a season ago. Lakers coach Luke Walton may not have started Thomas in his first game following a trade deadline deal with Cleveland, but Walton called on the 29-year-old point guard to play the end of both halves.

"I like the pace of this team," Thomas said. "I like the energy the guys bring."

Thomas added, "Felt like I got my powers back playing on this team now."

Though the lack of defense is an obvious culprit, the Lakers lost for a far simpler reason that not playing defense. After all, the Mavericks didn't play any credible defense for the majority of the night, which led to the Lakers shooting 55 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point territory. Both those shooting figures even bested the Mavs' unusually high shooting stats.

Simply, the Lakers lost this game by getting sloppy at inopportune moments. Thomas' six turnovers highlighted a 17-turnover game for the Lakers, while the Mavs only committed nine turnovers over 48 minutes. Even the Lakers' seven missed foul shots could not be blamed when counting the Mavericks' five missed free throws. Turnovers, ultimately, doomed the Lakers and a homecoming for Julius Randle.

With his mother watching live, Randle tabbed 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists before fouling out and stewing over the defeat in the closing moments of the game. Randle committed five of the team's 17 turnovers and appeared particularly agitated with the referees on this night.

From a Dallas native to Dallas' adopted son, Dirk Nowitzki displayed his famous shooting touch all night long. The Lakers let the giant German get going, and Nowitzki never stopped hitting the bottom of the net. Nowitzki scored 22 points in 24 minutes on 8-11 shooting on the night. The 39-year-old legend led the Mavericks in scoring for the game, as the Lakers struggled to force the greatest shooting big man of all time off his spots.

J.J. Barea added 10 points and nine assists, as the Puerto Rican orchestrated a night when all five Mavs' starters scored in double figures, with Dwight Powell adding 19 points off the bench.

The Lakers also finished with six different players scoring in double figures, as points seemed to be available at a discount for both teams on Saturday night.

However, the lack of defense combined with the sloppy play ended the visitors' four-game winning streak and pushed the Lakers' record to 23-32 on the season, with a 9-18 record on the road.

Notes: Rookie Josh Hart, who has been one of the Lakers' best defenders, seemed to be the odd man out to make space for Thomas late in the game. Hart only played 17 seconds of the fourth quarter and only entered at the end of the game after Randle fouled out. Trading Hart for Thomas didn't seem to help the Lakers' defensive ability down the stretch. Brandon Ingram made four of his five three-point shots on the night, meaning the 20-year-old is on a stretch of nine makes in 11 attempts over his past three games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carlos Vela Makes LAFC Debut in Preseason Draw]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 18:33:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/carlos+vela+lafc.jpg

Los Angeles Football Club forward Marco Urena opened the scoring in the 16th minute Friday as the Major League Soccer expansion team tied New York City FC, 1-1, in its second preseason game.

NYCFC tied the score in the 56th-minute of the 90-minute game at UCLA's North Athletic Field on an unassisted goal by Finnish midfielder Alexander Ring.

Mexican national team forward Carlos Vela made his debut with LAFC, playing the entire second half.

He missed the team's first preseason game, a 2- 2 tie with MLS Cup champion Toronto FC last Friday because he played all 90 minutes in Mexico's 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina two days earlier in an exhibition in San Antonio.

"It's the first game I've played with my teammates," Vela said after the game. "Obviously, we still need to know each other more."

The striker almost put his team ahead in the second half, but his effort bounced off the post to deny the lead. "Obviously I'm not at my best level physically, but I'm working to get there," he said. "I think there's still time until the season starts and for there to not be excuses for anything. At the start of the season I will arrive at my best form physically and after that (it's about) enjoying and doing the things I know how to do."

Urena, LAFC's third choice in the expansion draft who played for Costa Rica in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scored both the team's goals against Toronto FC.

NYCFC led in shots, 10-6, including a 5-2 advantage in the second half. Both teams took three shots on goal.

Tyler Miller, LAFC's first choice in the expansion draft after playing two MLS games for Seattle Sounders FC the past two seasons, made two saves, both in the first half. NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson made one save in the first 61 minutes. Jeff Caldwell did not make a save in the final 29.

"Today's a good game for us, very different than Toronto," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "It was more physical. I think for our players to get adjusted to the fact that at times in the league, that's the way games are is really important.

"Some stretches where I think the football's OK, other stretches where things are going fast and hard we're not always confident enough to play at the speed we need."

Photo Credit: Mariela Patron]]>
<![CDATA[Time to Talk Playoff Picture For the Lakers?]]>Fri, 09 Feb 2018 02:50:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-playoffs-Lonzo-Ball-2.jpg

After Thursday night's 25-point win, the Los Angeles Lakers have won eight straight games at home and 12 of the last 16 games overall. At the moment, the Lakers rank as one of the top two hottest teams in the NBA over the past 16 games.

Beating Oklahoma City twice in the same week has the Lakers only six games behind the Thunder in the loss column, and Oklahoma City is sitting at no. 5 in the Western Conference. After Thursday night's games, the Lakers sat 5.5 games back of eighth place and 7.0 games back of fifth place. Currently holding onto the no. 8 seed, the New Orleans Pelicans expect to drop like a rock to the bottom of the ocean following the season ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins.

Add in a home-heavy end of the season for the Lakers, where the team plays 14 of its final 25 games at STAPLES Center following the All-Star break, and the idea of a playoff berth, all of a sudden, does not sound entirely insane. When the Lakers sat at 11-27 on Jan. 5, speaking of a trip to the playoffs could have landed a fan or analyst into an insane asylum, but the team went on to double its wins over the next 15 games.

Then, short on bodies due to a trade, the Lakers played an admittedly short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder team on Thursday and recorded their biggest win of the season. The Lakers, seemingly, continue to improve with consistency and win with a defensive formula that seems far easier to replicate on a nightly basis than hoping for hot hands.

In addition, Lonzo Ball has missed 12 straight games, and the rookie point guard won't hurt the team upon his return. Prior to the missed time, Ball was arguably best player on the team. New addition Isaiah Thomas has the potential to quickly replace Jordan Clarkson's scoring prowess, while Channing Frye helps the team in the shooting department, which was a glaring issue all season long.

So, is it time for Lakers coach Luke Walton to bring up the playoffs as a goal and (to borrow a term circling the team in recent days) "recalibrate" the expectations for this season?

"No, not at all," Walton responds when NBCLA.com asked the coach following his post-game press conference Thursday night. "That distracts us from being in the moment, being in the present of what we're trying to do. For me, those end of the road goals are great to have, but we don't need to talk about those because we have a better chance of getting there anyway if we're locked in on today and what we're working on and the one game ahead of us and we're not being distracted by 'oh well, if we win and they lose.'"

The coach continued, "We don't need those distractions. Just stay locked in on whatever game is next. And at the end of the day, if we do that, we have a better chance anyways as opposed to talking about it, 'Oh shoot, we lost three straight.' Now it's a distraction. 'Are we out of it again?'"

So, what about all that chatter about being a playoff team at the start of the season? Wasn't that a goal at the start of the season?

"It's a goal, I think, every team has, but that was never something we talked about much," Walton explained his balanced coaching philosophy. "It was all about getting better and developing our culture and our habits."

When reminded that his players brought up the goal of making the playoffs publicly earlier in the season, the coach didn't claim ignorance but clarified that his staff and coaches didn't do that with the players. The players publicly shared that goal on their own.

So, don't expect the coaching staff to dangle the playoffs like carrots over the players' heads for extra motivation even if the current four-game winning streak continues into the All-Star break or beyond.

The coach's mindset, though, should not distract away from the fact that the Lakers are playing playoff level basketball, beating playoff teams and are back, barely and briefly though it may be, in the playoff picture.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Quiet Thunder 106-81]]>Fri, 09 Feb 2018 02:47:50 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Thunder-Paul-George.jpg

On a day defined by a trade that set up the Los Angeles Lakers for the future, the purple and gold thrashed Paul George and the Oklahoma City in front of a star-studded STAPLES Center crowd, 106-81.

Of course, George is set to be a free agent and likely one of the targets for the Lakers in the upcoming summer, so the victory capped off a positive day in Laker Land.

To start the game, George came guns blazing and made six of his first seven shots to finish with 16 points in the opening quarter. Without Carmelo Anthony or Russell Westbrook available for the Thunder, George seemed like he was due for a big night and ready to show why he may slot into one of the maximum salary slots the Lakers had effectively opened up with the trade earlier in the day.

Charged by George's fast start, the Thunder pushed ahead by 11 points early before Julius Randle led the Lakers' charge. Randle scored 11 points in the opening quarter and helped the Lakers take a three-point leader by the time the buzzer sounded to mark the end of the period.

In the second quarter, the Lakers began to strike gold from distance and, consequently, increase the difference betweent the two teams. After missing all seven three-pointers in the first quarter, the Lakers converted six of their 11 three-point attempts in the second quarter and built out a lead that grew as large as 12 points. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit three of his four attempts in the quarter to spur the Lakers' hot hot shooting.

However, sloppy play and a late Thunder run saw the Lakers leading by only six points at the halftime intermission.

In the third quater, Brandon Ingram continued the Lakers' long range assault with a trio of three-pointers to pop his points total up to 17 for the game, along with five assists. With Randle also playing his usually effective brand of bully ball, the Lakers built out a 20-point lead at the closing stages of the third quarter.

By the end of three quarters, the  Lakers led by 17 points and only needed to stay the course. A couple minutes into the quarter, the lead was back up to 21 points, and Oklahoma City looked like it was on the canvas with little chance of getting back up for a fight.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan would stay with his starters for a few minutes longer, but Oklahoma City's reserves played out the final six minutes of the blowout defeat.

With the victory, the Lakers won their eighth straight home game and 12th game in their last 16 over all. The Lakers improved to 23-31 on the season, while the Thunder dropped to 31-25.

Notes: Caldwell-Pope finished as the Lakers' top scorer with 20 points, along with seven rebounds. Five different Lakers scored in double figures. Rookie Josh Hart broke his streak of double-doubles but finished the game with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. George finished the game with 29 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the loss.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Magic, Pelinka Explain Lakers' Trade]]>Thu, 08 Feb 2018 16:04:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-trade-explained.jpg

Ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers made a trade where they sent two young players, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a 2018 draft pick and two expiring contracts in Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye.

So, why did the Lakers make this trade?

"First, we want to get back to the playoffs," Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson stood in front of a Lakers' backdrop in El Segundo minutes after the trade deadline had passed. "Then, we want to get back to being a championship team. This gives us the flexibility to achieve those things."

Triumphantly, Johnson added, "This is what I came here to do, is to create flexibility for our organization, so that one day, we can have a superstar or two come to this organization with our incredible young talent that we have that we will continue to grow."

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka offerred a far more technical explanation of why the Lakers had made the move. Coupled with the trade over the past summer that sent Timofey Mozgov's contract, along with D'Angelo Russell, for Brook Lopez's expiring contract and a draft pick, Thursday's trade offers the Lakers independence in luring two maximum salary free agents.

According to ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks, the Lakers now project to have $46.9 million of salary cap space in the summer of 2018, with that number jumping up to $69 million if the team does not bring back restricted free agent Julius Randle and uses the stretch provision on the remaining two years of Luol Deng's contract.

"I think we, probably more than any organization in the NBA right now, have the healthiest salary structure, the healthiest salary structure the healthiest flexibility," Pelinka explained. "We replenished the fact that a draft pick for 2018 had gone out as part of the Steve Nash deal a few years back. Now, we replenished that first round pick with that deal. We created more flexibility. And lastly, we added two shooters to our lineup, which is something that Magic wanted to see."

Pelinka added, "This trade kind of hit on all fronts: it gave us great flexibility; it gave us our draft pick back; and it addressed a need that our team has right now, which is making three-point shots."

The driving factor in this trade, though, was that the dream of getting both LeBron James and Paul George on the Lakers, or two other free agents of the same ilk, in the summer of 2018 or 2019 is something the Lakers can now control without any outside help.

"We now have in 2018, in July of 2018, and July of 2019, we now have real 100% space to do two max players if that’s what we decide to do," Pelinka stated explicitly. "Or one in 2018 and then following it up with another one in 2019. So, the flexibility is really amazing. So, if you break it down and study the cap, we feel we are the most strongly situated in the NBA in terms of where our cap stands."

Pelinka also stated that a recent ESPN report that the Lakers were looking to the summer of 2019 and past the summer of 2018 was not accurate.

"I think what’s accurate is we have the ability to look at both," Pelinka said about the team's ability to attack free agency in both 2018 and 2019. "And so, in addition to all the other things I said. It’s not either 2019 or 2018. It could be one in each year if we wanted it to be, two in '18, two in '19 or just sticking with our young core, growing these guys."

While both Pelinka and Johnson spoke highly of the two players that had been sacrificed for the team's financial flexibility, the two executives were all smiles and considered the move a major step forward in the hopes to return the team to relevance.

"I don't want to stay where we are," Johnson said. "I don't want to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in. We have to take another step. And so, this move allows us to position ourselves to hopefully take that next step, which is get into the playoffs and be one of the best teams in the west and in basketball."

Asked about his confidence on getting two elite players to join the Lakers, Johnson said, "I wouldn't have made the move if I wasn't confident." 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Trading Clarkson, Nance to Cavs]]>Fri, 09 Feb 2018 03:15:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-Larry-Nance-trade-Lakers-Cavs.jpg

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cavaliers' protected first round pick in 2018 ahead of the trade deadline.

When analyzing why the Lakers would make this trade, one should keep in mind that Thomas and Frye both have expiring contracts, so this move will free up more cap space for the Lakers' front office to go out and attract top level free agents in the upcoming summer or provide enough space to sign a big free agent and sign restricted free agent Julius Randle.

By getting Clarkson off the books and taking on two expiring contracts, the Lakers now have the means to make the pipe dream of signing both LeBron James and Paul George a reality. Whether or not that dream comes to life, though, remains to be seen.

So, why did Cleveland make this trade? Well, Nance is a great role player and a strong front line defender. Clarkson, meanwhile, promises instant scoring off the bench and better size than Thomas provided the Cavs defensively. In truth, both Clarkson and Nance improve the Cavs defensively when considering the two players Cleveland sent to LA.

In short, Cleveland improved its chances of returning to a fourth straight NBA finals with the trade.

Judging how successful this trade is for the Lakers will come down to what the team does with its salary cap space in the summer of 2018 and beyond. Frye should not be expected to be a long-term fit in LA, while Thomas could be part of the team's future if he can bounce back to the level of play he displayed in Boston only a season earlier.

Still, the Lakers have a rookie point guard in Lonzo Ball that expects to be the future of the franchise, so Thomas' long-term future in LA is suspect at best.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Forbes Says Lakers Worth $3.3 Billion]]>Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:09:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Los-Angeles-Lakers-valuation-Forbes-2018.jpg

According to Forbes, the Los Angeles Lakers are worth $3.3 billion and trail only the New York Knicks in terms of valuation for NBA franchises. The Knicks are worth $3.6 billion, but the Lakers' 10 percent growth from a year ago trumps the Knicks' nine percent increase.

Forbes cited the Lakers' lucrative television and radio deals as a reason the Lakers continue to sit near the top of the sport despite having a team that has been in the bottom rungs on the court in recent years. The Lakers' television and radio deals with Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN Radio net the franchise a cool $150 million per year, which helps explain why both those avenues seem to get special access to players, executives and owner Jeanie Buss.

The biggest threat to the Lakers' top-two status comes from within California. The Golden State Warriors are worth $3.1 billion, which is a boost of 19 percent for the franchise that has two titles and three trips to the NBA Finals over the past three seasons. Once the Warriors move to their new arena, the Lakers' position in the top two could be in jeopardy.

Notably, the LA Clippers rank eighth on the list at $2.15 billion and are well above the NBA average valuation of $1.652 billion. As would be expected, the size of a team's market plays a major role in the valuation. Brooklyn and Chicago both rank ahead of the Clippers in valuation, with the former certainly benefiting from the size of its market.

For the first time ever, every NBA team is worth at least a billion dollars with the New Orleans Pelicans hitting that milestone as the least valuable NBA franchise. A great deal of the boost in NBA franchise valuations comes from the expansion into the Chinese market and also with the arrival of an expensive nine-year television contract with TNT and ESPN valued at $24 billion, which is three times the annual value of the previous deal.

Add in advertising on jerseys, which is a new addition to the NBA this season, and teams like the Lakers are making money hand over fist.

Even with the $3.3 billion valuation, the Buss family doesn't expect to sell the franchise any time soon, if at all. So, while the valuation is another strong reminder that the league is growing stronger by the year, the Lakers' valuation is not of any consequence aside from bragging rights.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma Jokes About Trading Lonzo Ball for Bag of Peanuts]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 23:15:44 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_2892_1_1200x675_1156068419884.jpg

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma got a bit of friendly advice from coach Luke Walton and then joked about trading rookie point guard Lonzo Ball since the team has been winning without him (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Talks About Knee Injury]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 23:14:49 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_2892_1200x675_1156057155608.jpg

After missing more than three weeks with an MCL sprain, Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball spoke to reporters about his time on the sidelines, recovery from injury and his prospects of being available for the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Burn Suns, Win Seventh Straight at Home]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 01:35:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Brandon-Ingram-Lakers-vs-Suns.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns, 112-93, to extend their winning streak for three games and claim the team's 11th victory in its last 15 games. Brandon Ingram finished as the team's leading scorer with 26 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds to give the Lakers their seventh straight home victory.

"It's been impressive, just watching him learn as he goes," Lakers center Brook Lopez said about Ingram playing point guard the past three games. "It's been great. The transition has been surprisingly seemless and smooth. He's such a talented player, and he has such an unselfish mentality."

In the first quarter, Julius Randle, Josh Hart and Lopez got the team off to a fast start, with Lopez and Hart both making a couple three-pointers early and jump starting the game. At the end of the quarter, rookie Kyle Kuzma got off the bench and immediately added five points before the first 12 minutes elapsed.

The Lakers would have likely led by more had Josh Gray, who is on a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns, not entered the game and notched eight points in five first quarter mintues.

Conseqently, the Lakers took a five-point lead into the second quarter.

Suns forward T.J. Warren came to life in that second stanza by scoring 10 points in the second period and increasing his tally to 17 points before the intermission. Ingram joined in the scoring flurry for the Lakers, as the 20-year-old increased his scoring tally to 10 points by halftime, to go along with four assists and a rebound.

The Suns and Lakers were knotted at 57-57 at the break, and Phoenix was hanging around by pushing LA around down low.

The Lakers started the contest by making eight of their 15 three-pointers and hitting 20 of their 40 first half field goals attempts over all, so shooting clearly wasn't the issue. The Suns managed 14 assists on 23 made field goals in the first half, so the ball was moving for the visitors. Though the Lakers shot a better percentage than the Suns in the first half, Phoenix dominated the glass with 12 offensive rebounds and outscored the Lakers 14-6 in second chance points.

In the third quarter, the Lakers came out with a new toughness, but the two teams continued to battle back and forth with neither team able to taste a double-digit lead at any point during the first three quarters.

Warren continued his hot shooting and reached a game-high 24 points through three quarters, but he was one of only two Suns' players to touch double figures in points through three quarters. Rookie Josh Jackson was the other Suns' player to hit that mark, and he only sat on 10 points after three quarters.

Meanwhile, the Lakers already had five different players hit double-figures in points through 36 minutes, with Ingram leading the way and notching 22 points on 9-11 shooting through three quarters. Ingram scored 12 points in the third quarter alone, which was more than any Suns' player, with the exception of Warren, at that stage.

The kid from Kinston, North Carolina also had five assists and four rebounds at that  point and played a starring role in helping the Lakers take a nine-point lead entering the final dozen minutes.

In the first half of the fourth quarter, the Lakers' second unit brought the arena to life and also finally provided the Lakers their first double-digit lead of the evening. At the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Lakers led by 12 points.

Down the stretch, the Lakers went with a lineup of Ingram, Randle, Kuzma, Hart and Jordan Clarkson. By the time the game wound down to four minutes remaining, the Lakers held a 13-point lead and only needed to avoid an epic collapse to claim victory at home.

That collapse was not forthcoming.

By the three-minute mark, the Lakers led by 15 and that lead would continue to grow. With 60 seconds on the clock, the Lakers led by 19 points, and Lakers coach Luke Walton looked to the end of his bench to finish the game.

That difference would hold, and the Lakers claimed their 22nd win of the season, meaning the team had doubled its season win total in the past 15 games. The three-game winning streak coincided with Hart grabbing his third straight double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

During his interview after the game, Hart was interupted by Clarkson yelling out, "Josh Barkley" in reference to Charles Barkley, the undersized Hall of Fame forward nicknamed "The round mound of rebound."

"We call him Charles Barkley," Randle said about Hart after the game. "He's great, especially from that guard position, then coming in and helping the bigs get boards. He's huge for us."

Kuzma went one step further and said that Hart should be starting the remainder of the year.

Next, the Lakers play their final home game before the All Star break against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. LA beat the same Thunder team in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[USC Head Coach Clay Helton Signs Contract Extension]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 21:58:50 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/GettyImages-884144544.jpg

Southern California coach Clay Helton has received a contract extension through the 2023 season after leading the Trojans to their first conference title since 2008.

USC has a 21-6 record in the last two seasons under Helton, including a 31-28 win in the Pac-12 title game over Stanford to become the first team from the South Division to win the conference since it expanded in 2011. Helton is the first coach in school history to win at least 10 games in each of his first two seasons as head coach.

Helton was promoted to head coach in Nov. 2015 and received a five-year contract following the in-season firing of Steve Sarkisian.

Including two stints as interim coach in 2013 and 2015, Helton is 27-10 at USC. The Trojans have not lost a home game under Helton.

"We have lofty goals at USC and Clay can get us to those goals," USC athletic director Lynn Swann said. "He has shown that he can lead our team with integrity and stability and that he has the ability to win conference and national championships."

Financial terms of the extension were not disclosed.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Fined For Tampering, Again]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 14:42:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Magic-Johnson-Lakers-tampering.jpg

On Tuesday, the NBA announced that it had issued a $50,000 fine to the Los Angeles Lakers for violating the league's anti-tampering rule in connection with comments made during a recent media interview involving Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The NBA stated that the fine was in relation to Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The NBA previously issued a far harsher $500,000 fine to the Lakers for a violation of the same rule, and this fine comes as a slight surprise if the fine relates to comments Johnson recently made on the topic of Antetokounmpo to ESPN: "He's going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he's going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he's going to bring them a championship one day."

That would hardly be considered recruitment or tampering under normal circumstances, but the NBA apparently wanted to send the message that Johnson should refrain from commenting on players on other teams in any capacity or face more fines.

Obviously, the value of the previous fine makes it literally 10 times worse, but the NBA is watching the Lakers' front office closely and clearly not entusiastic about Johnson acting as an analyst for the league in his current offiical role with the Lakers.

Curiously, this news came down on the same day as a report by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers' front office was no longer putting all its eggs in the summer of 2018 free agency basket. Ahead of the 2017-18 season, both Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had been public about their desire to add two  all-star level free agents in the summer of 2018. Tuesday's report suggested that the front office was "re-calibrating" to also target the summer of 2019 as a means to attract the star power the organization desperately craves with Kawhi Leonard one of the potential free agents in 2019.

Getting hit with two tampering violations ahead of a summer where the Lakers could be quieter than previously expected is far from the ideal image the new front office wants to give off. Though the fine seems harsh when analyzing Johnson's actual comments in the recent ESPN story, the fact that the team has to pay the fine is obviously far worse from a publicity standpoint than the actual amount of the fine.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Look to Shoot Down Suns on Tuesday]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 09:32:11 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Suns.jpg

Only 30 games remain in the 2017-18 NBA season, and the Los Angeles Lakers rank 12th in the NBA in defensive rating and have won 10 of their last 14 games despite star rookie point guard Lonzo Ball missing 10 straight games.

Ball won't play on Tuesday when the team hosts the Phoenix Suns at STAPLES Center, as the 20-year-old continues to recover from an MCL sprain that has sidelined the former UCLA Bruin for over three weeks.

Considering the team lost the first eight games Ball sat this season, the Lakers' ability to win six of its last eight games without its starting point guard speaks volumes to how the team has adjusted to the rookie's absence.

After a disheartening loss to the Orlando Magic on Jan. 31, Lakers coach Luke Walton decided to move Tyler Ennis, who had been starting in place of Ball, to the bench and push rookie Josh Hart into the starting lineup. This switch meant that Brandon Ingram would be tasked with more ball handling duties, and the move has worked out brilliantly for Walton thus far.

When this lineup first appeared in Brooklyn on Friday night, Ingram came within two rebounds of a triple-double and notched a career-high 10 assists on the night. A couple days later, the second-year forward finished the night with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in another winning effort.

Beyond Ingram's ability to set up the offense, Walton also unleashed Hart, who has quickly become a fan favorite for his tough defense and timely shot making. Walton shared that the rookie had been instructed to focus on rebounding, and Hart grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in the win in Brooklyn and followed that up with 11 rebounds in the win in Oklahoma City.

After Hart joked about "channelling his inner Charles Barkley," a teammate even went so far as to refer to the rookie as "Josh Barkley." Two double-doubles in two games from Hart have contributed to the Lakers bouncing back from the demoralizing defeat in Orlando.

Another player that has contributed to the Lakers' recent uptick, especially the past two wins, is veteran center Brook Lopez. Walton admitted that it was tough to stick with Lopez down the stretch in Brooklyn because of the smaller lineup put out by the Nets, but the center came up with a big block and also hit big shots to secure a road win in the building where he made his name. Lopez leads the team with 1.4 blocks per game despite ranking eighth in minutes at 21.1 minutes per game.

Walton could have easily reverted to playing a smaller lineup against Oklahoma City down the stretch on Sunday, but Lopez had managed to quiet down Stephen Adams, who had previously had his way with the Lakers' small front line. Lopez also continued to shoot well, especially from beyond the arc, and also tabbed a season high five assists.

While Walton may not look to Lopez late in games as a long term solution, the center does have significantly more NBA experience at closing out games than the players the coach typically calls on late in games. When Lopez plays 28 or more minutes this season, as he has done the past two games, the Lakers are 6-2.

Trade Deadline

Thursday is the trade deadline, and the two players that have been the Lakers' best performers this season are both clouded in rumors. Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, who are the two longest tenured Lakers on the roster, have seemingly not allowed rampant trade rumors to distract from their play on the court.

Clarkson, who was designated the team's sixth man, has is averaging 14.7 points per game and ranks third on the team in that department, but he is averaging 6.3 fewer minutes than the team's leading scorer, Kyle Kuzma at 15.7 points per game, and 10.0 fewer minutes than Ingram, who ranks second with 15.6 points per game.

Clarkson is averaging 18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game over his past 10 games and has notably taken on more of a playmaking role in Ball's absence.

Ranking fourth on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game and averaging slightly fewer minutes than Clarkson, Randle has probably been the Lakers' best player this season. The 23-year-old is averaging 16.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists since getting the call-up to the starting lineup.

Against the Suns on Tuesday, Randle will start for the 20th straight game, and the forward has appeared in all 52 games the Lakers have played thus far. Clarkson is the only other player to appear in all of the Lakers' games this season, as the Lakers' Class of 2014 continues to provide consistent output for the Lakers despite Randle and Clarkson identified as the most likely Lakers to be donning different jerseys by the end of the week.

On Tuesday night, though, Clarkson, Randle and the Lakers are back at STAPLES Center for the first time in two weeks to host a Phoenix Suns team that is 2-8 in its last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Lakers look for their 11th win over the past 15 games.

Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Relive the Eagles Upset Over the Patriots in SB52]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 10:37:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Overhead_View_of_SuperBowl.jpgRelive the Eagles First Ever Super Bowl Win Through These Images

Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Super Bowl 52 Memes as Eagles Dethrone Patriots]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 10:25:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-914346954.jpg

The drought is over and the dynasty might be too.

Nick Foles threw the go-ahead touchdown to Zach Ertz with just over two minutes remaining and the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the New England Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl 52. 

Similar to last year's Super Bowl, the Eagles jumped out to an early lead, but Tom Brady and the Patriots rallied from a double-digit deficit to take the lead, 33-32, midway through the fourth quarter. 

After the Eagles went ahead 38-33, Brady was hit by Eagles DE Brandon Graham and fumbled, rookie Derek Barnett recovered for Philadelphia, and the Eagles were able to put the game away.

There were memorable moments throughout the game, and the internet once again came through as they brought us some great memes throughout the game. Here are some of the more funny images and jokes from Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Tom Brady arrived at the Super Bowl looking like a Bond villain. 

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl Anthony Towns wore a "Free Meek Mill" jersey during the game, and the Eagles came out of the tunnel to a Meek Mill song. 

Tom Brady might be the greatest quarterback of all time, but he's not the best wide receiver. 

The Patriots trailed by 10 points at halftime, so fans thought Bill Belichik needed to make some halftime adjustments.


Of course the Super Bowl would come down to the "catch rule," which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell vowed to change in the offseason.

This kid took a selfie with Justin Timberlake and stole the Super Bowl show.

He also didn't know the words to any Justin Timberlake song either.


WR Nick Foles > WR Tom Brady

It was in this moment Tom Brady knew he had lost his 6th Lombardi Trophy

Gotta be quicker than that if you want 6 Super Bowls

Mascot Wars. 

Tom Brady won his first ever Super Bowl as a backup quarterback that took over for Drew Bledsoe. Now he's lost to one.

Here's an update on all of Tom Brady's Super Bowl appearances and rings.

Scooby Doo Ending: Nick Foles is really Eli Manning.

The REAL reason why the Philadelphia Eagles won. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Get Win, Steal Westbrook's Thunder]]>Sun, 04 Feb 2018 15:18:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Russell-Westbrook-vs-Lakers.jpg

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers went into Oklahoma City and beat the Thunder 108-104 in a balanced team effort that featured six players scoring in double figures, with center Brook Lopez as the high man with 20 points to go along with his five rebounds and five assists.

Russell Westbrook put up 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the loss, though the former UCLA Bruin did also have seven turnovers on the day. Paul George finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Unlike the previous two meetings against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers didn't allow themselves to get down early or fail to compete on this occasion. Those two previous meetings resulted in the Lakers losing by an aggregate of 61 points.

Instead, the Lakers came out of the blocks in a full sprint and led for the duration of the first quarter and the majority of the game. Even with Westbrook hitting seven of his first 10 shots for 16 points before the intermission, the Lakers led by two points thanks to starters Josh Hart and Julius Randle both tabbing 10 points and grabbing six rebounds before the break.

Lakers coach Luke Walton kept Hart, who is a rookie out of Villanova, in the starting lineup for the second straight game and called on Brandon Ingram to again play point guard with Lonzo Ball still sidelined due to an MCL sprain. Earlier in the season, Walton inserted Hart into the starting lineup when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was unable to travel with the team due to a legal reasons and also when Brandon Ingram missed time due to injury.

When given the opportunity, the rookie has not disappointed, and Sunday continued the 22-year-old's surprisingly strong play. On the back of a 15-point, 14-rebound performance in Brooklyn a couple nights earlier, Hart finished the day with 14 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals in an impressive all-around game.

In the second half, the Lakers came out shooting well from three-point land. Lopez, who also had an impressive game in his return to Brooklyn a couple nights earlier, proceeded to hit three of his first six attempts from three-point land and finished with four long-range makes in nine attempts.

The Thunder, predictably, came back into the game. With roughly three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Thunder took a slender lead after George got hot and scored eight points to spur a 10-2 run for the home team.

By the end of three quarters, though, the Lakers held a three-point lead despite Westbrook tabbing 30 points, eight assists and four rebounds with a quarter still remaining. One glaring reason the Lakers managed to hold the lead was that the visitors had made 10 of their first 25 three-point shots, which was an uncharacteristically high 40 percent from distance for the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA. The Lakers finished the game with 13 makes on 30 attempts, 43.3 percent.

To start the fourth quarter, the Lakers' second unit played strong defense and managed to maintain and even momentarily grow the lead against the Thunder's second unit. The visitors continued to share the ball and split the offensive burden. Before hitting the midway point in the fourth quarter, Ingram became the sixth Laker to hit double figures in scoring, which meant all five starters had accomplished the feat.

With four minutes remaining, the Lakers held a six-point lead, as Walton relied on a lineup of Hart, Ingram, Lopez, Randle and Jordan Clarkson to finish the game. Clarkson was the only bench player to hit double figures in scoring on the day, as the Lakers' sixth man contributed 18 points on 4-7 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Lakers would grow their lead 10 points before the three-minute mark, and the Lakers looked set to earn one of their best road wins of the season. With 2:44 remaining in the game, the Lakers extended that lead to 12 points, but Oklahoma City refused to give up on the game. Showing their inexperience, the Lakers allowed the Thunder to cut that difference to only six points with 46 seconds showing on the game clock. With 26 seconds remaining, the Thunder got the ball back and were somehow in a two-possession game.

At that point, Paul George stepped up and hit a three-point to cut the difference to only three points. With 21.7 seconds remaining, the Lakers looked like they may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when Clarkson dribbled the ball out of bounds. The initial call said it was Oklahoma City ball, but thanks to a video review, the Lakers got the ball back and managed to get fouled on the inbounds play.

After Randle split his foul shots, the Lakers held a four-point lead, and Westbrook's subsequent three-point attempt did not fall for the home team. 

It may not have been simple, but the Lakers avoided a late game collapse and collected an impressive road victory to finish their five-game trip with three wins. Next, the Lakers return home to face the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers’ Keenan Allen Wins Award at NFL Honors]]>Sat, 03 Feb 2018 20:39:42 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-457739610.jpg

After two devasting injuries, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen won the 2017 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award at the annual NFL Honors ceremony on Saturday night in Minneapolis.

Allen missed half of the 2015 season with a kidney issue, then missed the entirety of the 2016 season after he tore his right ACL in the season opener. 

After back-to-back horrific injuries, Allen and others were unsure if he would ever be able to play at a high level again. 

However, the 25-year-old North Carolina native proved the doubters wrong as he caught 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns in 2017. He was also targeted 159 times, nearly 10 per game.

In addition to the accolades in the best season of his career, Allen became the first player in NFL history to record three straight games of at least 10 receptions, 100 receiving yards and one touchdown.

"I do know, I'm probably the best," Allen said on FS1’s Undisputed. "I am the best in the league. No question. I can do what those guys do. What they're doing, I'm doing it. No question about it."

In the final week of the season against the Oakland Raiders, Allen finished the game with nine catches, 133-yards, and one-touchdown in a must-win game for the Chargers. 

Even though the Chargers failed to reach the playoffs, Allen and the Bolts recorded their first winning record since 2014. 

Allen’s proclamation during OTA’s of having a healthy year came to pass in a major way for the Chargers. The 2018 season looks brighter for the Bolts, and if Allen puts up another great season as he did last year, the Bolts could have a successful playoff run in the AFC.

Allen received 28 votes, beating out Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum, who had eight.

The NFL Honors Awards ceremony will air in its entirety at 9:00PM PST on NBC.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Clean Up at NFL Honors Awards]]>Sat, 03 Feb 2018 18:30:44 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*160/RamsAwards.jpg

Now that's what I call a clean sweep.

The Los Angeles Rams capped off a great 2017 campaign with not one, not two, but three awards, at the annual NFL Honors Awards ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Saturday night.

Running back Todd Gurley was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, defensive tackle Aaron Donald was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and head coach Sean McVay was named NFL Coach of the Year as the Rams took home three of the top prizes on the night.

Gurley had a resurgence in his third season after he struggled in his sophomore season under former head coach Jeff Fisher.

Gurley's memorable 2017 saw him accumulate over 2,093 yards from scrimmage (over 35 percent of the team's offense), 1,305 rushing yards, 788 receiving yards, and 16 total touchdowns (10 rushing, 6 receiving).

Gurley earned 37 of the 50 votes, beating out Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown (8), New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (4), and Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (1).

Aaron Donald surprised a lot of people when he edged out Jacksonville Jaguars DT Calais Campbell to win the Defensive Player of the Year award despite not leading the league in a single statistical category.

Donald finished the year with 32 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and one pass defensed in just 14 games in 2017, but according to Next Gen Stats, is the NFL's most productive pass rusher based on his total pressures and hurries on the quarterback.

"Aaron Donald is better than everybody, and I didn't know he was better than everybody," said Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. "I thought he was good, but I didn't know he was better than everybody, but he is."

Donald received 23 of the 50 votes, beating out Campbell (17) and Arizona Cardinals LB Chandler Jones (5).

The youngest coach in NFL history to reach the playoffs, also became the youngest coach to ever win Coach of the Year when Sean McVay took home the top coaching prize during the NFL Honors award show.

The 31-year-old play caller turned a 4-12 Rams team into an NFC powerhouse with an 11-5 season in his first year ever as a head coach in the NFL.

McVay's play-calling took the Rams from the worst scoring offense in 2016, to the highest scoring offense in the league in 2017, the first time in the Super Bowl era a team has gone from worst to first in those categories. McVay also guided the Rams to their first NFC West title since 2003.

McVay received 35 of 50 first place votes, defeating Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (11), Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone (2) and Super Bowl coaches Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles (1) and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (1).

The NFL Honors Award show will air on NBC at 9:00PM PST. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Cut Down Nets in Brooklyn 102-99]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2018 23:22:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-891255398.jpg

BROOKLYN, NY--On Friday night, Los Angeles Lakers center Brook Lopez faced his former team at its home for the first time since being traded over the summer, and Lopez played a major role on both ends of the court to help secure a 102-99 victory for the visitors.

"Brook was great," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "He had a huge block down the stretch."

In addition to Lopez, who played the most minutes in a game since the start of November and contibuted with 19 points and three blocks in the win, Brandon Ingram started at point guard and nearly tabbed a triple-double. Ingram recorded a career-high 10 assists on the night, though he required extra time on the trainers' table after the game due to a groin issue.

Ingram was not the only Lakers' starter to have a career night, as rookie Josh Hart earned the surprise start and grabbed the third double-double of his career with 15 points and 14 rebounds, the latter of which was a new record for the rookie. Hart took Tyler Ennis' place in the starting, reducing Ennis to a cheerleading role for the night.

"I was chanelling my inner Charles Barkley, you know, undersized guys," the rookie guard joked afterwards. "(Rebounding) was one emphasis Coach Luke talked about."

To start the game, the 22-year-old Hart played active defense and energized the starting unit to help LA get off to a fast start and taste a seven-point lead early. The Nets, of course, came back into the game and managed to even take a two-point lead with former Lakers' lottery draft pick D'Angelo Russell scoring the bucket to put Brooklyn up by two points after 12 minutes: 26-24.

After the first quarter, the Brooklyn Nets honored Lopez, who is Brooklyn's all-time leading scorer, with an in-arena video. Lopez spent nine years with the Nets and drew a great deal of attention in the buildup to the game, which continued into the postgame locker room. Even ushers at the arena gifted Lopez a cake for his return.

In the second quarter, both teams played an energetic up-and-down game, with Larry Nance Jr. grabbing four rebounds and scoring seven points in the quarter to standout for the Lakers' second unit. In fact, Nance even made his first three-pointer of the season. To be fair to the forward, the 25-year-old had only attempted three three-pointers over the first 50 games of the season, so he ended the night shooting 25 percent on three-pointers for the season.

By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Lakers led by two points and neither team had led by more than seven points over the first 24 minutes.

In the third quarter, the Nets came out focused and took a nine-point lead six minutes into the second half. That run seemed to immediately energize Lopez, who proceeded to catch fire from three-point land and bring his team back into the contest. Lopez scored 12 points in the quarter, and his strong showing appeared to pave the way for a rare fourth quarter stint by the big man. By the end of three quarters, Lopez had made three of his four three-point attemps and seven of his nine field goal attempts overall.

Thanks largely to Lopez's inspired third quarter, the Lakers and Nets entered the fourth and final quarter knotted with the Nets at 85-85.

Early in the fourth, Jordan Clarkson shook off his cold start to the game and got hot enough to drain two three-pointers. The Lakers' sixth man had started the game by missing his first five shots, but Clarkson proceeded to make three of his next four shots, all of which came from beyond the three-point line.

In a flash, the Lakers held a six-point advantage with four minutes elapsed in the final period. Four minutes later, Brooklyn only trailed by three points with former Laker Russell orchestrating the comeback and rookie Jarrett Allen having a career night. Allen made eight of his first nine shots and recorded 20 points, which was impressive considering he's a 19-year-old rookie.

But down the stretch with fewer than two minutes remaining in a four-point game, Lopez came up with a massive block under the basket that sent the crowd into a frenzy and seemed to stunt the rookie's impact on the game.

Ultimately, the game came down to the Lakers leading by three points with 8.9 seconds remaining and Brooklyn holding the ball. Brooklyn's Joe Harris took a contested three-pointer from the corner and couldn't make the shot. The Lakers walked away victorious and snapped a two-game losing streak.

Notes: Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets with 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on the night. The Lakers assisted on 21 of 39 made field goals and shot 38.5 percent from beyond the three-point line. Lopez and Hart both hit three of six from beyond the arc.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[On the Road: Lakers Habits, Routines and Rituals]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2018 01:23:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-road-Lonzo-Ball-Kyle-Kuzma.jpg

Napping is a serious topic in the NBA.

Lonzo Ball may be out with injury, but the Los Angeles Lakers star rookie point guard told NBCLA.com what means the most to him when he does lace up his signature sneakers on the road: napping.

"As long as I get a nap, that's pretty much it," Ball said when asked about his pregame routine on the road. "I got to get a nap before games. After shootaround, take a shower, then eat and take a nap."

The rookie says he sleeps anywhere from two to four hours before games, depending on how long the morning shootaround and film sessions run. After pointing out that the cold is what stands out most to him about the road, Ball shares that he prefers staying indoors, rather than venturing into the winter cold to sight-see. Instead, he naps until it's time for the bus to take him to the arena.

For several players, NBA life on the road is better described by listing the various five-star hotel rooms, rather than the cities.

"I get in my room, take a little nap, wake up, watch a little film of me from the last game, how I did offensive and defensively," standout rookie Kyle Kuzma lists off his pregame routine.

When asked if he needs to nap before games, Kuzma answers, "I wouldn't say I have to, but a lot of times, I'm tired or what not. It just depends. More likely than not, I'll nap."

The rookie forward has made waves in the NBA and is considered one of the legitimate early candidates for Rookie of the Year. At the least, Kuzma projects to take home First Team All-Rookie honors, which is an impressive jump for a player that was selected late in the first round and can list all 26 players picked ahead of him by heart.

"It's only 26 names," Kuzma says, as if questioning why anyone would bother being impressed by that ability.

But back to the point, Kuzma's pregame routine may help explain why his rookie season has been so strikingly effective. Specifically, Kuzma is a film fanatic.

"Watching my makes, my misses--watching my form," Kuzma starts in on describing his pregame film studying sessions. "Pausing it to see what reads I could have made. Defensively, where I need to be: help side or whatnot; on-ball defense. And then, opposing team, I'm looking at my matchup, everybody that plays that position, guys I might switch on, see their tendencies and whatnot. Then, watch the extra game film of the team. Watch their sets, just try to picture how those guys get their shots, their offense."

Game-by-game, Kuzma studies himself and his opponents meticulously. His pregame process points to how he continues to earn the praise of opposing coaches and players alike.

"On practice days or off days, I don't have to nap," Larry Nance Jr. adds his input. "But on game days, if I don't nap, it throws me all off."

Nance, who is in his third year and a bit further along than Kuzma and Ball, adds, "On the road, it's more about rest. It's not like we're playing any more than we are at home, but it's easier to lose sleep. Whether you go back East and you gain three hours or lose three hours, whatever it may be, it's easy to let that become like, 'It's three o'clock here, which really means it's 12 o'clock at home, so I'm alright. I don't go to bed until one.' That's how I kind of thought my first couple years. But now, it's like, 'Alright, 12 is 12. I still have to be up at 10 their time tomorrow morning, so I got to get my sleep.' To me, it's more about sleep than anything else."

The Ohio native admits that his mentality has changed over time.

"The first year, it was all exciting," Nance says. "I'd never been to half these cities, so I was up all excited about it. But now, I've been here a couple times. I've seen it. I can go to sleep and not miss anything. Just take care of what I need to take care of."

"FOMO," or the fear of missing out, seems to dissipate as players grow longer in the tooth. Nance says that he's seen most of the museums and attractions NBA cities have to offer, so he'll put his feet up and get in some NormaTec recovery going instead of walking around the cold, hard streets.

As a veteran of the hotel life, Nance shares, "I carry my PlayStation with me or my X-box on the road wherever we go."

Nance says that rookie Josh Hart and him make the call on which gaming system will come along on a particular trip, and one of the first things he does once he gets into his hotel room is set up the gaming console of choice. Hart confirms that the current game the pair plays is Fortnight, which the duo plays together rather than against one another.

Of course, Nance has long been the top gamer on the team, especially when it comes to playing the FIFA series. While on the current road trip, Nance took the lowly LA Galaxy and beat Hart 6-0 even when the rookie played with Premier League club Arsenal. The ensuing trash talk made it all the way to Nance's social media.

One of the rare exceptions to the nap talk or the emphasis on routines on game day is fourth-year guard Jordan Clarkson.

"Once I'm up for the day, I'm up," Clarkson says. "I'll be up until I'm done with everything for the day."

The Lakers' sixth man adds, "I used to take naps, but it makes me sluggish a little bit. After you sleep for so much, you just kind of feel a little groggy. So, I don't really do the whole nap thing."

So, then, what is Clarkson's routine on the road? NBCLA.com asked the explosive scorer and fashion obsessed personality.

"I change it up," Clarkson said, before going on to explain his activities on game day in Chicago, which is where NBCLA.com caught up with the guard. "I lost my shoes. I FedEx'd my shoes to the wrong address, so I went to all these stores. I went to like three footlockers, but I didn't know that there was a Nike store that was right around the corner from the hotel. I went to the Nike Store. They had these (points to black shoes that have "Black" and "Mamba" labelled). So, I got those. Then, I'm watching a movie in the room and the doorbell rings. I'm about to go to the bus, and it's 10 minutes before the bus."

Clarkson starts laughing at what was waiting from him at the door, "I had spent all that time looking for these shoes, and there's a box with another pair of (the same) shoes."

It was the first time the Lakers would be playing in their Kobe Bryant designed black jerseys, and Clarkson is a fashion forward creature, so he had the right shoes for the occasion. Only, these shoes came with the uniform.

Clarkson may not be a typical creature of habit on game days, but he admits he has a routine of visiting the same restaurants in particular cities and performing city specific rituals like visiting the same shops on nights before games in New York.

When it comes to routines, one cannot help but ask the oldest man on the team, a.k.a. 32-year-old Luol Deng. The forward may be out of favor presently and the opposite of a fixture on the floor for the Lakers this season, but he is still the furthest along in his NBA career than any other player in the Lakers' locker room.

"I nap before every game, and it's the same routine," Deng says. "I always try to nap an hour and a half. Sometimes it's less, sometimes it's more, depending on what I need, but I always have to nap."

Deng adds, "I kind of thought most guys' routine would be the same, but it's really not. Later on in my career, when I talked to guys, some guys don't sleep. It's really what works for you. I don't think there's a set routine that's just the main thing. Everybody's different."

Pregame meals are also an important component of the habit, and Deng explained how his pregame meal of spinach, salmon and brown pasta, ordered from room service, came to be.

"My first pregame meal started because I had the same chef for my whole career—the same chef since my rookie year," Deng says. "So, my first pregame meal, he made it, and he made pasta with spinach and salmon. I think my first game, I had close to a triple-double. We went into overtime, and I had 10 rebounds and 21 points for a rookie, and I thought, 'That's it!' That's really what kicked it off and it's been that ever since."

In fact, Deng had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes in an overtime loss to the New Jersey Nets, but those were still impressive numbers for a rookie in his NBA debut.

"Even though my diet changed a lot from a 19-year-old to what I am now, 32, what's changed is I eat a lot more vegetables," Deng explains. "I never really liked vegetables. Only reason I ate salmon that day is because it's the easiest fish to eat for someone who doesn't really eat fish. And so, that're really how it started."

Meanwhile, Kuzma chimes in to reveal that he's already made adjustments to his pregame meal, "I'm trying to eat healthy now, so I changed it up."

With a guilty smile, Kuzma admits, "It was a waffle with whip cream and extra syrup. Changed it up, it could be salmon. It could be whatever, just healthy."

From the video game fights, to making fun of wardrobe choices like Kuzma's recent pink fur jacket episode, the road offers the opportunity for teams to bond.

"I think so," Clarkson says when asked if the road helps teams grow tighter. "We don't got nothing else on the road. It's just us. We don't got friends, family, nobody. You know, a few of us travel with our homies, but for the most part, all of us are just like, 'it's just us.'"

Sitting in visiting lockers forces a more cramped environment, and even the nationally loved Lakers walk into hostile atmospheres on the NBA circuit.

"Yea, I do," Clarkson says when asked about whether he prefers playing on the road. "I like the energy of the crowd. I like everybody against you. Shutting people up is like the best feeling in the world. People hating on you and [expletive]."

Philadelphia and Boston, in particular, seem to be cities where Lakers' players notice the hate.

"New York was fun," Ball offers his thoughts on playing in hostile environments and says each arena is different. "It's a little different than playing in Utah. Yea, it feels a little different, but at the end of the day, you're just playing basketball. Boston was fun. All the fans are going crazy and stuff, and it's just us versus everybody when we're in there."

The reality is that every night in the NBA is an "us versus everybody" night, but on the road, that fact seems to become impossible to ignore.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Lonzo Ball Ruled Out For Two More Games]]>Thu, 01 Feb 2018 13:03:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-knee-injury.jpg

Lonzo Ball's left knee soreness, which was clarified as a minor MCL knee sprain over the current road trip, has officially ruled the rookie out for a minimum of 10 games and will enter its fourth week before the team returns home from its five-game trip.

On Thursday after the team's practice in Brooklyn, Lakers coach Luke Walton said that Ball will not play on the current road trip, which wraps up in Oklahoma City on Super Bowl Sunday.

"Today was our last road practice," Walton said. "Saturday will be a shootaround, and he will not play before he practices, so he's out until at least we get home."

Ball suffered the injury in Dallas on Jan. 13 and has failed to get back on the court for anything more substantial than basic shooting drills, with the MCL sprain affecting his side-to-side movement.

Walton also confirmed that Ball was not close to practicing on Thursday, so the decision likely did not come as a shock internally. However, Ball will stay with the team for the remainder of the road trip and was at the arena receiving treatment while Walton was relaying the news to reporters at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.

"Part of the process is them growing together, whether thats winning, losing, being hurt," Walton explained the decision to keep Ball with the team. "Being here to support the guys that are here is part of that."

Prior to the knee injury, Ball also missed six games with a shoulder injury. So, in total, Ball will miss 14 of the Lakers' first 52 games of the season. LA is 4-10 without Ball, which included an 0-8 start to their time without the rookie on the court.

The Lakers expect to practice on Monday, Feb. 5, with the team hosting Phoenix at STAPLES Center on Feb. 6. If Ball can complete the Monday practice, he would be in line for a return against the Suns.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Meet Los Anarchists, LA's Newest Roller Derby Addition]]>Wed, 31 Jan 2018 18:30:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/rollerderby_thumb2.jpeg

They go by Twiggy Marley, Mount Crushmore and Minor Threat on the rink.

Outside of it, they are Marley Yanow, Gabriella Gulino and Abbigail Ackerly, three teenagers who form part of Los Anarchists, the newest junior roller derby team in Los Angeles.

"Derby names are important because it's like your alter ego," Ackerly said before practice in the remodeled warehouse that the team calls home. "Us as people and us as young derby women are two different things."

Comprised of 35 skaters who range from 5 to 17 years old, Los Anarchists recently became official members of the Junior Roller Derby Association.

Parents envisioned the team and brought together girls who played in different teams around L.A. Coach Michael Castro, who goes by Quadfather, had coached several of the girls before co-creating Los Anarchists. The parents were able to find sponsors and raise the money necessary to turn a warehouse in Sun Valley into a headquarters for the team. The place is fully equipped with a rink, lockers, skates, helmets and knee pads for the players.

The girls' skating expertise varies. There are those who have years of experience and are members of the Junior Roller Derby Association's World Cup team, and there are newcomers just getting comfortable on their skates. At the core, they all share the same passion for roller derby.

"While I'm skating, as cliché as this sounds, I just feel free," Yanow said. "I just love the energy that's on the track."

Because roller derby is not as mainstream as other sports like basketball or soccer, each skater was introduced to it differently. Gulino's father introduced her to roller derby when he took her to a match for her 10th birthday, and Ackerly was encouraged by roller derby women to join the sport when she was struggling to stay on her feet at her local rink.

"I was instantly hooked," said Ackerly, who is also co-captain of Los Anarchists. "Even though I almost broke my tailbone in the first couple of practices, I still wanted to go back."

Injuries happen.

Yanow says she's had broken fingers, bloody lips, and countless falls on her tailbone. However, she says roller derby is not as violent as it is portrayed on television or in movies. In roller derby, you can't punch, you can't pull hair and you can't trip other skaters. These rules make the girls rely heavily on their skating skills, Castro says.

He says the game is sometimes compared to football or basketball because there is often bumping between players, but the rules are different.

Roller derby is played on a flat, circular track with two teams skating counterclockwise in two-minute plays calls jams. Each team designates a jammer, who is in charge of scoring. To score, the jammer has to skate past the opposing team, who tries to block the jammer.

Since its inception, the team has been playing against teams that are ranked internationally. Los Anarchists is working to achieve the goal of competing in the Junior Roller Derby Championship, the ultimate competition for junior roller derby around the world.

"They're my sisters, they're my ride or dies," Ackerly said. "We go into battle together, we win together, we lose together, we cry together, we laugh together. This is what it's all about--the sense of strong family that we have."

Photo Credit: Mariela Patron
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<![CDATA[So, What Does Luol Deng Do During Lakers' Games?]]>Wed, 31 Jan 2018 02:00:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Luol-Deng-Lakers.jpg

When the Los Angeles Lakers take the court on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic, a player in the second year of his four-year $72 million deal won't be on the court. He won't be in street clothes watching from the bench, either, because he's not injured.

So, what exactly does Luol Deng do during games? Where is he?

"During the game, I do as much conditioning as I can," Deng, standing in the visitors' locker room in Toronto ahead of tip-off, tells NBCLA.com. "At home, there's a time period where me meet at 30 (minutes before tip-off). The warmup and everything is at 24 minutes. I try to use that time. I might miss a little bit of the first quarter, but I watch the games."

The two-time All-Star played 13 minutes in the team's season opener and has not seen the court since.

"It obviously hasn't been an ideal situation for him, but he's been great," Lakers coach Luke Walton said when Deng's name came up a couple nights earlier in Chicago, which is where the forward played his best basketball.

Walton, who places a premium on keeping conversations private, added, "We've talked about it—me and him. It's what the two of us had discussed in private and decided what was best for both parties."

Surrounded by familiar faces asking questions and bringing up his glory years, Deng acted as the star attraction in the Lakers' locker room in Chicago despite not having appeared in a game for over three months.

"It's been hard," the 32-year-old admitted. "It's not easy not to play. At the end of the day, I'm trying to control what I can control."

That saying is one that Walton and the Lakers use often. "Control what you can control" is what Walton cited when asked if he ever wondered about his job security during a nine-game skid a few weeks earlier, and it's also the message he passes onto his players whenever trade talk swirls overhead. With the trade deadline fast approaching, that phrase isn't about to exit the Lakers' locker room, and, likely, neither is Deng due to a contract that is nearly impossible to trade.

"I would love to play," Deng continued talking to reporters at the United Center. "I don't know if it will be here [with the Lakers] or not, to be honest with you. [I] just keep working on my game and see. The only way I could ever answer to anything like this is by my game, not by my words. So, I'm not really a guy that's going to speak all day and try to get people to feel for me."

But Deng isn't playing, and he likely won't be playing anytime soon. So, the Lakers' front office will likely need to either figure out how to shed his salary via a trade, buy-out or the stretch provision, with the last of those three options the most likely. Fans boil their blood and blow steam out their ears at the mere mention of Deng's name because of how poorly the signing has worked out for the team, but that's not the player's fault.

To his credit, Deng continued to be a professional and positive influence behind the scenes.

"If you come to any of our shootarounds, any of our practices, he's out there with our young guys afterwards working," Walton said about the forward. "He's running. He's staying in shape. So, he's been a complete professional about it. He's been helpful around the locker room."

"With the coaching staff, I leave the coaches to do their thing," Deng told NBCLA.com. "With the players, I'm always trying to help them with what I see and what I know. For me, it's just who I am. I wish I was out there, but it is what it is. So for me, I really enjoy watching these guys succeed. There's a thing about when you spend so much time with people, you just care more than the game. Sometimes there's [sic] games that we lose and you're frustrated, but at the same time, I'm happy how each individual kind of performed and then, when certain players are struggling, I'll really just try to get them to understand the bigger perspective or the bigger picture where my rookie year or my second year, I was ready to break everything. And here I am 14 years later and that's because I've developed the mentality of next play—good or bad, next play."

The most senior player on the Lakers' roster adds, "And that's pretty much what I'm doing with my situation also. I just believe that there's a next play."

Deng arrived in Los Angeles with the reputation of being a good guy to add to the locker room, especially for a young team. A year and a half into his Lakers' career, the South Sudanese refugee who found a home in Great Britain is living up to his reputation off the court even, even if all fans can do is focus on the price tag attached with the player.

"With Julius (Randle), I always tell him to focus on the rebounding," Deng provided an example of his influence. "'The game will come to you.' With the energy that he plays with, I try to get him to get four offensive rebounds per game. That's a goal. Six defensive rebounds. Whatever else he gives me after the 10 rebounds, I always tell him, you know, 'You were plus-three today.' I don't really play with the plus-minuses. I look at it differently."

As a starter, Randle is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game this season, and the 23-year-old forward has topped that 10-rebound target three times in his past four games and seven times since the calendar flipped to 2018.

"It's always positive," Deng said when asked how his teammates react to his wisdom. "I think guys respect me for what I've done, how hard I work. So, I don't really have a hard time relaying messages to guys."

Just as easily, of course, Deng could have mentally checked out, collected his checks and disassociated himself from the team that had effectively turned its back on him.

"It's not their fault that I'm not playing," Deng explained his willingness to help teammates despite the awkward situation with management. "I can't really blame them for anything. Plus, they really respect me, not just basketball wise. Anytime you're in a locker room and guys really go at you and make fun of you, that's when you know they're comfortable with you. If I'm in the locker room and guys aren't talking to me, then that's a different situation. We have a good group of guys."

He added, "If I don't help, I'll always regret it."

While he's not explicitly or formally demanding a trade, Deng is not delusional about his status with the purple and gold. He's staying in shape and wants to play. He has the outlook that he'll be back on the NBA court, so he prepares each day as if the next day will provide the opportunity to get on the court. But with every passing day, Deng's shot at redemption seems less and less likely to come with the Lakers.

"They made it clear, obviously, that I'm not wanted here," Deng says before uttering that familiar phrase that floats around the Lakers' locker room. "So for me, I just got to focus on what I can control."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Video: Dodger Players Speak at 6th Annual FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 12:09:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dodgers_Invite_Fans_Inside_Stadium_For_FanFest.jpg

A record 35,000 fans came out to Dodger Stadium for the 6th annual Dodgers FanFest that featured games, interviews, and autograph sessions with players, alumni and coaches.

Spring Training starts in just two weeks as pitchers and catchers are set to report to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona on February 13th with the first game scheduled for Feb. 23 against the Chicago White Sox.

Some of the players in attendance were Clayton Kershaw, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Julio Urias and Joc Pederson.

"It's awesome to just be around the Dodgers fans," said Jansen. "It gives me extra motivation. I'm going to keep working out more and get ready for the season."

It's always exciting to interact with the fans and see the smiles on their faces," added Chris Taylor who fans affectionately call "CT3." "I always enjoy coming out to this event."

Fans took selfies with their favorite players, purchased merchandise, and played Dodger themed games throughout the day.

Despite the stinging defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series, both fans and players alike were ready for the start of the new season as the team looks to capture it's first World Series title in 30 years. 

"The fans in L.A. are amazing," said Turner. "This turnout doesn't surprise me one bit, seeing it packed out like this, and I know they're fired up to see us win one more game next year."

Opening Day is March 29th

<![CDATA[Dodgers' Justin Turner Hosts Golf Tournament for Charity]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:21:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Justin_Turner_1200x675_1148748355664.jpg

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner teed off his third annual Justin Turner Golf Classic at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks on Monday to raise money for his eponymous foundation.

The proceeds from this year's event will benefit families of children with critical medical conditions and provide aid for homeless veterans and their families throughout the Los Angeles area.

With 144 golfers participating in this year's tournament and more sponsors than ever before, the Justin Turner Foundation is hoping to raise more money than ever as it hosts its largest fundraiser to date.

"It's a good group of guys who are coming out to support me, but more importantly support the foundation and support our community and try and give back," said Turner, the president and co-founder of the Justin Turner Foundation.

The non-profit organization kicked off the charity weekend on Sunday at Onyx restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village. Tickets went for $1,000 and included cocktails, dinner, and a room at the Four Seasons before the tournament.

Particpants in the Justin Turner Golf Classic were treated to a cigar roller and Bloody Mary bar before the 11 a.m. shotgun tee off.

The event also included a silent auction, an award presentation, and a live auction wrapping up with a formal dinner and the Justin Turner Foundation Presentation.

The Justin Turner Foundation currently works in partnership with The Dream Center, 17Strong,the YBSA and most recently the Los Angeles Marathon. For more information on how you can get involved with the Justin Turner Foundation, click here.

<![CDATA[Kenley Jansen 2018 Dodgers FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:20:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kenley_Jansen_1200x675_1148721219725.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen, speaks to the media during the 2018 Dodgers FanFest at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 27.]]><![CDATA[Chris Taylor 2018 Dodgers FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:20:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/CT3_1200x675_1148747843890.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor addresses the media during the 2018 Dodgers FanFest at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, January 27th.]]><![CDATA[Julio Urias at 2018 Dodgers FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:20:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julio_Urias_1200x675_1148712515527.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias speaks to the media at the 2018 FanFest at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 27th.]]><![CDATA[Dave Roberts 2018 Dodgers FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:20:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dave_Roberts_1200x675_1148748355856.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers manager Dave "Doc" Roberts speaks to the media during the 2018 Dodgers FanFest at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 27th.]]><![CDATA[Justin Turner 2018 Dodgers FanFest]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 06:20:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Justin_Turner_1200x675_1148748355664.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers third baseman, Justin Turner, talks to the media during the 2018 Dodgers FanFest at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 27.]]><![CDATA[Clippers Trade Blake Griffin to Pistons: Reports]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 12:13:12 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*127/GettyImages-901384080.jpg

Blake Griffin is no longer a Los Angeles Clipper. 

According to multiple reports, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Detroit Pistons have agreed on a deal to send forward Blake Griffin to the Motor City in exchange for multiple players and draft picks. 

Details on the trade are still coming in, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Clippers are sending Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed to the Pistons in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

Griffin re-signed with the Clippers this past offseason on a five-year, $171 million deal, that would keep him in Los Angeles for the peak of his career. The 28-year-old did not have a no-trade clause in the deal, and is now on his way out of town. 

Many will point to the new Clippers special consultant Jerry West as the architect of this trade, since West has been behind multiple re-builds and trades over the course of his career with the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors.

“Blake is one of the best players ever to wear a Clippers jersey. We want to express our gratitude and respect for everything he has done for this team and the City of Los Angeles. This was a very difficult decision, but we ultimately felt it was appropriate for the franchise,” said Lawrence Frank, President of Basketball Operations. “We would also like to thank Brice and Willie for their contributions to our organization.”

However, West, head coach Doc Rivers and Clippers' owner Steve Ballmer were all part of a meeting last summer with Griffin at Staples Center, as they created a museum of his career with the Clippers, courting him to stay in LA.

That meeting ended with Griffin saying, "I want my legacy to be a Clipper."

“Blake Griffin had a tremendous impact on this organization and his legacy within the community of Los Angeles will be permanent. It was a pleasure getting to know and cheer for Blake. I wish him, as well as Brice and Willie, the best of luck. While change is hard, my confidence in our front office, led by Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger, along with the sage counsel of Jerry West, has never been higher. I believe today, more than ever, in our ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship,” said Steve Ballmer, Chairman of the L.A. Clippers.

Griffin, was the former No. 1 pick of the Clippers in the 2009 NBA Draft, spent eight seasons with the Clippers. He holds career averages of 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 35.1 minutes in 504 games (all starts). The 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year, he was selected to five NBA All-Star games. He ranks second in franchise history in scoring (10,863 points, 21.6 ppg).

Griffin's career has been marred by injuries, but this move is still surprising as Griffin was the face of the franchise and a stalwart in Hollywood, appearing in movies, television and commercials. 

The Clippers are only one game out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

The Clippers will travel to Detroit to play the Piston on Feb. 9. 

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Can't Take Winning Streak International]]>Mon, 29 Jan 2018 00:49:35 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DeMar-DeRozan.jpg

TORONTO, ON—The Los Angeles Lakers could not take their winning streak international, as the Toronto Raptors handily beat the Lakers, 123-111, on Sunday evening in Canada to snap the purple and gold's four-game winning streak.

"We just didn't play well enough to win against a team like this on the road," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "We didn't make shots. You to go really go after it and get it, and for whatever reason, we didn't play with that same edge--it felt like--tonight, and they made ups pay for it."

Los Angeles native DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 19 points and seven assists in the victory, while Julius Randle was the Lakers' top performer with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the loss.

Randle got off to a fast start to help keep the game competitive for the first quarter. In aggregate, the Lakers shot a dismal 30 percent from the field in the first 12 minutes, with Brandon Ingram highlighting the woeful shooting start. Ingram made his first shot and proceeded to miss his next six attempts before going to the bench. Thanks largely to a six-point, five-rebound, three-assist, 10-minute shift by Randle to start the game, the Lakers only trailed by seven points at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Raptors found their stride and extended their lead to 15 points. Larry Nance Jr. made four of his five shots in the first half to help keep the Raptors within view, even if Toronto wasn't in touching distance.

Also, Randle came back in for his second shift and continued his strong play. In addition, Randle and Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had to be separated after Valanciunas pushed the Lakers' big man in the back after Randle had seemingly inadvertently caught the Raptors' center in the nose with an elbow on the previous play.

After a lenghty video review, both players received technical fouls, while Valanciunas also got dinged with a loose ball foul. Randle appeared to use the incident to further ignite his strong start and grabbed his 12th double-double of the season before halftime with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in only 16 first-half minutes.

Randle, who has been on a tear of late, recorded his third double-double in the past four games and seventh double-double since the start of the New Year.

In the third quarter, the Lakers initially hit a trio of three-pointers and cut the difference to only five points roughly three minutes into the second half. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Raptors didn't seem interested in letting LA get any closer. In the blink of an eye, the Lakers were back down by 15 points, which was the Raptors' largest lead of the night to that point.

By the end of the third quarter, Toronto led by 14 points with the Air Canada Centre comfortably settled in to see an 18th home victory in 22 games during the 2017-18 season.

In the fourth quarter, the wheels would come off for the Lakers as the Raptors shut the door on any thought of a comeback and then proceeded to double bolt the door and add a security system. At the mid-point of the fourth quarter, the Raptors had ballooned their advantage to 22 points.

The Lakers would cut the difference to 12 points after the Raptors pulled their starters, but the comeback never seemed likely enough for the Raptors to put any of their starting five back in before the final buzzer.

Eventually, the Raptors won by a final count of 123-111.

Randle said plainly after the game, "They are a better team and have a great home record, obviously. We gave up 123 points, and we didn't shoot well."

Notes: Brook Lopez got his first technical foul of the season arguing a call in the third quarter of the game. The Lakers missed 10 of their 33 free throws on the night to continue their season-worst foul shooting. Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points off the bench to tie Randle as the team's leading scorer. Nigel Hayes, who was on the final day of his 10-day contract played for 10 minutes. Fred VanVleet scored a game-high 25 points off the Raptors' bench in only 20 minutes of game time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Continue Win Streak, Beat Bull in Chicago]]>Fri, 26 Jan 2018 23:24:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Beat-Bulls.jpg

CHICAGO, IL - On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers started their five-game winning streak with a road victory, 108-103, against the Chicago Bulls to claim their fourth straight victory and eighth win over the previous 10 games despite star rookie point guard Lonzo Ball sitting out for the sixth straight game.

On this night, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram led the fight with his best game in nearly a fortnight and probably his best game sans Ball all season. Ingram finished the game with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 18 points off the bench in the defeat.

In terms of the game flow, the Lakers didn't score their first basket until two minutes had elapsed, but led by Brook Lopez and Julius Randle starting strong, the Lakers tasted a 17-point lead in the opening period.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the Bulls' bench came in and cut that gap to only seven points by the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Alex Caruso and the second unit worked hard to get the Lakers back up by double figures and kept the Bulls at a comfortable distance for the majority of the period.

However, hot shooting from distance brought Chicago back into the game and closed the gap. With three minutes remaining in the first half, Chicago only trailed by four points, 54-50.

The Bulls would enter the locker room trailing by only five points, 62-57, after making nine of their 18 three-pointers. In contrast, the Lakers only hit four of their 13 attempts.

Considering how well the Lakers had started, only holding a five-point lead at the intermission had to be disappointing.

In the third quarter, the Bulls managed to momentarily level the game, but Lopez continued to play well against his twin brother, who is the Bulls' starting center. When the Lakers' center went to the bench in the third quarter, LA led by double figures and Lopez had tabbed a game-high 17 points in only 20 minutes at that stage, along with six rebounds, two blocks and an assist.

"Brook was probably out most consistent, best player tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game.

The Lakers would end the third quarter leading the Bulls by 12 points and due to matchups, Lopez did not re-enter the game.

In the fourth quarter, the home team predictably fought back and even took the lead with a shade under three minutes remaining. However, Ingram calmly hit the shot with 1:24 remaining to give the Lakers a four-point lead. After that, the 20-year-old forward hit a couple free throws to help ice the game.

"Brandon was big down the stretch. He seemed to get a little more aggressive," Walton said after the game.

The Lakers' coach added, "Down the stretch he really asserted himself, which is what we want to see."

As the final score suggested, the Lakers managed to play strong defense and get stops late in games, which has been a recurring theme over the past 10 games.

Walton reiterated, "The way that you can pull out wins consistently is to be able to get stops on defense, and we've done that at least for this past 10, 11—whatever it’s been—games."

Asked about what has change over the past 10 games, Ingram offerred, "I think we're more confident. We're staying together. We're thinking defense first."

The North Carolina native added, "I think at some point you get tired of losing."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ball, Ingram and Kuzma Headline 2018 Rising Stars Challenge]]>Thu, 25 Jan 2018 03:31:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Rising-Stars-All-Star-2018.jpg

To no one's surprise, a trio of young Los Angeles Lakers headline the NBA's Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge for 2018 All Star Weekend, which will be held at STAPLES Center on the weekend of Feb. 16.

The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers, who are co-hosting All Star Weekend, did not manage to get any of their players selected for Sunday's big game, but the Lakers will have a notable presence with Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball all featuring for the United States in the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge, which places the league's top rookies on teams based on players' heritage.

The World team is headlined by Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Friday and Saturday night are generally nights when Sunday's elite NBA players sit on the sidelines and act as spectators. This means, of course, that LA's young stars should act as a live-action advertisement for the upcoming summer, when the team intends to aggressively pursue and lure All Star talents to play alongside this young trio of talents.

Ball and Ingram making the roster of the rookie-sophomore game could have been anticipated before either picked up a basketball at the professional level considering they were both no. 2 overall picks in their respective drafts. Kuzma, though, has been a breakout star and earned an invite despite being the no. 27 overall pick.

After earning NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for October-November, Kuzma seemed to hit the famous "rookie wall" to start 2018 and struggled to be as impactful as he had been in the first couple months of the season.

As recently as Tuesday night, though, Kuzma appeared to have broken through that wall when he scored 17 points in the fourth quarter of an impressive victory over the Boston Celtics. The Flint, Michigan native is considered one of the steals of the 2018 draft and a major feather in the cap of the restructured Lakers' front office, led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka.

According to Oliver Maroney of UPROXX, Larry Nance Jr. will also be in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night, so LA's young core should be on display on both Friday and Saturday night, serving reminders that the Lakers have young talent ready to incorporate any of the All Stars watching from the premium seats at STAPLES Center.

One notable player left off the Western Conference All Star selections was Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder. George's interest in LA and vice versa have been widely reported, and the 27-year-old Palmdale-native's absence could serve as a blessing of sorts by begging the question: "Would George have made the All Star team if he was wearing purple and gold?"

Considering the fan support for the team and the extra attention the franchise draws even when it is nowhere near contention for a title, the question is valid even if no answer is forthcoming.

Zooming back in, Ingram, Ball and Kuzma earning selections for the Rising Stars event serves as confirmation that the Lakers' young roster is chalk full with talent and should provide a formidable base for the future of the franchise even if the front office falls flat on its face in free agency.

For the Lakers, the future is bright, and the Rising Stars Challenge is another opportunity to showcase that fact.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Video: Dodgers' Yasiel Puig Serves up McDonald's ]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 23:38:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Puig_Mcdonalds_Photo_1200x675_1144121923832.jpg

Would you like fries with that?

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig proved he was more than just a friend on Tuesday when he made a surprise appearance at a McDonald's restaurant in Glendale, California to serve up some Big Mac's for fans.

The scheduled event was part of the Dodgers 15th annual community service week, which kicked off on Monday at Dodger Stadium when the team hosted over 350 firefighters and first responders to batting practice.

On Tuesday, Puig put his only flair on the fan outreach program as he spent a few hours at McDonald's, taking orders from the drive thru, working the grill, and posing for pictures.

"People need to go to work, and not come to the McDonald's to see me and hang out with me," joked Puig. "I want to say thank you to all the families in Los Angeles."

Puig signed autographs for fans and employees, and posed for pictures throughout the hours that he was there, saying that he couldn't eat too much McDonald's on the day as he was preparing for Spring Training which takes place next month in Glendale, Arizona.

"For spring training, I can't eat too much McDonald's today," Puig told the employees at the restaurant. "All of my team is at the stadium right now... Practice and be ready for spring training and make a good year and try to win the championship."

Puig's appearance at McDonald's was part of 12 events that will take place this week, culminating in a one-day playground build in Alhambra on Friday. 

<![CDATA[Lakers Edge Out Celtics 108-107, Win Third Straight]]>Wed, 24 Jan 2018 01:59:52 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-vs-Celtics-1-23-18.jpg

On Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 108-107 in a thrilling game where rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 17 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving had 33 points in the loss.

This was a wild game.

The first quarter proved to be an forgettable, ugly slug-fest. LA only scored 15 points and missed all seven of its three-pointers in the period, while the Celtics only played mildly better and scored 21 points.

The second quarter was far more uplifting for the crowd, as the two teams combined for 62 points, with the Celtics edging the Lakers 32-30 in the period, and the visitors taking an eight-point lead into the halftime intermission.

Marcus Smart had been the Celtics' standout performer with 14 points and four assists at the break, while Jordan Clarkson continued his hot run with 14 points of his own in the first half. Smart finished with 22 points and eight assists in the game.

After the intermission, the teams came out to a festive atmosphere worthy of a playoff game. When the referees made calls against the Lakers, the crowd rose to deride the officials vociferously. Every time the Lakers scored, fist pumps and energetic screaming was ubiquitous.

On the court, the Lakers started the second half with a purpose and went on an 8-0 run to level the game at 56-56 immediately. The home team would ultimately outscore the Celtics by 10 points in the quarter and take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, largely due to Julius Randle's energy. The bulky forward secured his double-double in the third quarter by scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds in the period. Randle eventually finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Irving seemed to get going early and created early separation for the Celtics before going to the bench for a rest. However, Kuzma stepped up to hit a couple three-pointers to get the crowd back into the game.

Then, the 22-year-old rookie forward drove to the basket, drew extra attention and pulled off a behind-the-back no-look pass to Larry Nance Jr. Nance flushed the basketball, and the Lakers led 90-89 approaching the final stretch.

Kuzma proceeded to hit his next three-pointer and managed to get fouled on the three-point attempt after that. Showered with the familiar sounds of "Kuuuuz," the Flint, Michigan native gave the Lakers a four-point lead with 5:15 remaining in the game.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens called Irving's number immediately and put his star point guard in to close the game.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Kuzma did not seem deterred and immediately scored. Fellow rookie Josh Hart managed a tip-in moments later to give the LA a six-point lead with a shade under four minutes remaining in the ball game.

Ultimately, Kuzma scored 17 points in that final, decisive quarter.

"Kuzma, his fourth quarter was incredible tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game.

From there, the Celtics pushed back and eventually, the clock game clock showed 90 seconds with the Lakers holding onto a two-point lead. Twenty seconds later, Randle, who had only entered the game for the final two and a half minutes, managed an offensive rebound and tip-in to give the Lakers a four-point edge: 104-100.

Still, the Celtics would not die.

After a late three-pointer by Terry Rozier, a couple missed free throws from Hart and a poorly timed foul by Randle, the Lakers and Celtics were back within one point with just under 20 seconds remaining.

LA struggled to get the ball into the front court after the Celtics chose to apply full court pressure, but Clarkson made an impressive grab to hold onto a pass that was behind him before getting fouled. Clarkson, crucially, made both free throws, and the Lakers led 108-105 with 11.6 seconds remaining. 

Rather than going for the three-pointer to tie, the Celtics went for the quick lay-up and opted for a free-throw shooting contest with the Lakers. That was a smart call since the Lakers are the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA.

Leading by one point, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came into the game and immediately got fouled with 5.7 seconds remaining. The Lakers' starting shooting guard, who had made his previous two foul shots in the game, missed both free throws.

Suddenly, the Celtics did not even need a three-pointer to win the game, but Boston had spent its final timeout, so the clock restarted the moment Caldwell-Pope missed the second free throw. Smart got up a good look at a three-pointer, but the shot did not fall.

Streamers dropped from the rafters, familiar victory music played and the crowd began to slowly trickle out of STAPLES Center after what had been an exciting, energetic game.

The Lakers beat the Celtics 108-107 to claim their third straight victory and sixth straight victory at home.

Notes: The Lakers missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and 15 foul shots in the game. Walton said he was "frustrated" with the free throws after the game and barely resembled a coach that had won three straight games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Earns Oscar Nomination]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:44:13 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Kobe-Bryant-dear-basketball-Oscars.jpg

Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly the first Slam Dunk champion to be nominated for an Academy Award, as the 39-year-old Los Angeles Lakers' legend earned an Oscar nomination on Tuesday morning for his animated short film, Dear Basketball.

Bryant has five NBA championships, two Olympics gold medals, four All-Star Game MVPs, two NBA Finals MVPs and one NBA Most Valuable Player trophy, so the man has made a habit of winning.

Potentially adding an Oscar to his trophy haul may be the most remarkable of all of Bryant's achievements because, well, he spent the first 37 years of his life obsessing over basketball and is only in his second year as a film maker.

The animated short film, of course, is about the sport Bryant spent the first act of his life perfecting. In the animated film, Bryant attempts to show what the sport meant to him as a child and also why he must say goodbye to the game he loves dearly.

With world famous composer John Williams doing the score, Bryant's Academy Awards nominated animated short film always seemed likely to earn an Oscar nomination. Considering the man behind the film, anything short of a victory on Oscar night would be a shock at this stage.

Once Bryant has inevitably captured an Oscar, one has to wonder about the super talented former basketball player's singing and dancing abilities because, surely, the Tony Awards and Grammy Awards are next on his trophy list.

Talking about a Grammy or Tony award may be far-fetched and is mostly in jest, but Bryant getting nominated for an Academy Award wasn't exactly the expectation when Bryant was draining buckets for 20 years in the NBA.

One would suspect that Bryant's star power will push him to victory in a category, Best Animated Short Film, that is not normally known to attract attention. Regardless of whether he wins or not, being nominated for an Academy Award is a tremendously impressive achievement, and on Tuesday morning, Bryant joined the exclusive club of Oscar nominees.

Still, one feels Bryant will win.

At Tuesday's shootaround, Lakers coach Luke Walton, who was a former teammate of Bryant's, said he thought the news was "awesome" and said that he wasn't surprised in the least.

"From what I've been told, he works as hard on that stuff as he did as a player, and he stays extremely busy doing all that," Walton said about his former teammate. "When he puts his mind to things, he's obviously very good at finishing."

Walton added, "I'm happy for him but not surprised at all."

<![CDATA[Dodgers Host Firefighters and First Responders]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 11:53:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/DodgersHostFF1.jpg

They risked their lives, so now they're being honored.

The Los Angeles Dodgers hosted over 350 firefighters and first responders on Monday for a day that many of these heroes will never forget.

The event was part of the team's annual "Dodgers Love L.A." Community Tour presented by Bank of America, and it kicked off with a baseball fantasy camp of sorts, as many of the men and women who helped battle the recent string of deadly Southern California wildfires got to participate in batting practice, play catch on the field, as well as meet a handful of players on the Dodgers 2017 World Series team.

Among the Dodgers in attendance to meet with the firefighters and first responders was pitchers Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen and Ross Stripling. 

"I know it's been a crazy last couple months for a lot of these guys," said Wood who pitched in Game 4 of the World Series in Houston last October. "It's cool to have a whole day out here at Dodger Stadium and be a part of it."

Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Justin Turner, and Trayce Thompson were also in attendance.

"I've dreamt about being on this field since I was kid," said Captain Chip Cervantes, who wore a Dodger blue firefighter helmet with a Dodgers logo on it. "We try to put others first, but it takes a toll on the family. Just being out there, on this field, is awesome."

Many local fire departments across Southern California spent most of the holidays battling some of the biggest and most destructive fires in history. Two of those fires, the Thomas Fire and the Creek fire, destroyed homes and took lives, one of which was Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson who received a moment of silence at the Ravine before the day's events began.

Although the fires are all 100 percent contained, attention now shifts to the mudslides, like the one that ravaged Montecito and Santa Barbara County, taking the lives of dozens of citizens.

The inevitable rains of the winter season have created catastrophes as the water ruins the barren and blazed hillsides, creating shifting earth for the vulnerable landscapes.

The community tour runs from Monday January, 22 thru Friday, January 26, as the Dodgers will host 12 different events across the southland as part of their community outreach efforts.

"It's just a small way for us to thank you," said senior vice president of Bank of America Garret Gin of the events, specifically Monday's firefighters and first responders day. "All of your work has been in the news recently. But more importantly, it's what you do every day that don't make the headlines that makes it possible for all of us to enjoy this life in Southern California."

Other events this week will include Yasiel Puig taking orders and serving food at a local McDonald's restaurant. A family pet day in the city of Pasadena, a night to honor female scientists, a movie night at the Boys and Girls Club, a visit to Point Mugu, a Dodgers shave party at Cedars Sinai for cancer research, and a playground build in Alhambra with 


Photo Credit: Nick Hamilton/NBC LA]]>
<![CDATA[Los Angeles Football Club Kicks Off First Practice]]>Mon, 22 Jan 2018 20:51:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafc+first+practice.jpg

Diego Rossi drew the attention of scouts worldwide last year while playing a prominent role in Penarol's championship season in his native Uruguay.

So why would a touted teenage striker choose to continue his rising career at Los Angeles Football Club, which has never played a game and hasn't even revealed its jersey?

"To write the history," Rossi said Monday after the first training session in franchise history.

Nearly 39 months after a deep-pocketed ownership group secured Major League Soccer's 23rd franchise, LAFC finally took the field on a sunny January morning at UCLA for its inaugural workout under coach Bob Bradley.

The club doesn't yet have a fully stocked roster or a finished stadium, although both of those projects will be completed shortly. Building a true team will take a bit longer, but Bradley is confident he has a group that can make an immediate impact in the growing North American league.

"I've seen a lot of first days, but I thought overall, there were some good signs," said Bradley, the former boss of Swansea City and the U.S. national team. "Of course, I see all the things that still need work, so there was a little bit of yelling and screaming and demonstrating, but that's all part of the work every day."

Bradley is the only coach in MLS history to win a title with an expansion club, leading the Chicago Fire to a championship in 1998. He hasn't coached in his domestic league since leaving Chivas USA in 2006, but LAFC seems to have the ingredients to build another compelling team immediately .

LAFC might not have jerseys yet, but Rossi's shorts featured a No. 9, underlining his expected role as the striker. The No. 10 shorts were worn by Carlos Vela, the versatile Mexican playmaker who left La Liga's Real Sociedad to become LAFC's first designated player.

Rossi and Vela could be a compelling tandem, but they're only part of a roster already studded with international talent including Belgian defender Laurent Ciman, Egyptian midfielder Omar Gaber, Costa Rican forward Marco Urena, Ghanaian forward Latif Blessing and Americans Benny Feilhaber and Walker Zimmerman.

"The (other) players' names come pretty easy to me," said Feilhaber, a UCLA product who had mixed emotions about leaving Sporting Kansas City after five seasons. "We're still getting to know each other, but it's fun to get out on the field with players that are as talented as this. We're just getting our feet wet, but it's going to be exciting."

Gaber played for Bradley on the Egyptian national team, and he was excited when LAFC acquired him from FC Basel in Switzerland's top league.

"Once they started to speak with me, I felt they are so professional," Gaber said. "I felt for sure I had to come. Yes, maybe it's a risk to be with a new club, but we have very good players, coaches and staff. The people are so professional. We have big ambitions, and we want success. I am sure we will achieve good things together."

LAFC isn't done building, either.

Rossi filled the club's second DP spot, but a third remains open. The club hasn't decided whether to fill it now or after the World Cup, but there's little doubt LAFC has the financial might to contend for top MLS-level talent.

The club's resources also will be on display in late April when Banc of California Stadium opens in downtown Los Angeles. Located next-door to the historic Coliseum, LAFC's privately funded, soccer-specific home is expected to be a festive gathering place for LA's burgeoning downtown population of relocated professionals and locals alike.

After a handful of preseason friendlies, LAFC will open its first season with six road games, starting in Seattle on March 4 and including its first date with the LA Galaxy on March 31.

"I'm excited about the potential of this club," Vela said. "I think it's going to be incredible."

Photo Credit: Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Fan Sinks $100,000 Half Court Shot]]>Mon, 22 Jan 2018 02:50:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Knicks-Suni-Strong.jpg

The moment Lancaster resident and Palmdale native Suni Strong walked into STAPLES Center on Sunday afternoon, he knew he'd be a winner.

"When (the Lakers' employee) came up to me, when I first walked in, I said, 'Have my check ready,'" Strong said moments after hitting a promotional half court shot with the over-sized check worth $100,000 only feet away. "I knew I was going to make it. I had to."

Strong works for SpaceX, so beating the odds and dreaming big is effectively part of his job description.

"When I used to play, we used to practice (half court shots) a lot," Strong admitted with a beaming smile. "I played in high school, and I played park ball. It’s been years. Man, I’ve been building rockets, so I haven’t had a chance to get to the courts.”

Seemingly, years of playing basketball and practicing half court shots at Highland High School finally paid off for the 27-year-old former Bulldog and lifelong Lakers' fan.

"Since I was a child, I've looked up to the Lakers," Strong said, exuding joyous emotion. "I love the Lakers. So, this is probably the most exciting thing that's happened."

That's saying a great deal for a man who, along with working for SpaceX "building rockets," also earns a living as a bounty hunter, where he claimed to collect far bigger paydays than Sunday's $100,000 prize, sponsored by Mandalay Bay.

"I've collected millions for the judge before," Strong said, while also mentioning that he's been collecting bounties since the age of 18 and even recently appeared on an A&E show, Akil: The Fugitive Hunter.

As one would expect, Strong's shot sent STAPLES Center into a frenzy. His jackpot winning shot banked in off the backboard, and the colorful personality admitted that he didn't call "bank."

"I called money! It was a money shot!" Strong exclaims.

He adds, "I told them, 'I should be a Laker.' I pointed at KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). I told him, 'I should have been a Laker.'"

Asked about the prospect of giving Strong a 10-day contract, Lakers coach Luke Walton joked after the game, "We are looking for shooting, so yea, not a bad idea."

When a reporter mentioned that Strong was a bounty hunter, Walton laughed, "This guy gets better and better."

While the Lakers probably won't be rushing to sign Strong, another Palmdale-native is a prominent NBA player linked with the Lakers, i.e. Paul George. Sunday's moment, though, belonged to Strong.

"I told all my friends I'm shooting this shot," Strong said he notified all his friends back home with such gusto that his phone went dead by the time he actually made the miraculous heave. "This is crazy."

Strong added, "I'm a hometown hero now. It was Paul George."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Championship Game Memes]]>Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:30:38 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-908492470.jpg

Tom Brady is going back to the Super Bowl.

This information shouldn't surprise you, but the way in which he led the Patriots past the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game should.

Brady shook off a hand injury that required stitches earlier in the week, and erased a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter as the New England Patriots advanced to their 8th Super Bowl since 2000.

Meanwhile, in the NFC Championship Game, the "underdog," Philadelphia Eagles once again shocked the football world with a 38-7 beat down of the Minnesota Vikings.

In a battle of former Rams teammates, Nick Foles outplayed his counterpart, Case Keenum, throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles.

Super Bowl LII is now set as Brady looks for ring number six when the Patriots play the Eagles in Minneapolis, Minnesota in two weeks.

Here are the best memes and jokes from the two championship games.

Before the game, all the talk was about Tom Brady and his hand injury that required stitches on Wednesday:

As always, a lot of fans felt that the referees were on the Patriots side:

Early on, it felt like the Patriots were taking on the world:

Tony Romo played 14 seasons in the NFL. This was the first time he ever participated in a Championship game.

The Jaguars front four put pressure on Tom Brady early and often, sacking him three times in the game:

As the Patriots mounted another postseason comeback, fans once again pointed at the referees:

Others believed a Tom Brady comeback was inevitable:

Eli Manning is still the only quarterback to thwart the winning machine that is the New England Patriots:

Let's be honest, a Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl in Minnesota was not what the NFL wanted as far as ratings would have been concerned:

Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles gave it to his former teammate Case Keenum early and often in the NFC Championship Game:

Who is Nick Foles for $100, Alex?

Has anyone seen Carson Wentz?

Live look at the Vikings season:

The Vikings fans redecorated the Rocky statue, and karma came back to bite them:

The Vikings could have been the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium, but they choked it away:

The Vikings top ranked defense did not show up for the NFC Championship game:

The masks you'll find in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII:

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Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Beat Knicks, Clarkson Crucial]]>Sun, 21 Jan 2018 18:43:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-Lakers-Knicks.jpg

Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope both sat out Sunday's matinee against the New York Knicks at Staples Center, but the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers rode Jordan Clarkson's strong play for the second straight game, along with a positive game from Julius Randle and a notably stable game from two-way player Alex Caruso, to a 127-107 victory.

Randle scored 27 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passed off five assists on the day, while Clarkson scored 29 points, provided 10 assists, pulled down six rebounds and swiped three steals with only one turnover in the victory.

Clarkson followed up his stellar performance against the Indiana Pacers on Friday, where the Lakers' sixth man recorded 33 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, with another near triple-double performance.

While Randle and Clarkson carrying the Lakers to victory is an easy narrative that would not be false, Caruso served as the catalyst in many ways. With Ball out injured, Caruso played 31 minutes at the point guard position on Sunday, made four of his six shots, scored nine points, set up eight assists with no turnovers in his stat line.

"He's a very intelligent player," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Caruso after the game. "He's tough. He competes on the defensive end, and he's done a nice job of playing with [Clarkson] because it allows [Clarkson] to get off ball a little bit."

Walton added, "The two of them have been a really nice combo together."

Clarkson revealed that he knows Caruso from his college basketball days and that he, in fact, hated playing against the fellow Texan guard.

Clarkson said, "I used to hate playing against (Caruso) in college, one of those pesky dudes, get into you defensively, get people involved. It's good we have him on the squad."

Caruso's time on the court resulted in the Lakers outscoring the Knicks by 24 points, which is a notable statistic in a 20-point victory for the home team.

"I'm getting better each game," Caruso said about his limited time at the NBA level. "I'm just getting acclimated to it, getting comfortable, and it's starting to show."

When asked about playing with Clarkson, Caruso said, "I think it helps a lot just because we're two different players. I do a lot of the little things and a lot of the hustle plays and play hard defense, not that (Clarkson) doesn't. But he's more of an offensive guy, and on that side, I take a back seat to him."

Caruso added, "We complement each other really well. We like playing with each other. We're friends."

Walton said that both Clarkson and Caruso moving into the starting lineup were options, but the coach did not sound like he would make either of those moves. Walton also pointed out that Caldwell-Pope will likely return soon, so that development will likely push Josh Hart back to the bench and kill all talk of Clarkson starting. Ball's return from a sore left knee should eventually crush any talk of Caruso starting and may even send the 23-year-old down to the G-League for contractual reasons.

Caruso's two-way contract only allows a maximum of 45 days at the NBA level during the G-League season.

Asked about his time limit at the NBA level, Caruso said, "I'm up to date. I know how many (days) I've got, so I'm trying to make the most of them with every one I get."

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Galaxy Trade Forward Gyasi Zardes]]>Sat, 20 Jan 2018 15:11:08 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/177*120/GettyImages-175753140.jpg

The LA Galaxy have traded forward Gyasi Zardes to the Columbus Crew in exchange for forward Ola Kamara.

The Crew also received $400,000 in targeted allocation money in the deal on Saturday.

Zardes is a Los Angeles-area native who spent the past five seasons with the Galaxy after emerging from their youth academy. He has scored 34 goals in 131 regular-season appearances, becoming a fan favorite.

Zardes also earned a regular role with the U.S. national team, making 37 appearances since January 2015.

But Zardes' production declined last season. He scored only two goals in 24 appearances while the five-time champion Galaxy dropped to the bottom of the MLS standings.

Kamara, a 28-year-old Norwegian, has scored 34 goals in 59 games over two strong seasons in Columbus.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clarkson Leads Injured Lakers To Victory]]>Sat, 20 Jan 2018 11:31:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-Lakers-1-19-18.jpg

Entering Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers had lost all eight games where Lonzo Ball had been unavailable to play, and the average margin of defeat was 17 points.

With starters Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining Ball on the sidelines for Friday's game against the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers looked like long shots to break that trend, especially considering Indiana entered the night as a playoff team with a winning record.

Not only did the Lakers beat the Pacers, they did so by double digits, 99-86, and claimed free tacos for the 18,997 fans in attendance.

Off the Lakers' bench, Jordan Clarkson proved to be the hero of the night with 33 points on 14-19 shooting to go along with seven assists and seven rebounds. As the assists suggested, the San Antonio native did more than simply score the basketball.

"The rim liked me," Clarkson summarized the night in his playful style.

The Lakers' sixth man explained his focus: "Just knowing that everybody was banged up. We have all of our main guys [out]. I had to step up and I know what I had to do tonight."

Less likely than the Lakers winning was the fact that Clarkson accounted for all of the Lakers' makes from the foul line, as the shooting guard hit two of his three free throws on the night. The remainder of the team combined to miss all 11 of its attempts from the charity stripe, as the Lakers continue to sit at the bottom of the NBA when it comes to free throw percentage.

"It was our defense," Lakers coach Luke Walton explained how the team managed to win despite the historically poor foul shooting night. "Our defense was awesome tonight, and that was the challenge all day long to the guys. It doesn't matter who's out, how many guys are out."

While the Lakers played improved defense, the Pacers also missed shots in extraordinary fashion. Indiana finished the night missing 23 of 25 three-point attempts, a lowly eight percent from long distance. Incredibly, that proved to be a lower percentage than the Lakers' foul shooting.

"It's just one of those funks, that's all," Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who led the team with 25 points, said after the game. "We just haven't been hitting shots. We are doing a pretty solid job defensively. We just can't hit the shots. It happens sometimes."

With the victory, the Lakers improved to 16-29 on the season. Next, the New York Knicks come to town for a Sunday matinee.

Notes: Larry Nance Jr. finished the night with a double-double: 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Nance also made all five of his field goal attempts on the night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Sign Nigel Hayes, Lonzo Ball Out]]>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 14:04:05 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Nigel-Hayes-Lakers-10-day-contract.jpg

To say that the Los Angeles Lakers are bad when Lonzo Ball doesn't play would be an understatement. The Lakers have lost all eight games the rookie point guard has missed during the 2017-18 season, and the average margin of defeat has been 17.0 points.

Well, Ball was ruled out for Friday night's game against the Indiana Pacers with a sore left knee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will join his backcourt mate in street clothes with a right Achilles tendon strain. Brandon Ingram, who has a mild left ankle sprain, is considered a game-time decision, though the forward did not take part in shootaround on Friday morning.

Considering the Pacers are 24-21 and the sixth best team in the Eastern Conference, even a fully healthy Lakers' team would have trouble against the Pacers. Short-handed, the Lakers don't look likely to get their first win without Ball.

Lakers coach Luke Walton said that Ball would need to practice before he returns to playing in games, so returning on Sunday is a possibility if the 20-year-old can get on the practice court on Saturday. On Friday, Ball looked to be in good spirits, as he cheered on fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma in a shooting competition against coaches. Normally, Ball would be on Kuzma's team in the competition, but on this occasion, he stood around wearing branded footwear and enjoying the company of his teammates and coaches.

Along with the aforementioned injuries, Lakers forward Julius Randle revealed that he had suffered a mallet fracture in his right ring finger, but the forward did not seem to be at all concerned about being affected by the injury.

"I'll be fine," the lefty power forward said. "Luckily, it's on my right hand, so it's not a big deal."

Randle, notoriously, is heavily reliant on his left hand.

Lakers Sign Nigel Hayes to 10-Day Contract

The Lakers also announced the signing of forward Nigel Hays on a 10-day contract on Friday, with Hayes at the practice facility and expected to dress for Friday night's game. 

"He doesn't know the offense, but we're in a situation where if Brandon doesn't play and guys get in foul trouble or something else happens health-wise, we need him," Walton said about Hayes on Friday. "He's had a really solid year in the G-League so far. He's shooting the lights out. He versatile, can guard multiple positions." 

Hayes is not entirely an unfamiliar face, as the Lakers interviewed the kid during draft workouts and Randle

"Nigel was in my class in high school, so I played him my whole life growing up," Randle said on Friday. "I know him pretty well, so I'm definitely excited about that."

Walton said he asked the newest addition to introduce himself to the team like a kid at summer camp, and Hayes seemed optimistic about his stay in LA. The former Wisconsin Badger mentioned that his team was 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament at Staples Center, so the 23-year-old hoped to improve that personal record to 3-0 on Friday night.

Back in those tournament days, Hayes made headlines by getting giddy about sitting at Kobe Bryant's locker. On Friday, Hayes went so far as to say the reason his team went 2-0 was because he had Bryant's locker and went further to share another story about meeting the Lakers' legend in Milwaukee.

"I told him, 'Kobe, I love you. I really do, and I'm working hard to be half as good as you,'" Hayes shared his interaction with the Lakers' legend. "All he said was, 'Keep working and you will.' Simple, but a lot of people skip over that working part."

Hayes added, "It's the little things that people skip over and don't want to do that make the big difference."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Dodgers FanFest Tickets Available to the Public]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 06:27:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-492857384.jpg

FanFest is back at Dodger Stadium. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Wednesday that free tickets were now available or the sixth annual offseason FanFest presented by Coca-Cola and San Manuel Casino. 

The event is open to the general public and offers opportunities to meet and greet with players and Dodger legends. The event takes place on Saturday, January 27th from 10:00AM to 4:00PM and tickets can be claimed on Dodgers.com/FanFest.

In order to enter the venue, fans must also download the MLB.com Ballpark app on their smartphones and show their digital tickets for admission into the stadium in the Right and Left Field Plaza gates. Parking is free for the event. 

In addition to autograph opportunities, the Dodgers will feature a "Yard Sale," presented by the LADF charity foundation. There will also be a bevy of family-friendly activities including batting cages, inflatables, a rock wall, carnival games, video games, live music and food and beverage options. 

Player participation and autograph events will be released later this week. 

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No Lonzo, No Win: Lakers Now 0-8 Without Ball]]>Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:49:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Thunder-1-17-18.jpg

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers lost their second straight game, as the Oklahoma City Thunder put up a 24-point beat down on the short-handed purple and gold.

Already without Lonzo Ball, the Lakers lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to an Achilles strain during the first half and Kyle Kuzma to a joint sprain in his left hand in the second half.

The Lakers always faced long odds on the road against a playoff team like the Thunder, but Ball missing games appears to a mountain too tall for the Lakers to overcome. LA fell to 0-8 on the season when the 20-year-old no. 2 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft is unable to lace up his sneakers. Over those eight games, the Lakers have lost by an an average of 17.0 points.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Lakers stayed close for the first half, with Julius Randle scoring 16 points before the intermission. Caldwell-Pope also contributed 10 points before he went to the locker room in the second quarter.

After emerging from the intermission, however, the Thunder did not waste time to create separation. A 33-18 third quarter gave Oklahoma City a 21-point lead entering the final quarter. Considering the lack of personnel and the opposition's star power, this game was over, save for the clock counting down the final 12 minutes.

Eventually, the Thunder won 114-90 with Carmelo Anthony leading all scorers with 27 points. Stephen Adams added 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Randle failed to register a single point in the second half and still finished as the team's leading scorer on the night. Caldwell-Pope's 10 points before he left injured in the first half accounted for the only other Lakers' player to score in double figures.

On this night, the Lakers appeared to get out-muscled. The Thunder particularly dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Lakers 54-30, including a difference of 21-6 on the offensive glass.

Next, the Lakers return home and host the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Staples Center.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chris Paul's Strange and Dramatic Return to L.A.]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 01:47:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*128/GettyImages-905424762.jpg

Breaking up is hard to do. 

There was no harder evidence of this fact then Monday night's drama at Staples Center, as All-Star point guard Chris Paul returned to Los Angeles to face Blake Griffin and his former teammates. 

Break ups in all relationships are tough. They're emotional, and often times liberating. This was prevalent on the court (and off) as Paul and Griffin acted like two scorned lovers whose relationship had fallen apart, and they used their new significant others (teammates) as fodder in the whole ordeal. 

Paul gave the Clippers the best six years of his life. In turn, the Clippers franchise went from inconsequential to contender, igniting the best years in the team's history with the formidable "Big 3" of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. 

However, all good things must come to an end, and in the summer of 2017, Paul left for the Rockets and made sure to take some parting shots at his Clippers teammates and coaches on the way out, saying he did not agree with the "Clippers culture."

Paul scored 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting with seven assists and six rebounds, but it was his former team and their new "culture," that came out victorious in the reunion game. 

"It's always emotional when you lose," Paul said. "Especially against your former team and stuff like that. All of the emotions that go into seeing familiar faces and stuff like that."

It felt proper for the story to see CP3 return in the black "Houston" jersey, loudly projecting "villain" for the Clipper fans who booed him whenever he touched the ball during the first quarter.

Nonetheless, the fans were reminded early just how good they had it together, thanks to a two-minute video tribute featuring the best of Paul's highlights.

The best of which, was Paul hobbling towards the series-winning basket over Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the first round of the 2015 NBA playoffs, arguably the best moment in franchise history.

While the reunion felt emotional for one side, it didn't feel like that for the other. In fact, one could say it was more like out of sight, out of mind.

"We didn't mention Chris [Paul] today," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. "We talked about the Rockets, honestly. Like I said before, Chris was great for us, Chris decided to leave us, so he's no longer a Clipper and we don't talk about him. We talked about Blake [Griffin], [Deandre Jordan], all the guys on our team, and that's what we did today, we talked about the way to win the game tonight. We knew it would be an emotional game in some way, we didn't know how, but we talked about that and said we're just going to play through the game, and I thought overall we did that."

In a way, the game looked like the phase in the relationship after the initial breakup where both sides reunite, remember the good times, but then quickly fight each other and remember why the separation was necessary in the first place. The game was certainly chippy from both sides and ended with Blake Griffin and Rockets forward Trevor Ariza getting ejected in the fourth quarter.

That argument on the court between the two forwards spilled over into the locker rooms after the game as reportedly, Paul led Ariza and teammates James Harden and Gerald Green into a side door of the Clippers' locker room while another teammate, Clint Capela, distracted the team by knocking on the front door of L.A.'s locker room.

Security quickly ushered the Rockets players back to the visitor's locker room and police were dispatched on the scene to make sure nothing escalated. Nonetheless, Griffin was one of the targets by Ariza, Paul and the Rockets, and it's certain that the end of their relationship played a significant part in the altercation.

"I was worried because emotions rob you of your talent and energy, and I thought tonight, tonight, we didn't allow that," Rivers said. "We kept playing with the same energy, we attacked on both ends of the floor and let's be honest, the way we play does get under people's skin, and I don't think it had anything to do with [Chris Paul]."

Throughout the end of last season and much of the ensuing offseason, there were plenty of questions as to why a team with Griffin, Paul and Jordan could not make it to the Western Conference Finals. Was it chemistry? Who couldn't gel with who? Thanks to this game, we got our answer.

Paul said after the game he talks to Jordan all the time, yet he never mentioned Griffin. In fact, he made a point of saying that the new-look Clippers should run the ball through their best player, "Lou Williams."

Williams led the Clippers with a game high 31 points. Which raises the question, did LA really win the CP3 trade?

Through the jostling and jawing, we discovered that the schism in the previous Clipper teams was between their two biggest stars (Griffin and Paul). Now, with them separated, a new rivalry in the NBA may have been born.

Sure, Paul gets to team up with James Harden in an augmented attempt to overthrow the dynastic Golden State Warriors, but in return, the Clippers got Williams, Patrick Beverly, Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker. Williams is averaging a career high 23.3 points and five assists per game and it seems as if he alone is enough to give the Clippers an argument for the victor of the trade debate.

"[Lou Williams] is the guy," Paul said. "The go to guy, the guy they should play through and stuff like that. he is having a great year and is a tough man. They play the right way, they share the ball, move the ball and it's a good team over there."

Despite a slew of injuries and a nine game losing streak early in the season, the Clippers are still in the fight for the last two spots in the Western Conference playoffs. The current seventh seed and eighth seed will clash and break the tie on Wednesday when the Clippers host the Denver Nuggets.

Being a team that would be classified as underrated maybe new territory for the Clippers but that is not how Williams sees it.

"I don't think we're underrated," Williams said. "I think at this point we're just playing good basketball. I don't really want to put a title on it. We've played with numerous lineups and we've played with so many guys out, so to still be successful is good. We've got a lot of hungry guys."

CNHI's Tony Capobianco contributed to the story.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Lonzo Ball Ranks 11th in NBA Jersey Sales]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 18:15:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Lonzo-Ball-jersey-sales.jpg

While Stephen Curry and LeBron James continue to top NBA jersey sales, a new face appeared on the NBA's jersey rankings.

For NBAstore.com jersey sales based on data for the months of October through December of 2017, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball ranked no. 11 ahead of Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, the NBA announced on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Lakers ranked fourth in overall merchandise behind only the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers.

For the 2016-17 season, no Lakers player finished in the top 15 for jersey sales, which was a departure from the two-decade-long Kobe Bryant era. However, the new local kid from UCLA appears to be the right face for the franchise in picking up the metaphorical marketing torch Bryant placed on the ground when he announced "Mamba Out."

On the court, Ball is also filling the void left behind by Bryant.

With over half the season complete, Ball is averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 assists, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks in 33.9 minutes per game. His three-point shooting is finally up over 30 percent for the season, as Ball has improved as the season has progressed.

Recently, Ball has been incredible considering his age and level of experience. Over the past five weeks, Ball has played in 11 games and averaged 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.3 steals in 36.5 minutes per outing. The Lakers are 5-6 with Ball in the lineup and 0-7 without the 20-year-old point guard over that stretch. In addition, Ball shot 39.0 percent from three-point land over the most recent five weeks, so his historically poor shooting start to the season is a distant memory at this stage and talk of reworking his shot over the summer also subsiding.

Undeniably, Ball's father has helped his son's popularity with headline making quotes, media generating public appearances and even a show on Facebook, but the 20-year-old Chino Hills native has displayed that he's a special talent and worthy of the hype train that dropped him off at the Lakers' station.

Without Ball, the Lakers have lost by an average of 16.0 points per game, while his presence has a notable positive impact on both ends of the court. As much as Ball is proving to be the star of the team on the floor, the jersey sales and merchandising numbers back up that Ball is the Lakers' star off it, too.

To see the full NBA Jersey and Merchandising Rankings: Click Here

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers: Elgin Baylor Getting a Statue]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 13:22:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Elgin-Baylor-Lakers-statue.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers, STAPLES Center and AEG announced that Elgin Baylor will be immortalized with a statue in Star Plaza outside STAPLES Center on April 6th.

In a statement, Lakers CEO and controlling owner Jeanie Buss said, "I am thrilled that 60 years after the Minneapolis Lakers drafted Elgin, we are able to celebrate and honor him with a statue."

Buss added, "Not only is Elgin a part of the Lakers family, his contributions to the game of basketball earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. His list of accomplishments are unparalleled and I can't wait to see his statue at Star Plaza alongside the other Lakers legends."

Baylor's statue will be the fifth time a statue has been erected to honor a former Lakers' player and the 10th statue overall. Shaquille O'Neal was the last player to get a statue at Star Plaza, while legendary LA Kings broadcaster Bob Miller became the first person to receive the special honor in 2018.

Baylor was the no. 1 overall pick in the 1958 draft and played with the Minneapolis Lakers for two seasons before moving to Los Angeles with the team. In those early years, Baylor was the star of the team and finished his career as an 11-time All-Star. Known for scoring, Baylor still holds the NBA Finals single game record with the 61 points he scored at Boston on April 14, 1962.

Baylor also once scored 71 points at the New York Knicks, but his achievement came before the team moved to Madison Square Garden. Currently, the most points ever scored at MSG is 62 points by Carmelo Anthony. In comparison, Baylor's tally dwarfs Anthony's record, but Baylor's achievement against the Knicks is rarely mentioned.

Already a member of the Hall of Fame and with a jersey retired in the rafters at STAPLES Center, a statue of Baylor in Star Plaza is a deserving honor for an all-time Lakers legend.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Sports Spectacular]]>
<![CDATA[Rockets Players Try to Enter Clippers Locker Room After Loss]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:50:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*124/GettyImages-905441738.jpg

So much for a friendly homecoming.

Tensions were high on the court and off the court on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated former teammate Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets, 113-102, on Monday night.

After the game, an altercation broke out just outside the Clippers' locker room as Trevor Ariza, James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green all tried to enter the Clippers' locker room after the loss. 

For those unfamiliar with the bowels of Staples Center, the Clippers locker room is adjacent to the visitor's locker room. Only a hallway separates the two rooms, and their is access to each locker room through the hallway. 

On many occasions, players from both the Clippers and the visiting team catch up in these hallways or exchange pleasantries away from the press or the public. 

However, there were no pleasantries exchanged on this night. 

According to a source with the Rockets organization, Ariza led the charge into the Clippers locker room looking to confront either Blake Griffin or injured guard Austin Rivers. 

Griffin and Ariza had both been ejected from the game with just over a minute lest in the fourth quarter, and Ariza could be seen exchanging words with Rivers before he left the court. 

According to the source, Rivers saw Ariza near the entrance of the locker room and told security, "Let his b---- a--- come in." 

The comment infuriated Ariza who was backed up by Harden, Paul, and Green. 

It was also reported that at the same time as the four players were trying to enter the locker room from the side, Rockets' center Clint Capela was at the front door of the Clippers' locker room, and knocked on the door. 

According to a Clippers staff member who opened the door, Capela stood in front looking to get inside before the door was shut on his face. 

"I saw it in our locker room," said Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers when asked what went down between the two teams. "Let's put it like this. Our whole team was in our locker room. Their [The Rockets] entire team was not in their locker room. I'll let you figure it out from there."

NBC LA sports reporter Michael J. Duarte was outside the locker room when the altercation broke out, and saw security push the Rockets players back into the hallway that divides the two locker rooms.

LAPD was called to the scene, as was extra security. Nothing ever got physical between the two teams as it was broken up and dispersed before anything could happen.

Police and security would not let members of the Clippers players head towards the Rockets locker room where friends and family usually congregate outside the "Chairman's Lounge."

"I don't know nothing about that," said Clippers' guard Lou Williams after the game. "You won't get a quote from me about that."

Harden and an entourage of friends also tried to go after Rivers in the locker room.

Eventually, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Johnson all left through that area, but Austin Rivers did not.

The altercation first began on the court where Rivers, dressed in a suit, was on the sidelines during the game as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Rivers could be seen throughout the game trash talking players on the Rockets, and exchanged words with Ariza in the fourth quarter just before Ariza and Griffin were ejected with just over a minute left in the game.

After the game, Griffin would jokingly say that Ariza had asked him if he was still coming to his birthday party, but that Griffin was still not sure if he was going to attend. 

Things were chippy throughout the game, but they reached another level late in the fourth quarter when Griffin scored a basket with just over three minutes remaining in the game after he was fouled by Paul under the basket.

Paul immediately protested the call with the refs and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni appeared to exchange expletives with Griffin.

After the game, D'Antoni said that Griffin "hit him with an elbow," and that's why they exchanged language. Referees issued both Griffin and D'Antoni for double technicals and then Griffin was ejected two minutes later after getting into it with Ariza.

Hours after the game, players from both teams sent out some hilarious tweets, memes and GIFs, subtlety, or sometimes not so subtlety, addressing the incident.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Still Winless Without Lonzo Ball, Lose on MLK Day]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 18:30:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-on-MLK-Day.jpg

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Los Angeles Lakers had the honor of playing in a nationally televised game in the city of Memphis, where King was assassinated in April of 1968. While the day and moment was not lost on the Lakers, who visited the National Civil Rights Museum ahead of Monday's contest against the Grizzlies, the game was lost, rather predictably.

The Grizzlies took full advantage of the short-handed Lakers, who were without Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram--arguably the team's two best players. Ball was a late scratch with a sore knee, while Ingram was an even later scratch with a sprained ankle. Considering how close to gametime the two 20-year-olds were ruled out, neither expects to be sidelined for too long.

Monday was the seventh time the Lakers have played without Ball and the seventh time the team has suffered defeat under those conditions. It is also the third time Ingram has missed a game, and the Lakers lost all three of those games. MLK Day was the second time both Ingram and Ball missed a game together, and obviously, the Lakers are winless without their two young stars sitting out in tandem.

The defeat in Memphis snapped a four-game winning streak for the Lakers and proved to be a major step back defensively for a team that had regained focus on that end of the court during its recent run. This game, though, is tough to analyze due to the injuries, which led to Lakers coach Luke Walton digging deep into his bench with two-way players Alex Caruso and Gary Payton II getting playing time.

Payton only joined the team earlier in the same day, so the 25-year-old point guard did not even have a chance to go through a practice before being tossed into the deep end by Walton. But Payton did not sink. He played an instrumental role in helping the Lakers make a late rally that cut a 20-point fourth quarter deficit to only eight points before the Lakers' comeback stalled out.

Eventually, the Lakers lost 123-114, meaning that the team has lost by an average of 16 points over the seven games Ball has missed.

The standout performer for the Lakers on Monday was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who finished with a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Over the past five games, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 16.8 points and 2.2 steals on 51 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent shooting from three-point land.

Kyle Kuzma contributed 18 points off the bench. Rookie Josh Hart added 16 points starting in place of Ingram, while Larry Nance Jr. added 15 points and 11 rebounds off the pine to round out the Lakers to hit double figures in the points department.

Whereas the Lakers only had four scorers in double figures, the Grizzlies played a far more balanced game with eight different players scoring between 10 and 20 points on the night. Dillon Brooks led the way with 19 points on 6-8 shooting, while Tyreke Evans finished with 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in the victory. Evans has a habit of killing the Lakers and came within one rebound of a triple-double on this occasion.

Next, the Lakers wrap up their road trip in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball Has Sore Knee, Lakers Sign Gary Payton II]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 10:16:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Gary-Payton-II-Lakers-contract.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers are into the second half of their season, and it appears that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is dealing with a sore left knee that may keep him out of the MLK Day game in Memphis.

Officially, Ball is listed as questionable for Monday's game.

With Ball's availability in question, the Lakers did not waste any time in recalling point guard Alex Caruso from the South Bay Lakers, the team's minor league team. In addition, the team announced that it had signed Gary Payton II, the son of former Seattle Supersonics and Lakers point guard Gary Payton, to a two-way contract.

Payton went undrafted in 2016 and joined the Houston Rockets before being released and joining the Rockets' D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Vipers for the 2016-17 season.

Payton joined the Milwaukee Bucks in April of 2017 and even started six games for the Bucks in the 2017-18 season while on a two-way contract. Payton was waived in December after averaging 2.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 8.8 minutes with the Bucks and 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists with the Wisconsin Herd.

The Lakers signed Payton on a two-way contract with hopes that the 25-year-old can help provide more options at the point guard position, which has been heavily reliant on Ball and backup Tyler Ennis. Ball recently missed six games with a shoulder sprain, and the team went winless over that stretch, so the move to get Payton may fill a short-term need should the rookie miss time with his sore knee but also potentially provide a longer-term solution for Ball's backup.

The team recently released Vander Blue from his two-way contract to open the roster spot Payton now occupies. Payton should expect to play with the South Bay Lakers a fair amount if Ball is able to maintain his health for the remainder of the season.

With the team currently 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and on a four-game winning streak, a postseason berth is still a possibility but not likely. Payton is likely a player the team has scouted and views as a potential piece to help both the G-League and NBA club in the future.

With the signing announced on Monday, one would expect that Payton will be available to assist the team in Memphis.

The Lakers' MLK Day game against Memphis has a tip-off time of 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Notes: Several Lakers visited the National Civil Right Museum in Memphis on Sunday, evidenced by photos appearing on social media. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver in touring the museum, though ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reporter that Buss did not have dinner with Lakers coach Luke Walton, as the coach has been ill. However, both Buss and Lakers president of basketball operations Eavin "Magic" Johnson took to social media to support their coach on Saturday after the coach's job became a national NBA story line in recent days.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Showing Resolve in Season Filled with Injuries]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:33:54 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Clippers-12-29-17.jpg

Blake Griffin is used to not knowing who's in the Los Angeles Clippers' lineup these days.

Injuries have sidelined him and the other four opening-night starters at one point or another, making this the most challenging season of Doc Rivers' coaching career.

"I've never seen anything like this, with the amount of injuries. It just seems like all your facilitators, your key guys," Rivers said. "I never go in the training room. I guess now I should go in there because I could see some of my players."

Yet the Clippers are hanging in, sitting at .500 for the first time since Nov. 7 — certainly not their goal but far better than what it could have been. They're a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and 1½ games out of fifth place.

They take a four-game winning streak into Monday night's reunion with Chris Paul, who visits Staples Center for the first time since his blockbuster trade to the Rockets last summer.

Much of the credit for the team's resiliency goes to the "Goon Squad," the players' nickname for the bench. Its chemistry has been disrupted as reserves have joined the lineup to sub for Griffin, DeAndre Jordan (left ankle), Austin Rivers (right ankle), Patrick Beverly (knee surgery) and Danilo Gallinari (glute).

But Griffin sees positive in the situation.

"These guys are getting a lot of time and experience," he said, "and it will help us down the road."

Lou Williams, the 13-year pro who came over from Houston in the Paul deal, has emerged as a star and fan favorite. He scored a career-high 50 points last week in a win against defending NBA champion Golden State, the team's first in over three years. He's averaging 34 points over the last 11 games, and has started 10 games so far.

"He's got it down to a science right now, getting to spots, getting his shot, getting guys in the air, drawing contact," Sacramento coach Dave Joeger said. "It's fun to watch, except when you're the visiting team coach."

The rest of the Clippers' bench has followed Williams' example.

Making his first start of the season, Willie Reed notched a double-double in place of Jordan on Saturday in a 126-105 win over the Kings. Sam Dekker had a season-high 13 points.

Montrezl Harrell has scored in double figures in three straight games, averaging 18.7 points. Fresh from the G League, Tyrone Wallace is averaging 13.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in his first five NBA games.

"We got some big pieces out," Williams said. "Now you understand what you have to back those guys up."

More importantly, when Griffin and Milos Teodosic (foot) returned, they blended seamlessly with the reserves-turned-starters and trusted them.

"They are giving the other guys room to still play the way they have been playing when they were out," Rivers said. "Every single guy has bought into it."

That mindset will need to prevail because the injury situation doesn't look to improve soon.

Beverley had season-ending knee surgery in November, although he recently got off crutches and has rejoined the team to travel and cheer from the bench. Jordan is closer to returning than Austin Rivers, while Teodosic continues to be monitored because of plantar fasciitis.

The Clippers won't benefit from the schedule either. They are home for just 10 games in February and March, when they play a combined 16 on the road, including seven in a row from Feb. 9-27. That season-long trip includes games against East-leading Boston and West-leading Golden State.

Still, Griffin says he's "had a blast" this season, even with all the injuries and being sidelined because of a sprained knee and concussion himself.

"This team really bonds with each other, really vibes well with each other," he said. "Guys are injured, guys are out; we just play hard. We're all the Goon Squad at this point."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chick Hearn and Bob Miller Immortalized Side-By-Side]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:20:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Bob+MIller+Statue.png

Two legendary broadcasters, side by side forever. 

Over the course of the 21st century, Staples Center has become a museum for the illustrious history of the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Kings.

Gold statues of the gilded gods of Southern California hockey and basketball such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal, and Luc Robitaille are scattered around the area outside of Staples Center known as "Star Plaza."

However, amongst the gods of athletic achievements, stand two mere mortals. Two men, forever linked by friendship and fate. Two men who will never be known for their stats or championships, but for their voices and stories. 

Those men are broadcasters Chick Hearn and Bob Miller. 

Hearn was the first broadcaster to ever be enshrined in bronze back in April of 2010, when the legendary Lakers' play-by-play announcer was given a posthumous statue in Star Plaza. 

Hearn called 3,338 consecutive Laker games between 1965 and 2001, and will forever be known for his catch phrases: "slam dunk," "the mustard came off the hot dog," and the "Jell-o is jiggling!"

Hearn died in 2002, and Miller, one of his closest and dearest friends was at the funeral. Little did he know, that nearly 16 years later, he too would have a statue in Star Plaza alongside his friend and fellow broadcaster. 

Miller retired at the end of the 2016-2017 season for the L.A. Kings, and the franchise paid tribute to their longstanding play-by-play announcer by erecting a statue in his honor less than a year later. 

On Saturday, just before the crosstown rival Anaheim Ducks took the ice against the Kings, the team immortalized the legacy of Miller with a statue next to Hearn in Star Plaza, followed by a a banner that was raised to the rafters, joining the likes of other retired stars, Gretzyky, Robitaille, Rob Blake, Rogie Vachon, Marcel Dionne, and Dave Taylor. 

Miller, 79, received the ceremonial honor in humble fashion, saying that, "Nobody starts their career saying, 'I'll have a statue outside of Staple Center,'" and mentioned that what makes it special is that the statue and banner "are permanent."

What makes this extra special for Miller, in an almost poetic sort of way, is that if it wasn't for Hearn, he would have not been hired to be the Kings' broadcaster in the first place. 

"That means a lot to me because Chick, as I said, recommended me for the job 44 years ago and I always told people, I'm just sad that he's not here to see (the statue)."

Miller's career as a hockey announcer began in 1968 at the University of Wisconsin. At the time, the Badgers were only good at hockey and were only able to draw constant standing-room-only crowds in that sport, so the program director at the radio station that Miller worked in Madison made him the voice of that team. 

When the Kings's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames in 1972, Miller sought the job and was backed by Hearn's recommendation. Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey instead. 

While Miller got to call his Badgers winning the 1972-73 NCAA championship, Storey was fired after one year on the job. Cooke then headed Hearn's advice, 39 years later, Miller was on hand to call the Kings winning their first Stanley Cup in 2012 and their second in 2014. 

"I think he'd be very proud of the guy that he picked was here for 44 years," Miller said on Hearn.

Miller's accolades include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.

When asked what Cooke would say if he was still around to see the ceremony, Miller responded with his best imitation, "Dear boy, what did you ever do to deserve a statue." 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Gallardo]]>
<![CDATA[Former Kings Announcer Bob Miller Gets Staples Center Statue]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 12:04:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/AP_18014167922981.jpg

The Los Angeles Kings memorialized the career of retired longtime broadcaster Bob Miller on Saturday, unveiling a statue of him outside Staples Center and hanging a banner in his honor from the arena's rafters.

Miller's statue in Star Plaza is surrounded by those of other local sports luminaries such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Luc Robitaille. The statue was the second honoring a broadcaster, joining that of the late Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn.

Miller became the first non-player to be honored by the Kings with a banner inside the arena. He join a roster of Kings luminaries already so honored -- Robitaille, Gretzky, Rob Blake, Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon.

The unveilings were done prior to the Kings game against the Anaheim Ducks. All fans attending the game received a Bob Miller bobblehead.

Miller, 79, announced his retirement March 2, 2017. In April, he called the 3,353rd and final game of his 44-season career with the Kings.

"Due to four separate health incidents the last year, quadruple bypass heart surgery, a transient ischemic attack, a mild stroke and a stent placed in my left carotid artery, and with doctor's advice to slow down, it's time for me to retire," Miller said when he announced his retirement.

Miller became a hockey announcer in 1968, when the program director at his radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, told him he would be announcing a University of Wisconsin game the following Friday because it was the school's only team to win consistently and draw standing-room-only crowds.

Miller first sought to be hired by the Kings in 1972, when the team's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames.

Hearn recommended Miller for the job, but team owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey.

When Storey was fired after one season, Hearn again recommended Miller, and Cooke took his advice the second time.

There was a benefit to the one-season delay in joining the Kings. Staying at Wisconsin, he broadcast the Badgers during their 1972-73 NCAA championship season.

Miller had to wait 39 years to broadcast another title-winning team, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. They won again in 2014.

Miller's accolades include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Magic Johnson Publicly Shows Support for Lakers Coach]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 20:18:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Coach-Luke-Walton-1.jpg

After the father of Lonzo Ball, the Lakers' rookie superstar point guard, suggested to ESPN that the coach had lost the locker room, no one in the Lakers' organization came to the coach's defense.

Initially, not giving the outspoken parent attention seemed like a reasonable move.

However, Ball was asked about his father's comments and asked, pointedly, if he liked playing for Lakers coach Luke Walton. The 20-year-old responded, "I'll play for anybody."

If his father's comments were sticks of wood and matches, Ball's response to the question about his coach ignited the fire that followed. Walton referred to the situation as "not ideal" but contended that it did not affect his coaching or what he was trying to do.

Still, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson had not publicly come out in support of their coach, who was riding a nine-game losing streak when Ball's father made his comments.

That same day, the Lakers won. Asked about taking Ball out early, Walton said with a straight expression, "His dad was talking s***, so I took him out early."

Walton quickly said he was joking, and the coach's ability to make light of the awkward situation was admirable. The fact that he had to seemingly handle the public response on his own seemed far less ideal than even the original comments that sparked the media frenzy.

Eventually, Walton got sick of the questions and stated that he wouldn't be speaking about the matter any further and would instead talk about what he was paid to do, i.e. coaching.

But then, ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst went on a radio show and turned the small backyard fire into a potential wildfire when he said that the Lakers organization's muted response had led to front offices around the league thinking Walton's days were numbered and that former Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was a prime candidate should Johnson, Pelinka and the Lakers make a move on the bench.

"Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked out the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton," Windhorst said on Rich Eisen's radio show.

Sure, the Lakers had been riding a winning streak and responded to Ball's father's comments with their play on the court, but the radio silence from the organization was sending its own messages about the future of the coach.

That all changed on Saturday.

Ahead of Saturday's game in Dallas, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss tweeted out a picture of her, Walton and Pelinka and included the hashtag "#InLukeWeTrust". The owner has been supportive of the coach and used the same hashtag prior to the comments from Ball's father and the media frenzy that followed, but this was the first public support displayed by the Lakers' organization's decision-makers since Walton's future on the bench had become a national story line.

The Buss family, though, has a publicized principal of doing research to find the best candidate for a job and then allowing that person to, well, do his or her job. As much as Buss' tweet of support meant in that it came from the owner of the Lakers, she hired Johnson to make basketball decisions. Walton's job was a basketball decision, so the opinion that carried the greatest weight was that of Johnson's, who remained silent.

After the Lakers won their fourth game in a row in Dallas, however, Johnson finally took to Twitter and displayed public support for the job Walton was doing. 

"So proud of my @Lakers players and Coach Walton for winning their 4th game in a row against the Mavericks," Johnson tweeted after the victory.

The Lakers' executive followed up with a second tweet, "Coach Luke Walton has the @Lakers playing some of their best basketball of the season right now."

And so, with two tweets, Johnson finally killed the radio silence and supported his coach. Was that so hard? Both tweets made sure to mention Walton, which was no accident. Combined with the support from Buss earlier in the day, one would imagine the Lakers finally dropped water on a fire that desperately needed to be extinguished sooner rather than later.

Note: According to images that appeared on social media, Johnson was in Hawaii on Saturday when a false alert for an incoming missile went out. The Lakers' executive was pictured in a makeshift bomb shelter.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball Go Scoreless in Pro Debut in Lithuania]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 16:02:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/189*120/AP_18013672553421.jpg

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball went scoreless in their pro basketball debut, finishing a combined 0 for 7.

The younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball played in the Lithuanian league for BC Prienai on Saturday. Their team lost 95-86 to Lietkabelis Panevezys.

LiAngelo went 0 for 3 from the field in just over 9 minutes. His 16-year-old brother, LaMelo, played 5:16, going 0 for 4.

The brothers signed with the Lithuanian team last month after LiAngelo withdrew from UCLA. He was suspended indefinitely following his arrest for shoplifting during a recent tour of China.

That sparked a Twitter spat between father LaVar Ball and President Donald Trump.

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball combined for 29 points in an exhibition against the reserve team of Zalgiris on Tuesday. It was the first of five planned exhibitions designed to showcase the Ball brothers. Another is scheduled for Monday.

In basketball-crazy Lithuania, the game is often dubbed the "second religion" and attracts huge crowds to arenas even in small towns. There have been several Lithuania players in NBA teams, including Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Win Fourth Straight After OT Victory in Dallas]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 16:44:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Mavs-Julius-Randle.jpg

After losing nine games in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers responded by winning their fourth straight game in a 107-101 overtime victory in Dallas on Saturday.

Julius Randle put in a monstrous performance with 23 points and 15 rebounds, though the active forward also tabbed seven turnovers. Lonzo Ball, the Lakers' rookie point guard, finished the day with nine points, seven assists and seven rebounds but zero turnovers in a positive performance.

Unfortunately, the Lakers lost forward Brandon Ingram to a mild ankle sprain in the second quarter after the 20-year-old had started brightly and led the Lakers to an early 11-point advantage after the first 12 minutes of the game. Ingram did not return to the game.

Predictably, the Mavericks, at home, made their push back into the game via Wes Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Smith finished the game with 23 points to share game-high honors with Randle, while Barnes and Matthews both contributed 17 points in the Saturday matinee.

With a minute remaining in regulation, the Lakers led by five points and looked set to celebrate victory. Then, Barnes led a late game charge, which was aided by a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed free throw, to bring Dallas level with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game.

Rather than go to the hot hand of Jordan Clarkson, who hit a couple big shots in the final three minutes of the game, LA gave the ball to Randle. The forward proceeded to use the majority of the clock before the ball squirted loose and looked like a turnover before Ball picked up the rock and attempted a desperation game-winner. The shot never had a chance and fell well short, and the game required five extra minutes to decide a winner.

In the extra period, Clarkson continued his hot shooting by hitting a three-pointer to begin the overtime session. The Lakers' sixth man made one more bucket in the overtime to give the Lakers a five-point lead with two minutes remaining in the game. Clarkson finished with 19 points and four assists on the afternoon.

The Mavericks, however, continued to fight back and cut the difference to three points with 42 seconds remaining in overtime. Then, Ball drove to the basket and didn't draw iron on his shot attempt, but Dallas-native Randle grabbed the offensive rebound and made the put-back to restore a five-point cushion for the Lakers with 18 seconds remaining.

The game was in the refrigerator, finally, and the Lakers claimed their fourth win in a row, with a winnable game in Memphis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next on the schedule.

Notes: Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, as the 22-year-old made 8-13 field goals on the day. The Lakers outscored the Mavericks 54-30 in points in the paint.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe's Coming Back to Your TV Screen]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 16:05:13 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-5210663121.jpg

Retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant will host, write and produce "Detail," a basketball analysis show on ESPN aimed at young athletes, current NBA players and coaches looking for deeper analysis of an athlete's in-game execution, the network announced Friday.

According to ESPN, "viewers will experience unparalleled game observations from Bryant as if he were one of the players featured in an ESPN game played the day before. Bryant will provide a perspective aimed at helping young athletes, players and coaches see the game in a different way."

"Detail" will premiere in March and run through the NBA Finals. ESPN has ordered 15 episodes.

"Studying game film is how the best get better," Bryant said. "It's the university for a master's degree in basketball. I learned how to study film from the best coaches of all time -- Phil Jackson and Tex Winter. 'Detail' provides an opportunity to teach that skill to the next generation on large platform with ESPN."

"Detail" is the third project from Bryant's Granity Studios for ESPN. He provided content for ESPN's "NBA Countdown" show during the 2016-17 season and has provided short packages to the network this season titled "MuseCage Basketball Network."

The announcement was made in connection with ESPN's portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, which is being held in Pasadena.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Beat Spurs, Win Third Straight]]>Fri, 12 Jan 2018 04:09:24 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Larry-Nance-Jr-Lakers-vs-Spurs.jpg

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 93-81 to claim their third straight victory, and for the second game in a row, everyone in the arena got tacos.

The Lakers' previous two wins had been against teams near the bottom of the NBA, but the San Antonio Spurs are perennial contenders, and LA stepped up its defense to compete.

After the first quarter, the Spurs only had 15 points on the board. In fact, the Spurs did not manage to score 25 points in a single quarter on Thursday night, and the Lakers won three of the four quarters en route to victory.

Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 25 points, while Lonzo Ball flirted with yet another triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. However, the subtle star of the night was backup center Larry Nance Jr.

Nance finished the night with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 30 active minutes.

"Larry might have been our most valuable player today," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "I thought Brandon, obviously, was huge down the stretch, [and Ball] was great throughout. Different guys at different times made really big play for us, but I thought Larry's play, from the first time he checked in, to leaving him in for the entire rest of the second half, he was putting out fires on defense, he was guarding bigger players, just all over the place."

Walton added, "In my opinion, that's his third straight great game with this win streak."

Along with Nance's ability to guard bigger players like Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, the forward also threw down the best highlight dunk of the night. Nance stole the ball and gave a pass to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to launch a two-on-one fast break. Caldwell-Pope made the correct play and found Nance on an alley-oop, but the pass was behind the forward. The 25-year-old adjusted after take-off, managed to dunk the ball and brought Staples Center to life.

Aldridge finished with 20 points on the night, while Gasol scored nine points, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out five assists on the court where he celebrated the Lakers' most recent title. 

"We didn't play well for the majority of the game," the Spaniard said after the game. "We didn't play smart, and we let them, at times, out-hustle us and play more physical than us. They got into us, they forced us to turn the ball over way too many times."

Gasol added, "They got 34 points out of our turnovers."

As much as the Spurs committing 21 turnovers is irregular, the Lakers' increased activity caused a great deal of those errors. LA recorded 15 steals on the night, with Ball and Caldwell-Pope combining for nine of those swipes.

Next, the Lakers take their winning streak on the road for a three-game road trip to Dallas, Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle Settling into Starting Role]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 06:14:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-starter.jpg

In many ways, Julius Randle launched the Los Angeles Lakers' rebuild.

Randle was the team's first lottery pick since Andrew Bynum in 2005. Before that, LA had not picked in the top 14 of the NBA Draft since Jerry West plucked out Eddie Jones with the no. 10 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft.

Since Randle arrived in 2014, the Lakers have drafted in the lottery for three straight years as the team struggles to gain solid footing and sits in a three-way tie for last place in the Western Conference 40 games into the 2017-18 NBA season.

D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have been the Lakers' three lottery picks since Randle, with Russell packaged up and traded to Brooklyn over the summer to make space for Ball. Undoubtedly, the poisonous Timofey Mozgov contract helped Russell pack his bags.

Randle is due to be a restricted free agent over the upcoming summer, and his long-term future with the team is confusing, at best. Given the front office's public declaration that the Lakers will look to attact two marquee free agents, re-signing Randle is not a priority. Trade rumors are as much a part of the 23-year-old's life as double-doubles on the court. Randle is averaging 17.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a starter.

However, Lakers coach Luke Walton took 33 games before he finally thrust the 6-foot 9-inch, 250-pound versatile big man into the Lakers starting lineup, though that was where most outsiders expected the forward to begin the season. Instead, Walton utilized Randle's energy and athleticism as the anchor of the second unit and a late game small ball center.

While the role was far from inconsequential, Randle often seemed frustrated with his minutes. Often, Randle would argue with his coach late in games when being pulled out or visibly sulk on the bench when Walton went with other alternatives like standout rookie Kyle Kuzma, veteran center Brook Lopez or defensive-minded Larry Nance Jr.

When on the court, though, Randle continued to play hard and made the most of his 22.0 minutes per game in the reserve role. Averaging 12.5 points, 6.3 assists and 1.8 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field, Randle had a habit of taking over games and carrying the Lakers' bench to head-turning heights. At one stage, the Lakers led the NBA in bench scoring, with Randle playing a major role in that unit.

A couple of times, Walton seemingly dropped Randle's minutes drastically to send a message. In Houston on Dec. 20, Randle only played eight minutes. One week later, Walton only called on Randle for 11 minutes. The coach would eventually explain that the random drops in minutes had to do with the player's play and a standard the coach expected, i.e. there was nothing random about the minute fluctuations.

Fans watching at home raged at Randle's inconsistent minutes and called Walton a hypocrite for not taking the same stance with other players. In stride, the coach openly admitted that he holds this particular player to a different standard because of how "great" he can be.

In the 34th game of the season, Walton finally rewarded Randle with his first start of the season. However, Lopez was out injured, so the power forward would need to start at center against the 7-foot moster that is LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.

Randle collected 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the defeat and actually managed to hold his own against Jordan. Conspiracy theorist could argue that Walton set Randle up for failure in that game with the hopes that he would return to the bench after the experiment failed.

In the next game, Randle scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and six assists against Houston, as he again played center with Lopez still sidelined. On that occasion, Randle simply attacked the Houston Rockets and could not be stopped. In those first four starts at center, Randle scored 17.8 points, grabbed 9.8 rebounds, handed off 2.5 assists and shot 59 percent from the field. Defensively, however, the Lakers looked like a complete mess and lost all four games because rim protection was almost non-existent. Three of those first four starts were ugly, non-competitive affairs.

The defense was also hurt by the fact that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could not travel outside of California with the team, Lopez was still recovering from a sprained ankle and rookie Lonzo Ball was out with a shoulder injury. Assembling a new starting lineup with the majority of the pieces not available is a tough task to accomplish.

When Lopez and Ball both finally returned to the starting lineup on the same day, Walton stuck with Randle and finally moved the former University of Kentucky Wildcat to his natural power forward position. The first game with the new unit was far from smooth. Randle collected a double-double, but the team failed to show the right spark in that first trial run. That would be the team's ninth straight loss, with the injury pile-up and an unholy schedule to end 2017 playing their parts in the losing streak.

Against Atlanta on Sunday, the second attempt at the same starting lineup displayed improvement. Randle only played 23 minutes and grabbed 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the win over the Hawks. Randle would have likely played more minutes if the Lakers had not held a comfortable lead late in the game.

On Tuesday, finally, Randle, Lopez and Ball all looked settled, as the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings comfortably. In 30 minutes, no. 30 scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and handed off six assists in a near triple-double performance.

Again, the Lakers won.

One reason why Randle and Lopez work so well together is that the starting center enjoys hanging out by the three-point line and shooting from distance. Against Sacramento, Lopez hit five of his eight three-point attempts. The two players complement each other, as Randle's outside shot is not his strong suit. So, the center vacating the painted area allows the bruising power forward more of an opportunity to drive into the lane and charge the basket with his unique combination of strength and speed.

With Nance and Kuzma on the second unit, the spacing is reversed with Nance playing as the center working under the basket and Kuzma on the perimeter shooting three-pointers.

When the game heads down the stretch, Walton will likely continue to push Randle into the center role in a smaller lineup, but the Lakers' ability to play with Lopez and Randle leading the front line appears to be a combination that is here to stay.

With Randle in the starting lineup, the Lakers may no longer be vying for the title of best bench in the NBA, but the potential improvement to the starting lineup appears to offer a far greater reward than the alternative. In any case, Walton already tried the alternative approach for 33 games, and the Lakers lost 22 of those games.

In Tuesday's win over Sacramento, Randle and the Lakers' starters outscored their Kings' counterparts 76-43. Meanwhile, the Kings' second unit outscored the Lakers' reserves 43-23. Randle's 22 points moving from the bench to the starting lineup help explain those differences.

While Randle's future with the franchise may not be guaranteed, as long as he's with the Lakers, Randle should continue to start--at least for the remainder of the season. On Thursday, Randle and the Lakers look for their third straight scalp when the San Antonio Spurs come to town.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed ]]>
<![CDATA[Kings Honoring Bob Miller With Staples Center Statue]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:01:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/Bob+Miller+Farewell.png

The Los Angeles Kings will honor the career of retired longtime broadcaster Bob Miller on Saturday, unveiling a statute of him outside Staples Center and hanging a banner in his honor from the arena's rafters.

Miller's statue in Star Plaza will join those of other local sports luminaries such as Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Luc Robitaille. The statue will be the second honoring a broadcaster, joining that of famed Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn.

Miller will become the first non-player to be honored by the Kings with a banner inside the arena. He will join a roster of Kings luminaries already so honored -- Robitaille, Gretzky, Rob Blake, Dave Taylor, Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon.

The unveilings will be done prior to the Kings game against the Anaheim Ducks. All fans attending the game will receive a Bob Miller bobblehead.

Miller, 79, announced his retirement March 2, 2017, and in April, he called the 3,353rd and final game of his 44-season career with the Kings.

"Due to four separate health incidents the last year, quadruple bypass heart surgery, a transient ischemic attack, a mild stroke and a stent placed in my left carotid artery, and with doctor's advice to slow down, it's time for me to retire,'' Miller said when he announced his retirement.

Miller became a hockey announcer in 1968, when the program director at his radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, told him he would be announcing a University of Wisconsin game the following Friday because it was the school's only team to win consistently and draw standing-room-only crowds.

Miller first sought to be hired by the Kings in 1972, when the team's original announcer, Jiggs McDonald, left for the expansion Atlanta Flames.

Hearn recommended Miller for the job, but team owner Jack Kent Cooke hired California Golden Seals announcer Roy Storey.

When Storey was fired after one season, Hearn again recommended Miller, with Cooke going along that second time.

There was a benefit to the one-season delay in joining the Kings.

Staying at Wisconsin, he broadcast the Badgers during their 1972-73 NCAA championship season.

Miller waited 39 years to broadcast another title-winning team, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, which they won again in 2014.

Miller's honors include the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to members of the television and radio industries for outstanding contributions to their profession and hockey, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and membership in the halls of fame of the Kings and Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle: Starter vs Bench Role]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:13:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EW5_1958_1_1200x675_1133606467667.jpg

Lakers coach Luke Walton speaks about forward Julius Randle's role as a starter fitting into defensive schemes versus his role as a bench player, where he generally switches on all defensive assignments. Recorded at Staples Center on Jan. 9, 2017 (Shahan Ahmed)]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Conquer Kings 99-86]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 03:55:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-kings-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

On Tuesday night at Staples Center, Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle led the Los Angeles Lakers to their second straight victory, 99-86, over the Sacramento Kings, and helped shake off the sour memories of a nine-game losing streak that preceded the two most recent wins.

Both Randle and Ball finished with double-doubles and played active games, as the rookie point guard finished the night with 11 assists, 11 rebounds, five points, five steals and a block. Meanwhile, Randle tabbed 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on the night.

"[Ball] creates our pace for us," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "He makes winning plays for us. He gets other people easy shots. So, he impacted the game on both ends of the floor, and he's a big part of why we won tonight. Eleven assists and only one turnover is awesome."

Lakers coach Luke Walton stuck with Randle in the starting lineup, in large part to get a closer look at how the forward fit into the starting unit with Ball back playing point guard. Randle started at power forward, with Brook Lopez taking the center spot.

"He's been great for us, and he's continuing to improve," Walton said about Randle's adjustment into his new starting role after the game.

With the Lakers recording 30 assists on 37 field goals, four of the five starters scored in double figures on the night, with Ball the only exception because he was too busy handing out helpers to everyone else.

Lopez hit five of his eight three-point attempts and went home with 18 points and a smoking hot hand. The big man is shooting 44.4 percent from three-point land since returning from an ankle injury.

Brandon Ingram tabbed 15 points, five rebounds and three assists on the night, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points to round out the starters.

With Randle no longer part of the Lakers' bench, the Kings' backups outscored the Lakers' reserves 43-23. Of course, the former Kentucky Wildcat's athletic and efficient play led the starters in outscoring their Kings' counterparts 76-43. Finally, the Lakers were also able to run effectively and beat the Kings 35-8 on fast break points on the night, and Ball's play on the floor had a great deal to do with that.

Kings rookie point guard De'Aaron Fox, who has history with Ball from his college days, scored 15 points and handed out three assists and a rebound on the night. Undoubtedly, Ball played the more complete game on this night and got the win, even if Fox outscored the former UCLA Bruin.

Teams that both ended the night with identical 13-27 records did not promise a crisp, clean game of basketball, but the Lakers' sloppiness had Walton irked after the game ended.

Even in victory, Walton appeared to be upset with how his team had lost discipline throughout the night. Though brilliant at times, Randle committed six turnovers on the night. Ingram led the game with seven errors in only 24 minutes. Ingram hit six of his nine shots, grabbed five rebounds and handed off three assists in those limited minutes, so he didn't exactly have an awful night, but he contributed to 25 team turnovers and his coach's frustrations.

Walton said, "I told [the team] afterwards, 'C'mon! That's why it's not always about winning and losing. We're trying to play a certain way and have a certain standard. And we have 26 turnovers. We shoot 61 percent from the free throw line. That's B.S. to me. We had a chance to put that game away.'"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[National Championship Memes: Alabama Stuns Georgia]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 22:40:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-902785174.jpg

What an amazing National Championship game. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide came from behind to stun the Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23, in the National Championship Game in Atlanta on Monday night. 

Freshman quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, entered the game at halftime, and brought the Tide back from a 13-0 deficit, capping off the comeback with a 41-yard TD pass in overtime to lift Alabama to its fifth national title in nine seasons.

Head coach Nick Saban earns his sixth National Championship, tying him with former Alabama coach Bear Bryant for the most title in NCAA history. 

Here are the best memes and jokes from the game: 

Atlanta based rap group, Migos, rocking on the sideline of the National Championship Game: 

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel went missing in the first half: 

UCF scored the same amount of points as Alabama in the first half: 

Lane Kiffin was needed in the first half for Alabama: 

Nick Saban at halftime:

First half highlights of Georgia Kicker "Hot Rod": 

The Alabama offense in first half:

Alabama had a secret weapon in the second half: 

Alabama missed a game-winning field goal: 

A team from Georgia blew a 20-7 lead in Atlanta:

What's a meme article without the Michael Jordan cry face:

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Not a 'Big Baller': Big Baller Brand Gets 'F' Rating]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 06:09:23 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/big+baller+brand+ball+family.jpg

LaVar Ball often gets heat for the things he says, but now he's getting dinged for his business dealings.

The Better Business Bureau has given an "F" rating to Big Baller Brand, the athletic apparel company founded by the brash LaVar on the prominence of his sons, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and his brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo, who currently play professional basketball in Lithuania.

LiAngelo quit UCLA after he was suspended for shoplifting during his team's team's trip to China. LaVar Ball and President Donald Trump feuded for days over the president's demand for credit in winning the release of LiAngelo and two other UCLA basketball players.

The Better Business Bureau reports that customers have complained about shipments being delayed for weeks or even months, getting the wrong items or sometimes not getting their items at all.

Customers also say Big Baller Brand has poor customer service, the bureau reports, with the company not providing a phone number where customers can reach them and sending out generic responses or no responses at all when customers email them.

One Better Business Bureau verified reviewer wrote, "Sure....they'll take your money, but once they have it, they don't make it easy for you to communicate with them." Others wrote that their credit cards were charged for items they had yet to receive.

Big Baller Brand did not return emailed requests for comment. Neither LaVar Ball nor representatives responded to phone calls seeking comment.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions]]>
<![CDATA[See How LAFC's Stadium is Coming Along Ahead of Home Opener]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2018 11:44:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/banc+of+california+stadium+thumbnail.jpgThe Los Angeles Football Club, which will become the 23rd team in Major League Soccer when it makes its debut in 2018, has been advancing construction on the Banc of California Stadium, which will be located in Exposition Park, since the project first broke ground in 2016.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Football Club]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Kuzma Casually Calls Himself Superman]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:46:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kuzma-Lakers-1-7-17.jpg

On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers met for practice following a victory the night before, a feel good 132-113 win over the last place Atlanta Hawks that ended a nine-game skid. Understandably, the mood was lighter and more positive come Monday morning.

"You could feel it in the energy in here," Lakers coach Luke Walton, who was a bit under the weather, said following the Monday session. "People are in better moods when you win."

With Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the duo that leads the team's front office, watching from above, the Lakers went through a practice that consisted of a long film session and some basic fundamentals drills. Walton said the schedule doesn't afford the opportunity to go too hard in practice with games coming every other day.

Walton also shared that he planned to speak to Johnson, who is the Lakers President of Basketball Operations, after practice, as the Lakers' organization has been mum on supporting its coach while he's been taking heat from the outspoken parent of his rookie point guard. Lonzo Ball's father recently made news by hypothesizing to ESPN that Walton had lost the locker room and that his player were no longer playing for the coach.

Asked if he liked playing for Walton on Sunday, Ball provided the flimsiest of endorsements by stating, "I'll play for anybody."

On Monday, Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma offered his support for Walton in far more clear and certain terms.

"Luke is my guy," Kuzma said. "I love playing for him. I'm sure most of us love playing for him, too."

The rookie forward said that he took issue with the idea that the team quit on Walton and confidently added, "We stand by Luke. I know the front office does."

Thus far, thought, the front office has not publicly come out to support its under fire coach, and the Lakers are currently last in the Western Conference and have lost 12 of their last 14 games. Pelinka and Johnson did not appear to be in any hurry to speak to the reporters gathered at the facility on Monday.

With the Lakers constantly drawing attention and making headlines for all the right and wrong reasons, the 22-year-old forward out of Michigan also gave his unique view on the state of sports news coverage as a whole and the environment a rookie enters in the modern NBA. 

"It's kind of hard in our society. Social media is so big in our lives," Kuzma said. "It's all over the place. ESPN puts out anything for clicks now, it kind of seems like. It's all over the place. You can't really hide from it. It's just a thing that you have to deal with it and just move past it. No other generation of NBA players have had to deal with what we have to deal with in our era. It's a little different, but you just have to try to block it out as much as you can."

Kuzma also provided the quote of the day when asked why his production had fallen off in recent games. The forward out of Utah had failed to score in double figures in two of his previous four games after averaging 19.5 points per game for the month of December and hitting the double figures mark in 12 of 14 games to close out 2017.

Kuzma said in a nonchalant, brilliant manner, "You can't be Superman all year, so..."

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Finally Back Home

Stemming from a DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, Lakers guard  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had been ordered to stay in the state of California for 25 days to complete a program that forced the guard to stay overnight at a detention facility, away from his family over the holidays.

On Monday morning, "KCP" was finally back home with his loved ones after completing the court ordered program. He is also now available to travel with the team outside of California and should not miss any more games due to the issue. The forward said he had paid he debt and did not have any lingering requirement related to the case.

"I'm just happy to be home," Caldwell-Pope said on Monday.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Snap Streak, Walton Cracks Joke About LaVar Ball]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 02:33:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Hawks-1-7-17.jpg

When the Los Angeles Lakers started Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks trailing 10-2, the script seemed all too familiar for a team that had lost nine games in a row and had struggled to compete in the last couple outings.

This time, however, the team did not fold and managed to lead by two points at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, that advantage had popped up to 18 points, as the Lakers outscored the worst team in the NBA 37-21 in the second period. From there, it was smooth sailing to victory for a team that has been dealing with stormy waters all winter long.

For the first time since Nov. 21 against the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers collected a home win, 132-113. It was also the Lakers' first win of 2018 and only the team's second win in its last 14 games.

"It feels good, obviously," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about the win after the game. "They scored 113 (points), but I was still happy with the defense that w played. I think it triggered everything for us tonight."

LA was inspired by strong play from center Brook Lopez, whose defensive intensity helped LA erase the early deficit and turn around the narrative of the game. Lopez finished the night with eight points, four steals, two blocks, three rebounds and two assists in 19 active minutes on the court.

Brandon Ingram continued his strong play from a couple nights earlier and tabbed 20 points and seven assists against the Hawks. Julius Randle held his starting spot and finished the night with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.

"It was different," Ingram said about the locker room's mood following the win. "I don't think anyone likes losing, especially with some of the talent we have in this room and how hard we work in practice. I think today we had a little bit more energy, a little more rhythm to our game, and it looked like we were confident in everything we did."

For the Hawks, Dennis Schroder finished the night with 27 points to lead all scorers, and the German guard also passed off five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Former Laker Kent Bazemore scored 15 points for a Hawks team that seemed over-matched on the night.

Lonzo Ball, who had been the center of controversy earlier in the day due to comments made by his father and his response to those comments, played his best game since returning from a shoulder sprain that kept the rookie point guard out for six games. Ball finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and had a couple crowd-energizing slam dunks.

However, Walton shared that Ball was a bit fatigued and asked for early substitutions. When asked about the rotations and Ball's early exit in the first quarter, the coach took the opportunity to crack a joke about the rookie's outspoken father.

"His dad was talking [expletive], so I took him out early," Walton said with a straight face. He added, "I'm just kidding."

Seemingly, a win was exactly what the doctor ordered for the purple and gold, and snapping the streak even led to the coach making a public joke about the touchiest of subjects around the team: LaVar Ball.

Next, the Lakers host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball, Luke Walton Respond to LaVar Ball's Comments]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 14:50:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-coach_Luke-Walton-locker-room-comments.jpg

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball doesn't think that Lakers coach Luke Walton has "lost the locker room," as his outspoken father hypothesized in an ESPN video that surfaced on Sunday morning.

"You can see they're not play for Luke no more," Ball's father told ESPN. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him."

Ball did little to put out the fire heating up Walton's seat by refusing to outwardly endorse his coach with his father's comments freshly floating about and with the Lakers on a nine-game losing streak and struggling to compete on a nightly basis.

"I don't think so," Ball responded following Sunday morning shootaround when asked point blank if he thought Walton had lost the locker room. "He's our head coach. We're going to play for him."

Had the interview ended at that point, Ball's father would have seemed like a disconnected parent. The rookie's father has a habit of providing outrageous quotes to get attention, and the team also had a meeting with the parent earlier in the season about toning down criticism centered on the coach and the team.

Only, the interview continued, and at one point, Ball was asked plainly if he likes Walton as a coach.

"I'll play for anybody," Ball responded to the yes or no question with half a smile, followed by a head nod in self approval at his response.

The response was far from a ringing endorsement of Walton and could be perceived to be the opposite. Provided a second opportunity to clarify his comments regarding his coach, Ball was asked about the "Play for anybody" response and to expand on preferences, with relation to liking or disliking his coach.

Again, Ball refused to endorse his coach: "My job is to play basketball. I don't decide who the coach is."

With those two responses, Ball called into question his support of the Lakers' Head Coach.

Walton, who had spoken prior to Ball, contended that the comments from the parent did not bother him, though he did say the noise coming from Ball's father was "Not ideal."

"It doesn't bother me," Walton said standing just off the court at Staples Center. "My only concern with any of it is Zo (Lonzo Ball). As long as Zo is fine with it and Zo can come in and play and it doesn't affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn't bother me at all."

Had he lost the locker room?

"I don't see that our players aren't playing hard," Walton responded to Ball's father's comments. "I think our players are playing very hard. We've been through a hard stretch. They're giving us what they have and we're going to keep working and we'll be fine."

The rough stretch Walton is referring to was a nightmarish end to December featuring games against the best teams in the NBA without break. The Lakers still have not recovered from that brutal stretch, as the team has lost 11 of its last 12 games and has fallen from being an outside contender for the playoffs to the worst record in the Western Conference.

Walton contended that he had not seen any frustrations with Ball in response to his coaching style and said he hoped comments coming from the player's father did not have an impact on the fan narrative or the organization's decision making.

"It doesn't influence what we're doing," Walton said. "I've said all along, 'there're always parents and parents are going to get mad at things. That's what they do.' And it's our job as coaches and an organization to do what's best for our team and our players."

Walton added, "I feel very secure in my job status right now. We [ownership, front office] talk all the time, and there're 100 percent behind in supporting what we're doing here."

Asked if he disagrees with the idea that he's lost the locker room, Walton responded, "I would disagree with that, yes."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Need to Learn From Their Playoff Loss]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 01:29:23 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-902016126.jpg

His eyes were red, fresh from the sting of recent tears. As he stood in front of his locker in front of a melee of reporters, Rams returner Pharoh Cooper did his best to avoid direct eye contact with any of the hands that were extended in front of his face with microphones in tow.

"I'm going to be thinking about this all offseason," Cooper said. "You always have to protect the ball. It's always about the ball, and I didn't do a good job protecting the ball tonight. I already told my team this is my fault. I can't let that happen."

His words came just minutes after the Los Angeles Rams remarkable bounce back season came to a sudden and crashing end at the hands of the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, Matt Ryan played like the reigning NFL MVP. 

Yes, Julio Jones played like the unstoppable wide receiver we've always known he was.

Yes, the running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for over 100 yards.

But it was Pharoh Cooper's fumbles—or responsibility for those fumbles—that fans will always remember, and it's in those moments of silent reflection at your locker, that the agony of defeat stings the most.

"It's humbling," Cooper continued. "I promise it's not going to happen again, especially in a big situation like this. I'm going to learn from it."

Sometimes in those moments, proclamations such as that seem hollow, but for some reason coming from the Pro Bowl special teams player, playing in just his second season in the NFL, it felt real.

The 2017 Los Angeles Rams are a captivating story. One year removed from arguably one of the worst seasons in franchise history, one that saw Jeff Fisher get fired in the middle of it, the Rams revived a stale and static offense with one of the best seasons in the last 15 years.

They won the NFC West for the first time since 2003. They hosted a playoff game in Los Angeles for the fist time since 1986, and for the first time at the Coliseum since 1979.

Yet they failed to reach their goal of playing in a Super Bowl, or even winning a single postseason game. For all the accolades, for all the milestones, for all the records they broke, at the end of the night on Saturday, it was all for naught.

"It sucks we fell short," said Robert Woods who led the team in receptions. "We had big goals and aspirations for this team. It's unfortunate it came to an end like this. We'll just have to pick it up next year."l

The Rams are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and they definitely were one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 NFL season. However, just because you had success with a collection of talent in one season, does not guarantee success in the seasons to come.

Just ask the Oakland Raiders who went from 12-4 in 2016, to 6-10 in 2017. Just because you ascend the mountaintop, does not mean that you'll continue to climb back up it.

The Rams have not won back-to-back NFC West Division titles since the 1978and 1979 seasons. Nor has any NFL team repeated as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots did it in 2004 and 2005. Even Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will tell you just how difficult it is to build a dynasty.

There's a lot of work to be done in the offseason for the Rams, a lot of players that need to be re-signed in order to get back to reaching their goal of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. Saturday was a great first step, but it does not guarantee the same success in 2018. 

Many of the faces will be the same for the Rams next season, including that of their 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay, but with more time and tape to study on the young offensive-minded coach, teams will only develop similar strategies on how to stop him.

The Rams now must go through the difficult task of forgiving themselves for this heartbreaking loss, and never forgetting the valuable lessons they learned from it.

Put in extra work in the offseason and return more motivated than ever before. For if there's any team in the NFL who knows this the most, it was the Rams opponent the Atlanta Falcons.

Less than a year removed from the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history, the Falcons could have remained in a melancholy fog all season long. Instead, they rallied around each other in a shared goal of redemption, and they took their first step to getting back to the top of the mountain with their win over the Rams. 

Not only can the Rams learn from this loss, but they can learn from the Falcons overall. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised. Nothing should be taken for granted. Work hard for everything you want, and you will reap the rewards. 

For as every fan of 31 NFL teams says at some point in the year: "There's always next year."

Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams Playoff Postgame Comments]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 00:21:19 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rams_Playoff_Postgame_1200x675_1131156035898.jpgLos Angeles Rams players Pharoh Cooper, Andrew Whitworth, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and Todd Gurley discuss the season and their heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Wild Card Game on Saturday, January 6, 2018.]]><![CDATA[Finally On Court in Lithuania, Ball Brothers Eager to Play]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 22:08:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_18005537652489.jpg

Flying into a frenzy of camera flashes, cheering fans and funk music, the Ball family discovered in an instant just how much Lithuania has been anticipating its arrival.

The star treatment continued for more than 90 minutes on the road from Vilnius airport as a party bus took the younger brothers and father of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball to the small town of Prienai on the banks of the Nemunas River.

From the coffee shop, where "Prienai Got Balls" flashes on a red neon sign, to the pizza parlor adorned with American flags, this town with a population of around 10,000 provided the Californians with a welcome to savor on Wednesday.

After the fanfare, 19-year-old LiAngelo Ball and 16-year-old brother LaMelo on Friday finally started shooting hoops in the small basketball arena where they will soon have to start living up to their star billing playing for BC Prienu Vytautas.

"It was really good practice," LiAngelo said after being presented with the No. 3 jersey. "I've decided to come over here and use this opportunity. This is the place to be. People love basketball here, the country has great culture. I am ready to play."

That could come on Tuesday in the 1,200-capacity arena, with LaMelo wearing the No. 1 jersey. Most tickets have already been snapped up, without the fans knowing if the American recruits will make their debuts in the Baltic league game against Tsmoki-Minsk.

The improbable one-year deals were struck in December by father LaVar Ball, who also created the Big Baller Brand of clothing and sneakers.

"The hospitality is superb," he told reporters. "You are talking very good English to my boys and we appreciate that. It's a great experience to all of us."

But the teenagers will now be ineligible for college basketball. LiAngelo left UCLA where he was suspended after his shoplifting arrest during the team's season-opening trip to China. LaMelo was removed from Chino Hills High in California to make this foray into the unknown.

Just how will his sons cope in the tough domestic championship?

"We are not afraid to get hurt," LaVar said. "We are just too fast."

Then, while signing a Lakers cap, a local fan asked when all three Ball brothers would be playing in Los Angeles. "2020," their father predicted.

This is the only team in the Lithuanian league without foreign players and finished sixth at LKL championship last year.

"This is great opportunity not only for this club or Prienai town, but for entire Lithuania which will be known better to people abroad who probably never heard of our country before," coach Virginijus Seskus said after a ceremony at the Vytautas arena where a large traditional tree cake was presented to LaVar.

The coach has the seal of approval from the boys' father.

"He has energy," LaVar said. "You don't have to speak English if you have energy. He is not one of those rocket scientists who just keep on talking all the time."

Despite the festivities and accompanying television crews, this foray into Lithuania is being taken very seriously by the family. La Var instructed staff of the spa resort they are staying to replace all alcohol with milk and mineral water in their rooms.

The town is putting a lot of faith in the Ball brothers to lead BC Prienai to glory.

"Our team budget is modest," Prienai district mayor Alvydas Vaicekauskas, "but now with these new players we may compete for cups."

In basketball-crazy Lithuania, basketball is often dubbed the "second religion" and attracts huge crowds to arenas even at small towns. There have been several Lithuania players in NBA teams, including Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas at Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Balls won't be the first Americans to play for the club. Brad Tinsley, a former Vanderbilt guard, played here between August and October.

With the Ball brothers planning a longer stay, the locals are ensuring they feel at home.

"We are considering launching a couple of new burgers branded LiAngelo and LaMelo," said Dovile Malisauskiene, owner of Tango pizza parlor, which was decorated with American and Lithuanian flags to honor the new members of his beloved basketball team. "I think those will be popular."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis]]>
<![CDATA[Falcons Prove Experience Matters in 26-13 Victory Over Rams ]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 00:51:14 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/175*120/GettyImages-902006820.jpg

Experience matters. 

The Atlanta Falcons proved that experience matters as Matt Ryan and the Falcons upset the Los Angeles Rams, 26-13, in the NFC Wild Card Game at the Coliseum on Saturday night. 

Atlanta committed no turnovers compared to the Rams two fumbles on special teams, and the Falcons dominated the time of possession, proving that the best way to beat the best scoring offense in the NFL this season is to keep them off the field. 

Here's the breakdown of the game:

First Quarter: 

Jared Goff looked like a deer in the headlights for much of the first quarter.

The Rams defense, affectionately known as the "Mob Squad," looked rested and spry on defense as they put constant pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Disaster struck early in the first quarter when a punt by Matt Bosher bounced off the foot of Rams cornerback Blake Countess and was recovered by the Falcons on the L.A. 17-yard-line.

Matt Bryant converted the field goal three plays later and the Falcons jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. 

Bryant converted a 51-yard field goal on the Falcons next possession as Atlanta took a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

On the ensuing kickoff, Pro-Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper fumbled the ball, giving the Falcons the ball on the Rams 31-yard line.

Second Quarter: 

The Falcons wasted no time capitalizing on the turnover as Devonta Freeman punched the ball in from 3-yards out and Atlanta took a 13-0 lead.

The Rams offense finally got rolling at the end of the second quarter as head coach and play caller, Sean McVay started to feed the ball to MVP candidate Todd Gurley. 

Gurley busted one down the sidelines for a 26-yard gain, and Goff found rookie receiver, Cooper Kupp, a few plays later for the Rams first score of the game.

The Rams defense stepped up on the Falcons final possession of the first half, as they recorded back-to-back sacks on Ryan, handing the ball back to the offense for one final drive for the Rams. 

Goff found Robert Woods for a 38-yard gain, and Sam Ficken made a 35-yard field goal just before the half to cut the Falcons lead to 13-10 at the break.

10 of the 13 points scored by the Falcons were off turnovers. 


Snoop Dogg performed. 

3rd Quarter: 

The Falcons started the second half with a long, clock grinding drive that took 8:15 off the game clock. However, the Rams defense kept Atlanta to a 25-yard field goal by Bryant as the Falcons took a 16-10 lead. 

After forcing the Rams to punt on their next possession, the Falcons once again marched down the field with a long drive, and Bryant nailed a 54-yard field goal to give Atlanta a commanding 19-10 lead. 

4th Quarter: 

The Rams started the final quarter of the game with a nice drive, but were unable to find the end zone, settling for a 32-yard field goal by rookie Sam Ficken. 

The reigning NFC Champion Falcons put the final nail in the Rams playoff dreams after Ryan found Mohamed Sanu for a 53-yard catch and run, and then capped the drive off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

The Rams thought they had a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the game, but after a review, tight end Tyler Higbee did not maintain posession in the endzone and the Rams turned the ball over on downs. 

Final: 26-13 Falcons

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

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Put Andrew Bogut on Waivers, Open Roster Spot]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 13:45:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Andrew-Bogut-Lakers-waive.jpg

On Saturday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that the team had waived veteran center Andrew Bogut after the Aussie played 25 games and mostly took on a mentoring role in the locker room.

The move allows the Lakers to open up a roster spot and be more flexible, while also allowing Bogut to pursue a position with a playoff team that needs a center capable of defending at the rim.

With the Lakers sitting on an 11-27 record, the overt move to playing younger players in favor of veterans like Bogut is only a matter of time. In fact, Bogut had not appeared in the Lakers' previous two games after Brook Lopez returned from injury. With young prospects like Thomas Bryant and Ivica Zubac also fighting for scraps and a coach that prefers to play with smaller lineups, the move to release Bogut is probably the best move for both parties.

The Aussie recovered from injury, proved he can still play and now can go find a team that has a chance to play in the postseason.

Back in December, Bogut spoke to the frustrations of the young players in the locker room and described the Lakers' environment like so: "You come into a situation like this sometimes where kind of guys don't know if they're coming or going."

Less than two weeks after uttering those words, it appears Bogut has gone.

The open roster spot allows the Lakers to try out free agents on 10-day contracts and possibly bring in a shooter. The Lakers currently rank last in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. In addition, the extra roster spot offers flexibility to take on an extra player if the team executes a trade before the deadline in February.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Make Playoff Return Tonight]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 16:56:55 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/GettyImages-630314022.jpg

40 years is a long time to wait.

The NFL playoffs are back in Los Angeles, and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum will play host for the first time since January 7, 1979, a span of nearly 40 years.

The young upstart Rams, fresh off one of the greatest single season turnarounds in sports history, will play the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, in an NFC Wild Card matchup on Saturday night.

The Rams are led by the youngest head coach in NFL history to take his team to the playoffs in 31-year-old Sean McVay, and will be guided by a 23-year-old sophomore quarterback in Jared Goff.

So to say that the Rams are inexperienced is an understatement to say the least.

"I don't think it is a concern," McVay said at practice during the week. "When I say that, I have a whole lot of respect for experience and what that does and the value that it provides. But I do think that we've got a confident group, a mature group for a young football team." 

On the other side of the ball is the experienced and veteran-laden Falcons. One year removed from arguably the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history.

Atlanta has had their share of ups and downs in 2018. After losing their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers, and their quarterbacks coach, Matt LaFleur to the Rams, the Falcons had to replace a lot of coaches on the staff this season.

One of those coaches is new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian who fans in Hollywood know well from his troubled days as the head coach of the USC Trojans before he was fired for showing up to a practice drunk and disorderly.

Sarkisian struggled early in the season and the Falcons offense suffered. However, Atlanta has won four of their last six games, including victories over the Saints and Panthers, to playoff teams out of the NFC South.

The Falcons are led by reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who is more than ready to shed the demons from a 28-3 disintegration that occurred in front of the world on national television.

"I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "When you've been through some of the fire together, you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood."

The first step in the Falcons journey of a redemption trip back to the Super Bowl begins in Los Angeles, where the Rams franchise will be playing in it's first prime-time game of the season, and their first playoff game in Southern California since 1986 when they shutout the Dallas Cowboys, 20-0 at Anaheim Stadium.

The Rams expect a packed house within the friendly confines of the Coliseum as they reportedly have sold over 70,000 tickets for the game (the Coliseum's capacity is over 90,000, but they lowered the capacity in order to improve the overall fan experience).

"It's definitely a cool thing," Goff said. "After football has been gone here for so long and we came back year two and being able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum is very cool." 

Celebrities across Tinseltown are expected to come out to the game, which should feature a star-studded atmosphere as the Rams look to advance to the second round of the NFC Playoffs in a rematch from earlier in the season with the Minnesota Vikings. 

One of those stars is running back Todd Gurley, who has become the face of the Rams since the team relocated from St. Louis before the 2016 season.

Gurley led the NFL in total yards, touchdowns, and rushing touchdowns this season, and is many experts favorite to win the 2018 NFL MVP Award. First however, he and his teammates must go through the reigning MVP in order to accomplish their goals. 

The Rams come into the game well rested after 20 of the team's 22 starters did not play in the team's Week 17 loss to the 49ers.

Meanwhile, the Falcons enter the contest bruised and battered, and on short rest, after dispatching the rival Carolina Panthers in Week 17 to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

In order to secure the victory, and advance deep into the playoffs, the Rams will need to strike early and often, allowing their Top 10 defense, led by Pro Bowl tackle Aaron Donald, to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.

If the Rams come out struggling, and the game remains close, the absence of Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein could loom large for Los Angeles, who does not have the postseason experience that Atlanta does.

In the end, we expect the Rams to come out rolling after the extra week of rest, and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Enabling Goff and Gurley to operate with space on offense, and putting pressure on Ryan on defense.

Prediction: 30-24 Rams

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Atlanta Falcons: +6 (-115)
Los Angeles Rams: -6 (-105)
Over/Under: 48.5

The game will kickoff at 5:15PM PST from the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles and will air live on NBC. The game can be livestreamed here.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Stung By Hornets, Losing Streak At Nine]]>Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:57:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Hornets-Lonzo-Ball.jpg

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers hit a new a low when they lost in blowout fashion, 108-94, to the Charlotte Hornets, a team that entered the night with a 4-13 road record and a 14-23 record overall.

The Lakers got a pregame boost when rookie point guard Lonzo Ball returned after six games out due to a sprained shoulder, but Ball could not spark the team back to winning ways, or even being competitive on this night. Still, his time on the court provided a positive view into the future of the season and beyond.

"It was really nice having Zo [Lonzo Ball] back, and even though, obviously, we didn't win the game, just what he brings to the group."

Ball finished the night with 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes on the court.

Friday night's game, though, was not competitive. LA trailed by as many as 25 points on the night and eventually lost by 14. Kemba Walker led the way for the visitors with 19 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Six different Hornets scored in double figures in the comfortable victory for Charlotte.

Brandon Ingram provided the Lakers a sliver of silver lining, as the forward had been struggling to make an impact in recent games. Against the Hornets, Ingram played an active game and finished the night with 22 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes, making 10 of his 18 field goal attempts.

Matching Ingram's double-double, Julius Randle finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as Walton tried a new starting lineup. On this night, Randle shifted to power forward in a new-look starting lineup that returned Brook Lopez to center, with Ingram at small forward, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard and Ball at point guard. Lopez only managed 19 minutes on the court and scored 11 points and tabbed four assists in those minutes, but Caldwell-Pope struggled with zero points in only 20 minutes on the court.

After the game, Walton said he subbed out Caldwell-Pope for rookie Josh Hart because the veteran shooting guard seemed to be lacking the defensive intensity required. Walton continued to harp on the defensive deficiencies after the game.

"I think the biggest difference in right now and the past week or so has been defense," Walton said after the game, repeatedly harping on the team's sudden drop-off on that end of the court.

Walton added, "We're going to get back to being a good defensive team no matter what it takes."

The Lakers fell ot 11-26 on the season and will next play on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center.

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lonzo Ball 'Probable' for Friday Night, Walton Secure in Job]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 18:53:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lonzo-Ball-probable-vs-Charlotte.JPG

On Friday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers upgraded Lonzo Ball's status from "questionable" to "probable," a decision that was announced as Ball energetically shot up three-pointers and joyfully played a friendly game with teammates and coaches.

"[Ball] said he feels good," Lakers coach Luke Walton said on Friday morning. "If we stay on schedule, he should play tonight."

Asked about whether Ball was 100 percent, Walton added, "He's definitely going to play without being 100 percent. I think that's true with everyone that comes back from injury. I think that's true for everyone that plays and doesn't have injuries. There's not a single guy on our team that's at 100 percent this far into the season."

"It's a little sore," Ball admitted but added that he was "happy to be back."

Asked if he felt any pressure to help the Lakers turn around their current funk of eight straight losses and 10 defeats in their last 11 games, Ball responded sharply, "Pressure's been on me since I've been here."

Walton Not Worried About Job

Losing eight straight and 11 of the past 12 games overall is not easy and can call into question a coach's job, regardless of the circumstances. Walton, though, isn't interested in hearing noise.

Asked about whether the current losing run had him possibly thinking about his job being in jeopardy, Walton said, "No, I don't. I coach as if it's not. As I preach to my players, 'control what you can control in life.' That's got to be my philosophy as a coach, as well."

Walton regularly speaks with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the two men who ultimately decide on whether he is the man to coach the team. Numerous times, Walton has lauded the open communication he shares with both men.

"They’ve been great," Walton said about the Lakers' front office. "They’ve been supportive. They obviously understand where we’re at as a team and what we’re trying to do and what our big picture is. When you’ve got a young team that’s battling, fighting and playing well and gets some injuries and you get into the dog days of the NBA season. They’re both fully aware of what that’s like."

Adding to Walton's confidence in his job security, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss even recently took to social media to give her team's coach a vote of confidence via Twitter. On the platform, Buss wrote, "Luke Walton: 'We will get through this and we will be stronger when we do.' #Lakers Family #InLukeWeTrust."

"She’s been incredible," Walton said of Buss' public and private support. "I’ve talked with her a lot during the season. I like to give her updates. She’s been around this game a long time, so she knows when to be supportive. She’s been really great to work with."

Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[GM Tom Telesco Reflects on Chargers' Season, 'Hard Knocks']]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 18:27:03 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Tom-Telesco-0422.jpg

On Thursday afternoon Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco addressed several needs for the offseason including the draft, signing a kicker and his team's potential appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks series.

Telesco immediately admitted to failing first year head coach Anthony Lynn in the kicking game, yet remains optimistic about the future of Chargers. Telesco spoke with an extreme confidence when he mentioned Lynn and assessed his first year and his coaching style.

"I really saw a high level of grit and determination that I didn't see last year (2016)," Telesco said.

He went on to mention what his off-season plans would be especially concerning Antonio Gates, and Tre Boston, as both players' contracts are up with the Bolts.

"We'll probably let some time go a little bit now after the season's over, and then sit down with Antonio and just kind of talk with him, see what his thoughts are and what he's thinking, see what our thoughts are and what we're thinking."

Being in Los Angeles can change a perspective when it comes to elevating your brand, and in the case of the Chargers moving from San Diego, Telesco seemed a lot more open at the idea of the team being featured on 'Hard Knocks' series.

"We have a really good relationship with NFL Films and Ross Ketover and his staff, they do really excellent work," Telesco said. "And that show is really good because they give great access."

Telesco did show a small amount of reserve when it came to cameras and microphones following the players and coaches arounds for several weeks.

However, if given the opportunity this would be a huge move to making Los Angeles know more about the Chargers and their players.

Other teams who are in contention for 'Hard Knocks' are the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Washington.

Jason Verrett missed 15 games of the 2017 season due to a knee injury that required surgery, Telesco seemed pleased about the recovery of Verrett.

Based on his chronic knee problems over the past years, it's highly likely that Verrett will move to safety. Telesco was amazed on how much production his team received for all three cornerbacks.

Of course with a 36-year-old Philip Rivers come off another excellent season, however the question remained will the Bolts look for Rivers successor in the draft this year?

"It's been a priority every year to have the next guy," Telesco said. "Kellen [Clemens] is the backup, and he's older as well, so you have to have a future plan. And you just never know when that opportunity is going to be there. So you just can't sit back and wait and then decide when you're going into one year and say, 'You know what, this year we're going draft a quarterback,' because it may not line up for you. You don't go into a draft saying we're going draft a QB, a RB and a WR. You never know how it's going to play out. So we'll be prepared whatever year it is. If the right guy is there at the right spot, then we'll do it. Because as well as Philip is playing, we know he's not going be here for 10 more years."

With the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Free Agency period coming up along with the NFL Draft, there is truly no off season for Telesco and his staff. He informed us on his itinerary for the future as they continue to build a contender in Los Angeles.

"Still assessing our current team, getting together with the coaches... and some of them, we've got to take a little bit of time off," Telesco said. "Not time off, but step away and not do some evaluations right away, right after the season is over, because I know for the coaches, it's a long year. It's a grind. We're all upset we didn't make the playoffs. In this month, we also have some college All-Star games (where we'll) do some college draft work. Scouts will be at different All-Star games. I'm trying to get to a couple as well. So January is a pretty big planning month except for the college work, that's a little more scouting. And then February is really a lot of the same thing, starting again in March."

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego
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<![CDATA[Dodgers Complete Three-Team Trade]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 17:31:37 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/163*120/GettyImages-852622774.jpg

It's a New Year, but it's the same old Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 2017 World Series runner-ups continued their active offseason as the Dodgers completed a three-team trade with the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals on Thursday afternoon.

In the trade, the Dodgers received left-handed relief pitcher Scott Alexander (from the Royals), and minor league infielder Jake Peter (from the White Sox). The White Sox received left-handed relief pitcher Luis Avilan (from the Dodgers) and right-handed relief pitcher Joakim Soria (from the Royals). The Royals received infielder Erick Mejia and right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks (from the Dodgers).

Alexander was the centerpiece of the trade as the left-hander is expected to fill the high-leverage void left by Tony Watson. Alexander, 28, appeared in 58 games with the Royals in 2017, and was 5-4 with four saves and a 2.48 ERA.

Alexander is a sinker ball pitcher who had the second highest ground ball percentage among Major League relievers (73.3 percent) in 2017.

Avilan, 28, had been with the Dodgers for the last three seasons, and appeared in 61 games for the Boys in Blue in 2017, going 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA.  

Oaks, a talented minor league prospect was 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 19 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. He was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of California Baptist University.

Fans might remember Oaks for famously playing the piano for his teammates in spring training last season. 

Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Samson Ebukam]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 05:11:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Samson_Ebukam_RR__1200x675_1128914499856.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam about growing up in Nigeria, playing video games when he got the call he was drafted, and which teammate would help him take down the cartel.]]>
<![CDATA[Paul George, Thunder Send Lakers Crashing]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 00:39:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Paul-George-Lakers-Thunder.jpg

On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers continued their downward spiral and lost their eighth straight game as the Oklahoma City Thunder routed the Lakers, 133-96.

Paul George scored 24 points in 27 minutes, while Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds without touching the court for the fourth quarter. Likewise, Russell Westbrook scored 20 points, passed off 12 assists and grabbed six rebounds without playing any of the final 12 minutes.

The less said about the Lakers' performance, the better.

"Our fans deserve better than that and our organization deserves better than that," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the crushing defeat.

Walton added, "To lose like that, that's not who we are."

The Lakers coach continued, "This one felt different. This doesn't sit well, but I think it's more of an outlier. I don't expect this to become the norm for us when we struggle."

As the score suggested, the Lakers were not competitive on this evening. The Thunder completely overran the Lakers and led by as many as 39 points, and the game turned uglier with every passing second.

After the game, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram somberly stated, "Our defensive presence was not there after the first quarter."

The Lakers actually scored the first 10 points of the game, so if that opening run was excluded, the difference between the two teams was closer to 50 points than 40. Along with losing eight straight, the Lakers have also lost 11 of their last 12 games.

"We just flat out gave up," Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma said with a hint of anger. "You could see, they got basket after basket. We had no resistance on them on the defensive end. On the offensive end, when things got tough, we tried to do it individually, and you can't do that in this league."

When asked about how to fix the issue, Kuzma added, "It's all about effort."

The mood in the locker room was one of anger, frustration and fatigue. Losing 11 of 12 games takes its toll and losing by 37 points had clearly rattled the young ball club. With the defeat the Lakers fell to 11-26 on the season and a far cry from the goal of potentially squeezing into a playoff spot.

Kuzma spoke emphatically about his frustrated point of view: "Today was five steps back in my opinion, so something that we need to address, I don't know, pray, something needs to change for sure."

Paul George Homecoming

Paul George, who grew up in Riverside and has been heavily linked with a potential move to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, had his family sitting courtside and even gave his parents a hug after a made shot. After the game, George spoke about the experience of being cheered in Los Angeles, even though he was a visiting player and also having his family and friends in the stands.

"It was awesome, for one," George said, "Just being home, being in front of friends, family. And the respect, the love, the recruitment (smiles). It was awesome to get that love and energy."

Asked about his impressions of the Lakers, George said he couldn't have any expectations or impressions because Lonzo Ball was not playing and the rookie's role is vital for the Lakers' style of play.

"It's what you expect in a young team," George said when asked about the Lakers after the game. "They're going to have their bruises. They're going to have their wounds. The best thing is [the Lakers] have young guys that are potentially going to be big names in this league. They've just got to continue to keep working, fine tuning themselves."

George concluded, "They've got good young talent."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams OC Matt LaFleur is Secret Weapon Against Falcons]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 21:31:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/170731_RamsCamp_HU_027.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams have an ace up their sleeve for their NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and it's not MVP Todd Gurley.

It's offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur, and he could be the secret weapon the team needs to take down the reigning NFC Champion Falcons.

LaFleur is in his first year with the Rams as offensive coordinator, but he spent last season as quarterbacks coach for the Falcons when he guided Matt Ryan to an MVP season.

For fans that don't know his backstory, LaFleur was a former college quarterback at Saginaw Valley State and briefly played in the National Indoor Football League with the Omaha Beef before turning to coaching in 2003.

He began his coaching career where it all began at Saginaw Valley State, but quickly bounced around the college ranks, coaching quarterbacks at Central Michigan and Northern Michigan, respectively.

In 2008, he jumped to the NFL where he was an Offensive Quality Control coach with the Houston Texans before joining Mike Shanahan's staff in 2010 with the Washington Redskins as their quarterbacks coach.

It was in Washington, that LaFleur met a young assistant named Sean McVay, a man that would not only become his friend, but one day his boss.

McVay was the assistant tight ends coach at the time, but he quickly rose up the Redskins' ranks, becoming the team's offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016.

LaFleur left in 2016 to the Falcons, but when McVay was offered the Rams head coaching position following the 2016 season, his old friend Matt was the first person he called.

"You look at Matt LaFleur and where he's been. It seems like successful quarterback play follows him," said McVay during his press conference with the media on Wednesday. "Matt LaFleur's a great coach. We're fortunate that he's here and I think he's done a great job with our guys and certainly his time in Atlanta—they had a lot of success as well." 

LaFleur worked his quarterback magic on Jared Goff, who threw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns in just 15 games during his sophomore season in 2017.

Goff threw for more touchdowns than Ryan this season, and the two quarterbacks had nearly identical yards per game numbers at 255 and 253, respectively. Goff also had just seven interceptions this season to Ryan's 12.

The most glaring difference between the two quarterbacks was Goff led the Rams high potent offense, which led the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game this season.

It was the Falcons who led the league in scoring at 34.1 points per game in 2016, but averaged just 22 points this season without LaFleur and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to take over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Throughout the week, LaFleur has been helping McVay, and the Rams defense led by veteran defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, as they plan and scheme for the Falcons vaulted offensive attack. 

"Some of the nuances in what they're doing are similar, and he's been able to help with that," said Phillips on Wednesday. "The guy [Ryan] was a great player last year and he's continued that. He's [LaFleur] has helped us overall with a concept, but it doesn't influence how we play in certain coverages. It's how well we cover."

As mentioned, LaFleur will be able to provide his coaches with insight and information on Matt Ryan, and the subtle nuances that could be the difference from the Rams going home, or advancing to the next round of the NFC Playoffs against the Vikings.

"I think it is helpful," McVay said about having LaFleur provide him with insight on the Falcons for their NFC Wild Card matchup. "The experience that he had is very helpful. Matt's got a great way of being able to kind of give information in those small bite-sized increments where they can utilize it to their advantage this week."

The Rams host the Atlanta Falcons at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday at 5:15PM PST. 

Photo Credit: LA Rams]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA QB Josh Rosen Declares for NFL Draft]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 19:52:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-856111424.jpg

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Rosen made the expected announcement Wednesday with a post on Twitter. He is expected to be a high first-round pick in April.

Rosen has been the Bruins' starting quarterback for the past three seasons, playing in 30 total games after missing half of his sophomore year with injuries. He passed for 9,301 yards with 59 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.

He was close to fired UCLA coach Jim Mora, but discussed his decision with new Bruins coach Chip Kelly.

In his statement, Rosen says that attending UCLA was "the best decision of my life." He also promises his mother that he'll return to Westwood to finish his degree.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Here's How the Rams' and Chargers' Future Home is Shaping Up]]>Sun, 21 Jan 2018 11:46:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Stadium+Bowl.jpgThe Rams and the Chargers won't move into their new Inglewood home for some time, but construction is already progressing on their new digs.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Stadium]]>
<![CDATA[USC QB Sam Darnold Declares for NFL Draft]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 18:07:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-899648036.jpg

Sam Darnold is taking his talent to the NFL.

On Wednesday, the heralded University of Souther California quarterback announced via his Instagram account, that he was going to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

"After talking to my immediate family, very close friends, and various important people throughout my life, I have made the decision to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft," Darnold said in a taped statement. "I have been blessed that my life has been full of memorable moments and wonderful people."

Darnold was 20-4 as the starting quarterback for the Trojans in a season and a half worth of work. The redshirt sophomore was considered a Heisman trophy favorite entering the 2017 season, but he struggled with turnovers in his second year as starting quarterback, leading the FCS in turnovers.

However, despite the mistakes, Darnold still threw for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns during the season, and is considered to be a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft.

Many experts, including myself, believed that Darnold should have stayed for one more season for the Trojans, with an opportunity to gain more experience in a pro-style offense.

Darnold's deficiencies were on full display in USC's 24-7 loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, when he threw a pick-six interception, and lost two fumbles.

Overall, Darnold had 13 interceptions and eight fumbles in his sophomore season.

Whether or not Darnold is NFL ready has yet to be determined, but one thing for certain is that the 6'4", 220 pound quarterback, is still one of the most talented prospects in the Draft and can be a potential game-changing player for any franchise.

Darnold has a strong, accurate arm, and an innate ability to create plays with his feet outside the pocket. His size makes him difficult for any defensive player to bring to the ground, and his ability to break tackles and keep plays alive will make him a valuable asset at the NFL level.

Darnold has been compared to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and has the potential to be taken by the Cleveland Browns with the first overall pick in the Draft.

Before the Cotton Bowl, Darnold said he had no problem playing for the Browns if they wanted to pick him at No. 1 overall.

One player who did have a problem with getting picked by the Browns was crosstown rival quarterback, Josh Rosen of UCLA. Rosen also declared for the 2018 NFL Draft with a tweet posted on his Twitter account early on Wednesday.

USC will be depleted on offense in 2018, as they lose one of the best quarterbacks in school history as well as one of their top running backs in Ronald Jones II.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Cody Bellinger Named 2017 Sportsman of the Year]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 13:19:19 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/GettyImages-867632992.jpg

Dodgers first baseman and National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger was named Wednesday the 2017 Sportsman of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council.

Bellinger batted .267 during his rookie campaign, bashing 39 home runs and collecting 97 RBIs.

He is the second Dodger to win the award, joining two-time recipient Clayton Kershaw.

Bellinger will be honored during the 13th annual L.A. Sports Awards on Feb. 6 at the Beverly Hilton.

National champion USC beach volleyball duo Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes were previously named the 2017 Sportswomen of the Year.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Playoffs Return to LA: See What Else Happened in 1994]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 09:25:36 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/222*120/1-3-2017-rams-nfl-playoffs-kerrigan-bronco.jpgWhen the Los Angeles Rams host the Atlanta Falcons Saturday, it will mark the first time the LA Memorial Coliseum has hosted a playoff game since 1994 -- the same year that the team's quarterback was born. See what else happened that year.

Photo Credit: Getty/KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Paul George Coming to LA: Thunder at Lakers]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 15:48:04 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Thunder-Paul-George.jpg

Paul George is coming to Los Angeles! It's true.

George, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in LA for a Wednesday night shootout with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

It's no secret. The Lakers want George to join.

"The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract," the NBA's statement over the summer read, as it levied a $500,000 fine on the Lakers for tampering.

The fine was "the largest of its kind" according to the Washington Post and came after Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and winked in a joke that made it evident that he wanted George on the Lakers.

The player informed the Indiana Pacers that he would not re-sign with the team and shared his desire to be traded to the Lakers. The Pacers, instead, traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis and asked the league to investigate the Lakers' conduct. 

LA's new front office got publicly shamed in a press release, along with the historic fine, while Oladipo looks like the favorite for the NBA's Most Improved Player award and the 21-year-old Sabonis is averaging 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 24.1 productive minutes per game.

Maybe the Pacers didn't get fleeced, after all.

Meanwhile, George is playing for a quickly constructed super team that is now up to fifth place in the Western Conference. If George and the Thunder make a deep playoff run, Westbrook and Oklahoma City may be able to keep the California State University at Fresno product.

Back to the point with regards to Wednesday's game, the Lakers' interest in George is documented. The player appears to be open about sharing his interest in the Lakers, too. Asked about whether he regrets that his request to go to the Lakers became public, George said he had "no regrets" about being linked with the purple and gold.

"I just stated somewhere I wanted to go play," George said in a practice video that surfaced on the eve of Wednesday's game at Staples Center. "You ask 80, 70 percent of the guys in the league if they would love to go back home and play for their city, play for their home, that's all I stated. I would love to go back home and play for my city, so no regrets at all."

Diplotmatically, George added, "I thought this trade that went down was a win-win for both sides."

George, who turns 28 in May, is entering the prime of his basketball career. If the Lakers land the Palmdale native over the summer, the Lakers would quickly jump into contention for a playoff spot, at the least. Of course, the hope would be that George's willingness to come to LA will attract another top level free agent to reconstruct the Lakers into a mix of established stars and elite young talents. Whether that vision can blossom into a championship contender remains to be seen.

Certainly, adding LeBron James wouldn't hurt the Lakers turn into contenders overnight.

Injury Updates

Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez have both been medically cleared to practice, and both are listed as "Questionable" for Wednesday's game. In terms of the team's style of play, Ball's absence hurt more than Lopez's time off, but the big man's return can only help a team that's suddenly struggling on the defensive end after a strong start to the season on that side of the court.

Due partly to Lopez's injury, Walton committed to small ball a couple games ago by starting Julius Randle at center. Randle has played well offensively and on the glass, but the Lakers have struggled to stop opponents from scoring. Likely, Walton will go back to starting Lopez at center and Ball at point guard if both are healthy, but will the coach stick with rookie Kyle Kuzma in the starting lineup or revert to Larry Nance Jr. with the starting unit?

Overnight, the Lakers seemingly have too many healthy bodies, which are the types of problems any coach would welcome. Of course, either or both of Ball and Lopez could end up sitting out Wednesday's game because the team technically does not practice until Thursday. Still, the fact remains that both are on the verge of returning to the rotation, and both could be back starting as early as Wednesday.

Considering the Lakers have lost 10 of their last 11 games and seven straight, having Ball and Lopez back can't hurt the team's play. If nothing else, Ball's return should create a buzz at Staples Center. George only plays on the Lakers' court twice before the summer, and Wednesday night's significance on the forward's move to Southern California in the summer of 2018 may be impossible to prove, but that won't stop every eyeball from fixating on no. 13's every move.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Tip-off is 7:40 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pharoh Cooper Proving Valuable Component in LA Rams Success]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 17:11:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/08-29-2016-pharoh-cooper-rams-1.gif

When anyone mentions the Los Angeles Rams, many think of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree, Sammy Watkins or head coach Sean McVay. However, another important name to remember is Pharoh Cooper, who had a solid season and made the 2018 Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

Cooper caught eleven receptions for 84 yards this season.

"He's been tremendous all year for us and has done a great job in the return game," Goff told reporters of Cooper after a dominant Seahawks win. "He's found a little niche for himself."

The second-year receiver out of South Carolina entered the year without a defined role. But thanks to the meticulous efforts of McVay and the coaching staff, they - along with Cooper - realized his talents would best be served as a kickoff returner. He made the confession before the season that he wanted to be the best at his position and by Week 6, punt-return duties were a part of his assignment.

Cooper, who also plays receiver, averaged 26 yards per kickoff return and 13.4 yards per punt return. He led the NFL in total kickoff-return yardage (845) and is second in punt-return yardage (390). The transformation from last season to the 2017 season has been phenomenal for Cooper. Throughout the hard work and dedication he has, he continues to excel by leaps and bounds on this team.

"After the season last year, I found out a lot about myself," Cooper said. "I was hurt last year, then went through the injury, but I never lost faith, and I had confidence in myself. As the season kept growing, we started to break out some kick returns and my confidence got even higher."

His hard worked paid off. Not only did his team achieve their first winning record since 2003, but he was also awarded with Pro Bowl honors along with teammates Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Johnny Hekker, and Greg Zuerlein.

"It's really exciting and a dream come true," Cooper said about making the Pro Bowl. "When you're a little kid watching the NFL, and seeing all of the top guys making it. I give a lot of credit to the guys who were blocking for me as well as the coaching staff."

With all the right pieces in place, the Rams have a great chance of standing alone at the mountaintop.

If they win on Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons at the LA Coliseum, this tight-knit bunch of players will have to band together on the road and have that 2Pac "Me Against The World" mentality in order to make it to Minnesota in February.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez Medically Cleared]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 16:30:50 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lonzo-Ball-Brook-Lopez-Lakers-injury-update.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers received a giant injury boost when the team announced that starting point guard Lonzo Ball and starting center Brook Lopez had both been cleared to return to practice with both sharing a "questionable" status for Wednesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ball sat out five games due to a shoulder sprain suffered during the Lakers' 95-93 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 23, 2017. The Lakers went on to lose all five games without the point guard. Ball's absence was felt on both ends of the court, as the 20-year-old has been far better than advertised on the defensive side of the ball.

Lopez, meanwhile, suffered a "moderate" ankle sprain back on Dec. 18, 2017. The team has tried different options in place of Lopez, specifically Julius Randle and Andrew Bogut, with up and down success. The team's record in Lopez's absence is seven defeats and one victory. That lone victory came with Bogut starting at center and Randle only featuring for a season-low eight minutes.

While both Lopez and Ball have been cleared to practice, the Lakers are not practicing on Tuesday, which is customary following a back-to-back. On Wednesday, the team will go through shootaround, but that activity is more about game planning and getting shots up, rather than testing strength and endurance.

Based on conversations the medical staff and the coaching staff have on Wednesday, both players may sit out Wednesday's high profile game against Paul George, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in favor of practicing on Thursday and returning on Friday night at Staples Center against the Charlotte Hornets.

Ultimately, Lakers coach Luke Walton will make the final call on Wednesday, and the coach has a habit of not sharing player status until the final possible moment. Both Lopez and Ball expect to be game-time decisions if Walton stays true to form.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn Is Building A Contender]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 12:55:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-898087276.jpg

On Monday afternoon, head coach Anthony Lynn entered the room, approached the podium and described how he was encouraged by the disappointment that the Los Angeles Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs.

The Chargers destroyed the Oakland Raiders on Sunday 30-10 at Stub Hub Center, yet it was not enough to continue on. On a bright note it was the first time the Chargers finished with a winning record (9-7) since 2014. 

"You come into the next day of work and the whole organization is a little down," Lynn explained. "That’s kind of encouraging because that just tells me that everyone’s standards and expectations are much higher. We do this for one reason, and that’s to get in the tournament and try to win the prize. So I feel really good about our future here with the Chargers and our ownership with Dean, and A.G. and John, and how committed they are to winning a championship. And the management team I’ve worked with, with Tom Telesco and Ed McGuire. I feel really encouraged about this organization and the things we can accomplish in the future."

Lynn had an outstanding impact on the players from the moment he disseminated his philosophy for the season.  

Many players including Philip Rivers, Tre Boston, Tyrell Williams, Melvin Ingram, and Denzel Perryman all embraced Lynn's teaching and coaching, yet remain optimistic for the future.


Lynn also made sure he praised not only the players but the coaching staff who did a good job this season. With reports that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could be headed out of Los Angeles in pursuit of other head coaching offers, Lynn was asked how much he would like to keep everyone on the coaching staff together.

"We’d like to keep this together if we can. I know with some guys, the contracts are up," Lynn said. "We’re working on that right now. We’re trying to keep this staff together, this nucleus together, because I think we got better as a coaching staff as the season went on. We hit some bumps there early, and midway through the season, but things are a lot smoother right now. I think we understand each other."

One thing that's a sense of urgency for the Bolts is landing a permanent kicker next season.

"It’s to find that young kicker — not a Band-Aid — but a young kicker that can be with this organization for a long time", Lynn said. "Get him in here, get him in this building around these guys every day."

This off-season should be very interesting as the ream looks to address many needs including a successor to Rivers in the near future. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Georgia Stuns Oklahoma in Another Epic Rose Bowl Game]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 21:24:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-900368180.jpg

After ending the first Rose Bowl game ever to go into overtime, one of the greatest Granddaddies of Them All, Sony Michel was swarmed by Georgia teammates as he broke down in tears.

The senior tailback had gone from goat to hero and sent the Bulldogs to the national championship game.

Michel burst through the line for a 27-yard touchdown run to give No. 3 Georgia a 54-48 victory Monday night against No. 2 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Michel, who had a fumble in the fourth quarter returned for a go-ahead Oklahoma touchdown, ran for 181 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (13-1), but none bigger than the last one in the second overtime.

"I made plays. I gave up plays. My team just had faith in me," said Michel, who did all that damage on just 11 carries. "That's what this team is all about. They showed true character today."

In the final game of his great career, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a touchdown pass that gave the Sooners a 17-point lead with 6 seconds left in the first half.

But the Heisman Trophy winner could not get the Sooners (12-2) into the end zone in the first overtime when a touchdown would have ended the game.

The Bulldogs will play either Alabama or Clemson on Jan. 8 for the national championship in Atlanta, about 90 miles from their campus. After Georgia made its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1943 a rousing, heart-stopping success, the Bulldogs will play for their first national title since 1980.

"We got to get back to work. It's not done," Michel said. "Now we got to finish. Let's just finish this season off right."

The first overtime Rose Bowl was also the highest-scoring, surpassing last year's 52-49 USC victory against Penn State. There was a lot more on the line in this one, which will go down as an all-time great.

After an offside penalty on Georgia gave Oklahoma a first down on third-and-five in the second OT possession, the Sooners stalled again and Austin Seibert came out for a 27-yard field goal. Leaping through the line, Lorenzo Carter got his outstretched hand on the kick and the ball fluttered down short of the uprights.

Any score would have ended it for the Bulldogs, and on the second play Michel slipped one tackle and was home free. The Bulldogs sprinted off the sideline and toward the corner of the end zone to mob Michel. Confetti rained down. Meanwhile, Mayfield stood motionless on the sideline for several seconds, bent over with his hands on his knees and head down. Mayfield battled flu-like symptoms the week leading into the game, but he played just fine.

"I can't believe it's over. It's been a wild ride," said Mayfield with a hoarse voice before he started to cry.

Michel and his running mate Nick Chubb were awesome for Georgia. Chubb ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yarder on a direct snap with 55 seconds left in regulation to tie it.

Both teams settled for field goals in the first overtime. First, Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship hit from 38 to make it 48-45.

Then it was Mayfield's turn. A touchdown would have sent the Sooners to Atlanta, but on a third-and-2 from the 17 Georgia All-America linebacker Roquan Smith nailed Jordan Smallwood a yard short of the first down.

Seibert kicked a 33-yarder and the Bulldogs and Sooners played on, but not for much longer.


Georgia: The Bulldogs came in with the sixth-best defense in the country, but Mayfield and the Sooners sliced it up in the first half, including a nifty reverse pass to the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback that made it 31-14 with 6 seconds left in the second quarter. Oklahoma had 360 yards in the first half, the second-most the Bulldogs had allowed in a game this season.

Coach Kirby Smart said the defense "stunk it up" in the first half, but there were no dramatic changes in the second. Smith and company just played better. Oklahoma managed only 171 yards and one touchdown in the second half and OT.

Oklahoma: The Sooners' defense has been an issue all season, but it did look for a while like it might make the decisive play. Linebacker Caleb Kelly lowered a shoulder into Michel trying to turn the corner on a sweep and the ball popped loose. Steven Parker picked it up on the bounce, tight-roped the sideline and raced 46 yards for a touchdown to put the Sooners up 45-38 with 6:52 left in the fourth.

But with a chance to close out the game with 3:22 left in the fourth, Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm led a game-tying drive, capped by Chubb's TD run. Fromm finished 20-for-29 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.


Georgia: It's back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Bulldogs, where they won the Southeastern Conference championship to get to the playoff a month ago.

Oklahoma: The Sooners start the post-Mayfield era next fall at home against coach Lane Kiffin's Florida Atlantic team.

Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose in Double Overtime, 148-142]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 22:42:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Julius-Randle-Lakers-Dec-31-17.jpg

On New Year's Eve, Julius Randle provided a glimpse of what he could be in 2018 and beyond if he can maximize his potential. 

In Houston, Randle relentlessly and routinely rounded his defender without regard and went coast to coast against the entire Houston Rockets' team without a care. The small ball starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes, all of which were season highs for the 23-year-old Dallas native.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Randle fouled out before the conclusion of Sunday's double-overtime thriller, and his absence combined with Chris Paul's cunning led Houston to a 148-142 victory.

Lakers coach Luke Walton was short three starters, as Brook Lopez and Lonzo Ball were on the shelf with injuries and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was unable to leave the state of California for legal reasons. For the second game in a row, Walton started Randle at center, while Josh Hart took Caldwell-Pope's spot and Tyler Ennis earned a rare start at point guard.

Ennis finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds, as Walton's decision to play a pure point guard paid off in a more stable offense and a better tempo to the Lakers' play on the whole. Hart, meanwhile, made nine of his 13 shots and finished with 26 points and six rebounds in 37 minutes.

Unfortunately for Walton's Lakers, Hart, Randle and Ennis all fouled out and watched the conclusion of the close contest sitting next to their coach, rather than on the court.

Unlike the previous game against the LA Clippers on Friday night, the Lakers came ready to play on Sunday night and took a halftime lead into the locker room after scoring 72 points before the intermission.

With Randle leading the way and Ennis helping push the pace, the Lakers attacked the Rockets' defense and attempted to run the score up on Mike D'Antoni's ball club, which takes some doing.

Led by James Harden, the Rockets got back into the game in the second half, but the early 2018 MVP favorite pulled up lame and walked off the court gingerly with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. Harden would not return and finished the night with 40 points and 11 assists in 41 mintutes.

Paul stepped up in Harden's absence and kept Houston answering back for every jab the Lakers landed in the extra basketball periods. Every time the Rockets looked like they were wobbling, Paul would find an open shooter or find the bottom of the net. The long-time LA Clipper finished with 28 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes. 

Former Laker Trevor Ariza added 26 points for the Rockets in the victory and tied for a game-high 45 minutes with Ennis and Brandon Ingram.

While the Lakers lost their sixth game in a row and ninth game out of their last 10 contests over all, this loss featured a competitive group fighting against one of the best team in the NBA on the road. All five of the Lakers' starters scored in double figures and four of the five starters scored over 20 points, as the ball moved to the tune of 31 assists on 53 made baskets for the purple and gold.

In a contrast of styles, the Rockets attempted 52 three-pointers, which was more than double the Lakers' attempts from distance. LA shot 40 percent from beyond the arc, though, and rookie Kyle Kuzma hit five of his 10 long range attempts on the night.

Instead, LA did its damage inside and outscored Houston 82-58 in the painted area. Even with Harden being best friends with the referee's whistle, the Rockets only shot two more foul shots than the Lakers on the night. However, the Rockets claimed six extra points at the line than LA, as the Lakers continue to be the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA. In a game decided by the smallest of margins and requiring two overtime periods to decide a winner, one extra made free throw could have been the difference between winning and losing.

Finishing off 2017 with a victory would have obviously been more ideal for the Lakers, but Friday night in Houston was an impressive defeat. If such a thing did exist, the Lakers would arguably be the best team in the NBA at battling elite opponents to the end but falling just short, as this was the Lakers' third overtime defeat. The previous two overtime defeats came against the Golden State Warriors. 

Now 11-24 on the season, the Lakers will wake up in ice cold Minnesota for Jan. 1, 2018 and face the Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back. The NBA schedule makers did not exactly take pity on the Lakers on this occasion. On New Year's Eve, the temperature in Minneapolis was -12 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 40 degrees below freezing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Defeat Raiders But Lose Out on Entering Playoffs]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:17:54 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/AP_18001041512959.jpg

The Chargers defeated the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders 30-10 in front of a sellout crowd of over 25,000 at Stub Hub Center on Sunday. 

The Los Angeles Chargers controlled their own playoff destiny, to a degree. Despite the win on Sunday, the Tennessee Titans 15-10 win over the Jaguars, which eliminated the Bolts from a playoff appearance as a Wild Card. The Chargers made sure they had to handle their business so if nothing else they finished with a winning season for the first time since 2014.

Philip Rivers threw for more than 4,000 yards and, except for two three-interception games against Kansas City, he's been careful with the football. Keenan Allen had a career season and has written his name among the NFL's top receivers. Running back Melvin Gordon ran for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in three seasons.

Oakland's defense hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passing game in five weeks, led by a great pass rushing duo featuring Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

The Chargers kept the Raiders scoreless for the eighth time this season in the opening quarter. Los Angeles woke up as running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time this season, yet the ball landed in the hands of Keenan Allen for a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Raiders answered back quickly on 3rd and 22, deep in Chargers territory, Derek Carr launched a rocket pass on a post route over the top to Amari Cooper for an 87-yard touchdown catch, and the 7-7 tie.

The Bolts pressured the Raiders enough where they settled for a 30-yard field goal and took a 10-7 lead. Oakland decided to be lax on the Chargers drive after crucial Khalil Mack roughing the passer penalty, Rivers found a wide open Tyrell Williams for the 56-yard touchdown catch and 14-10 lead late in the second quarter.

The second half turned into an offensive onslaught by the Chargers, as a 25-yard field goal by Nick Rose was made early in the third quarter. Yet late in the third quarter, Rivers found a speedy Travis Benjamin down field for the 62-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.


Philip Rivers completed 28-for-37 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Rivers tied Fran Tarkenton for sixth most passing touchdowns in NFL history.

Keenan Allen finished with 9 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. Allen has a new record for catches in a single season passing LaDianian Tomlinson with 100.

Melvin Gordon finished with 17 carries for 93 yards on the day. Gordon also completed 6 receptions for 31 yards. 


Derek Carr completed 19-for-27 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss.  

Marshawn Lynch finished with 19 carries for 101 yards.

Amari Cooper ended the day with 3 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Cooper is the first player to get over 100 yards receiving against the Chargers this season.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Rout Rams in Regular Season Finale]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 20:43:29 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*123/GettyImages-900124620.jpg

The regular season has come to a close.

Without 20 of their 22 starters, the Los Angeles Rams lost the final game of the regular season, 34-13, to Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers on New Year's Eve at the L.A. Coliseum.

Garoppolo threw for 292 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns on the day, as he improved to 5-0 as the starting quarterback for San Francisco.

"They've definitely improved," said L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay about the new-look Niners with Garoppolo under center. "It's impressive just to watch the way those guys play. I'm impressed with those guys and they did a nice job finishing up the right way this year."

Overall, the man known as "Jimmy G," is 7-0 as a starting quarterback to start his career (two wins with New England).

Jimmy G got the Niners on the board when he found Marquise Goodwin on a screen pass in the first quarter for an 8-yard touchdown pass that put San Francisco up 10-0.

Carlos Hyde had 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners who finish the season on a tear, winning six of their last seven games under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Jimmy G added an extra insurance touchdown to start the fourth quarter when he found Aldrick Robinson over the middle in the end zone for the score.

After the Rams clinched the NFC West last week with a win over the Tennessee Titans last week, head coach Sean McVay opted to rest nearly all of his starters before their NFC Wild Card matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

"We feel good about being able to allow some of our players to get some rest, a little bit of recovery time that I think is much needed for some of those guys and then you keep a couple guys out of harm's way," said McVay of his decision. "Hopefully, they'll be fresh and ready to roll whenever our game is."

Among the notable starters to rest in the game were quarterback Jared Goff, pro-bowl tackle Aaron Donald, and MVP candidate Todd Gurley.

In place of Goff, backup quarterback Sean Mannion made his first career NFL start, and threw for 169 yards with no touchdowns and one lost fumble.

Lance Dunbar scored the only Rams touchdown on the day when he rushed it up the middle for the 5-yard score late in the fourth quarter. 

Rams kicker, Sam Ficken, making his second career NFL start, bounced back from a bad week against the Titans, and was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and 1-1 on extra-point attempts.

"He did a nice job today," McVay said of his kicker. "He made the most of his opportunities, and had some good kickoffs as well. He definitely improved from the previous week, so pleased with Sam today."

Backup cornerback Kevin Peterson had two interceptions for the Rams in the first start of his NFL career. 

"I knew going into the game that I was going to get a lot of opportunities," said Peterson of his two interceptions. "They came into a formation that I recognized, and we had a call that matched it well and I just went and got it. I'm really more mad because I feel like I made some worse plays than the interceptions, so I didn't really get a chance to celebrate those."

Scary Moment:

Late in the second quarter, San Francisco 49ers receiver, Marquise Goodwin, was hit in the head by cornerback Blake Countess, and laid motionless on the field for several minutes. He eventually was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital with a concussion.

Up Next:

The playoffs! The Los Angeles Rams will host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, January 6, at 5:15PM PST in the NFC Wild Card game at the L.A. Coliseum.

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rose Bowl Getting Four New Hall of Famers]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 11:04:09 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/170918-rose-bowl.JPG

Former UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, former Texas coach Mack Brown and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson will be among four men inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Saturday.

The fourth member of the hall's Class of 2017 is the late Charles West, the first black quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl Game.

McNown had a record 538 yards of total offense in UCLA's 38-31 loss to Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game, the Bruins most recent appearance in the game.

Brown coached the Longhorns to victories in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowl games. Texas defeated Michigan, 38-37, in the 2005 Rose Bowl, on Dusty Mangum's 37-yard field goal as time expired.

The Longhorns defeated USC, 41-38, in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game, which also served as the Bowl Championship Series National Championship, overcoming a 12-point deficit with four minutes, three seconds to play.

Woodson made an interception in the end zone in Michigan's 21-16 victory over Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl Game.

West was part of the 17-member team from Washington & Jefferson that faced California in the 1922 Rose Bowl Game, the last to be played at Pasadena's Tournament Park. The Presidents used just 11 players, who all played the entire 60 minutes, in the Rose Bowl Game's only 0-0 tie.

West died in 1979 after maintaining a general medical practice in Alexandria, Virginia for more than 50 years.

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to honor individuals connected with college football's oldest bowl game. This year's class increases its membership to 125.

The induction ceremony will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Lot K Tent at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame induction ceremony and luncheon will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Lot K Tent at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

"These four individuals epitomize what the Tournament of Roses and Rose Bowl Game stand for," Tournament of Roses Football Committee Chair Brad Ratliff said.

"This class has exhibited strength, passion, tradition and honor in relation to college football, but also in making a difference in their communities."

Photo Credit: NewsChopper 4]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Cruise Past Lakers 121-106]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 00:07:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Clippers-12-29-17.jpg

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers played their final home game of 2017 and sufferred their fifth straight defeat, as the LA Clippers routed their city rivals, 121-106.

Blake Griffin marked his return from injury with a game-high 24 points, along with six rebounds and six assists in the victory. DeAndre Jordan finished the night with 12 points and 16 rebounds, as the big man dominated the undersized Lakers on the glass.

Julius Randle earned his first start of the season for the Lakers and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists, as Lakers coach Luke Walton gave the forward 29 minutes on the court, mostly as an undersized center.

The Lakers had a team meeting a day earlier to share frustrations and reset course after the team's play had fallen apart in recent games. Defensively, in particular, the Lakers no longer look like the side that consistently ranked in the top 10 to start the season.

The team meeting and the starting lineup switch, though, clearly did not have the desired impact for the Lakers. Six minutes into the game, the Clippers led 24-7. From there, the Lakers never truly threatened. At one point early in the third quarter, the Lakers cut the deficit to seven points, but the Clippers pushed the margin to double digits and the Lakers never threatened again.

Jordan Clarkson, who had been starting in place of injured point guard Lonzo Ball, lost his starting spot to allow Randle in. The backup guard finished with a team-high 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the loss. Also off the bench, Larry Nance Jr. made six of his seven shots and finished with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in only 18 minutes on the court.

"We’re not going to go into a meeting and come out and go 'Great! We're the Warriors now!' There’s none of that going on," Nance said after the game. "But, in terms of morale, in terms of togetherness, in terms of 'We're all in this as a unit, as a team and we're going to dig ourselves out it and to figure it out together,' yea, there was definitely some chemistry build and some comradery built. Especially in a rough patch in the season, there can be splintering, so that was good."

Of course, coming out of that meeting and laying an egg to start the game the next day is a tough pill to swallow for the team.

"It's a long season and right now, we're in the thick of it," Nance said. "Definitely, we're struggling."

From the Lakers' standpoint, one play summed up the night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew a crowd of defenders and thought it a good idea to toss a pass off the backboard to himself. Instead, he missed the backboard and threw the ball out of bounds.

With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 11-23 on the season, while the Clippers improved to 15-19 with the victory.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Darnold's 3 Turnovers Cost USC in Cotton Bowl]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 02:35:13 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/168*120/GettyImages-899656436.jpg

This was not how they drew it up.

The Trojans committed four turnovers and No. 8 USC fell to No. 5 Ohio State, 24-7, in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

Sophomore standout Sam Darnold committed three of those turnovers, throwing a pick six, followed by a fumble that turned into 14 points for the Buckeyes in the second quarter.

It was evident early on that it was not the Trojans night as wide receiver Deontay Burnett fumbled the ball on the opening drive, giving Ohio State excellent field position on their first possession.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ran the ball in on a read option for the Buckeyes first score and Ohio State jumped out to an early lead.

After Ohio State started the second half with a field goal, they scored 10 points in 13 seconds when Darnold made an ill-advised throw on the first play of the ensuing drive, and Damon Webb took it to the house for an interception return for a touchdown. 

The 23-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first pick-six of the season for Ohio State, and it came at the best time for the Buckeyes. 

Darnold's second turnover of the game came midway through the second quarter when he was sacked by Tyquan Lewis, and lost the ball, allowing another Ohio State score by Barrett off the turnover.

Trailing 24-0, the Trojans finally got on the scoreboard following a muffed punt by K.J. Hill, and USC scored six plays later on a run by Ronald Jones II.

On the same field they won their first championship under head coach Urban Meyer three years ago, Ohio State's saved the day as they sacked Darnold eight times in the game. All four touchdowns in the game came off turnovers.

The Trojans had their chances in the second half, but a missed field goal, followed by another fumble by Darnold—this time inside the red zone—put a sour end to USC's 2017 season.

Both teams were snubbed by the college football playoff this season despite winning their conference championship. 

For many USC seniors and star players, this was the final game of their collegiate career. One of those players could be Darnold, who is projected to be the second quarterback taken in the NFL draft should he decide to turn pro. 

The Buckeyes meanwhile will see junior cornerback Denzel Ward and quarterback J.T. Barrett head to the NFL after each declared for the NFL draft earlier in the week. 

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lakers Hold Team Meeting, Walton Explains Randle's Minutes]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 16:54:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-team-meeting-12-29-17.jpg

After losing four straight games and seven of their last eight games overall, the Los Angeles Lakers didn't need another practice. Add in that guys were banged up from playing big minutes the night before, and Lakers coach Luke Walton decided that the team needed to sit down and share frustrations and move forward as a collective unit.

"I don't know if anything got accomplished," Walton said after Friday's shootaround. "It's just good for every once in a while to get together and share your feelings."

The coach intimated that he considered burning sage like former Lakers coach Phil Jackson did to symbolically rid the team of its demons, but he went for the more traditional route on this occasion.

"We've got a young group," Walton said. "One of our biggest themes this year is getting guys to communicate more, to hold each other accountable, to hold themselves accountable, so we constantly talk about that. One way to do that is have team meetings and make guys share what they see and what they think and give them an open platform."

The coach contended that team meetings are a natural part of the NBA season unless a team is winning and downplayed the magnitude of the occurrence.

"There's some frustration, but there's frustration on every team unless you win every game. Whenever you lose games, there's frustration. People want to play more, as everybody in the league should want to play more. It's nothing. It's just normal middle of the season NBA type stuff with a team that's struggling to get wins."

In recent days, veteran center spoke about the frustration festering in the locker room and particularly spoke about the Lakers' front office creating an atmosphere where players don't necessarily know if they're coming or going, and Walton admitted that those types of topics were discussed in the meeting.

"I think everybody pitched out how we could be better as a team, how we could be more effective and how we could have each other's backs on the basketball floor and off the basketball floor," Lakers forward Brandon Ingram shared his takeaways from the meeting.

Ingram added, "I don't think we worked through it in one day, but I think we put it out there about how each guy was feeling, about how they play on the basketball floor, how they were feeling about the business of the organization, how they want to be played or anything of the nature."

Ingram made it sound like it was a positive experience: "I think they just put it all out there and ultimately I hope felt free. I did."

One won't have to wait long to see if the team meeting will have an immediate impact on the court, as the Lakers host the Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center.

Kyle Kuzma Expected to Play Friday

Lakers coach Luke Walton said that he expected his rookie forward to play on Friday night, but of course, the training staff will need to clear the 22-year-old. Kyle Kuzma finished Wendesday's game hobbled after suffering a contusion in his thigh and was officially listed as "questionable" but went through shootaround on Friday morning. He revealed that he's sore but sounded hopeful that he would be able to play. The rookie out of the University of Utah leads the Lakers in scoring at 17.8 points per game.

Julius Randle's Minutes

Lakers forward Julius Randle has had an up and down season in terms of minutes and usage, as the Lakers' dynamic backup forward/center came off an 11-minute outing against the Memphis Grizzlies after only playing eight minutes in Houston earlier this month.

On Friday morning, Walton was asked about Randle's minutes and offerred this explanation on the topic.

Q: What happened with Julius' minutes in the last game and how did he handle that?

Walton: "Julius has shown us how great he can be, and I believe in Julius and I continue to challenge him. And some nights he doesn't play big minutes, it’s because other guys are rolling. And some nights it's because it's not up to the standard he's set for himself. I want him to feel and realize the difference in those things as part of his growth as a player."

Q: Which one was it the other night (vs Memphis)?

Walton: "It was one of the two. He knows. Sometimes, it's a combination of both of those two."

Q: Does it depend on matchups?

"No, because we feel that Julius can guard everybody. There's somethings that I think Bogut does really well with some bigger players and his rebounding and his defense, his ability to give us different coverages out there. We feel confidence in Julius' ability to guard anyone in this league."

Q: When Julius has not met his personal standard, what are the common themes?

Walton: "For me, it's a lot of times, we want him running. We want him playing fast. We want him running into screens. [He's]such a dynamic roller when he does it. He collapses a defense with how he can move around the court, so those are the things we're consistently looking for him to do."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: John Sullivan]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:58:41 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/John_Sullivan_RR_1200x675_1125781571588.jpg

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams center John Sullivan about his decision to sign with the Rams, his ability to read a defense, and the secret undercover mission he would go on with Andrew Whitworth.]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Reveal New Kobe Bryant Designed Jersey]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:46:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-designs-Lakers-jerseys.png

Nine days after the Los Angeles Lakers retired both of Kobe Bryant's jersey numbers, the team announced a new uniform designed by the "Black Mamba" labeled "For the City."

So what would a jersey designed by the five-time recently retired champion look like?

Of course, the print looks like the skin of a snake, as the traditionally purple and gold team reveals its second black uniform. Back in 2013, the team began down this path with its black Hollywood Nights jerseys, which were fan and player favorites. Those jerseys were also black and had gold trim, but the lettering was in the team's traditional purple color, which the team marketed as "Forum Blue."

Bryant may have ditched the "Forum Blue," for more black inside the numbers, but he kept the gold around the numbers, neck and arms and also around the waist and down the sides of the shorts. All-in-all, Bryant designing cool looking team apparel that will likely sell in droves shouldn't come as a surprise, as his personal Nike line is extremely popular around the NBA and in the stands.

As a related note, Nike took over production of the NBA's jerseys and has decided to ditch the traditional home and away jerseys. In fact, the Lakers did not wear their traditional purple road jerseys until after Thanksgiving. The shoe and apparel brand has focused on slowly revealing new jerseys for teams at different points in the season.

For the Lakers, Bryant's return to the jersey catalogue in any capacity has to lift sales. For the 2015-16 season, which was Bryant's final season with the Lakers, the team ranked no. 3 in terms of merchandise with Bryant ranking no. 3 in jersey sales.

Only one year later by June of 2017, though, the Lakers had dropped down to no. 6 in terms of merchandise behind the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and even the San Antonio Spurs.

For 2016-2017, the Warriors had three players ranked in the top 15 in terms of jersey sales, while the Cavaliers and Bulls each featured two players on that list. At the time, the Celtics had Isaiah Thomas made the cut, while the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard ranked no. 6 in terms of player jersey sales for the 2016-17 season.

The Lakers did not have any players ranked in the top 15 in jersey sales, and one would have to go a long way back to find a year that the Lakers did not feature one of the 15 most popular NBA jerseys. One would expect it's been over two decades.

Kyrie Irving will likely keep the Celtics high on that list, and Leonard should still be a top seller for his team, while the Bulls will likely drop out with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler no longer in Chicago.

The Lakers, frankly, haven't had a premier jersey seller since Bryant retired, and the front office's push to get an All-Star level free agent would also likely be a welcome sight for the business side of the the team. Superstar players sell merchandise and jerseys.

Rookie Lonzo Ball is undoubtedly popular, but one should note that no rookies finished in the top 15 in jersey sales in any of the past five seasons and traditionally do not make the list. Ball may be exception considering his unique popularity, but the league has yet to announce any merchandise results for 2017-18.

For now, Bryant is still the Lakers' biggest star.

So, while the team doesn't feature any All-Stars, the Lakers and Nike giving Bryant and his team design control makes a great deal of sense for all parties involved.

Even if the jerseys don't say Bryant on the back, the fact that his signature is part of the jersey design can't hurt sales. In addition, Bryant's new jerseys also come with a new line of sweatshirts that feature the "24" on the neck of the hoodie, which was recently being sported by Larry Nance Jr. in the locker room prior to the line's release. He expressed his approval verbally to NBCLA and physically by, well, wearing the gear in the locker room before a game.

Also, the t-shirts in the line prominently feature "24" in the middle of the chest, while a $90 "Hyper Elite Long Sleeve Shooter" gold warmup features "Lakers" on the back and the "24" on the left chest. Clearly, even if Bryant's name is no longer on the back of the Lakers' jerseys, the team and Nike are working hard to capitalize on his popularity, especially in the wake of his recent jersey retirement.

For the 2017-18 NBA season, the Lakers have worn white jerseys, gold jerseys, blue "MLPS" jerseys and purple jerseys. Now, Bryant's "For the City" black jerseys have been added to catalog.

Photo Credit: Twitter/@Lakers]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Drop Fourth Straight, Lose to Grizzlies]]>Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:07:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Grizzlies.jpg

On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 109-99, as Tyreke Evans had a big night for the visitors with 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Brandon Ingram was back following a couple games out with minor injuries in both quadriceps, and the forward finished with team-highs with 23 points and four assists, along with four rebounds. While having Ingram back was a boost for the Lakers, the forward's return could not turn the tide and stop the bleeding.

With the loss, the Lakers sufferred their fourth defeat in a row and seventh in their last eight games. The purple and gold have still not won a game at home during the month of December with only one home game remaining before the calendar flips to 2018.

Once again, the Lakers continued to shoot themselves in the foot from the foul line. Entering the night as the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA and the only NBA team shooting below 70 percent from the charity stripe, the Lakers missed 12 of their 33 free throws in the loss to the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Memphis only attempted six more free throws than the Lakers but managed to collect an extra 13 points from the foul line.

Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who had been sensational in recent games, finally had an off night as heavy minutes appeared to catch up with the forward. The 22-year-old missed 20 of his 24 shots on Wednesday, including 10 of his 11 three-point attempts. In addition, the rookie appeared to take a knee and came up hobbling late in the game. However, Kuzma came in to finish the game, so one would expect he'll be ready to play on Friday night.

On the topic of rookies, the Lakers were without Lonzo Ball for the second game in a row, and LA looked like a completely different team without its starting point guard available. In particular, the Lakers struggled to get out in transition, push the pace and share the ball on Wednesday night. LA finished with only 14 assists in the game.

With the win, the Grizzlies improved to 11-24, while the Lakers fell to 11-22. Ball and starting center Brook Lopez will both be sidelined on Friday, when the Lakers host the LA Clippers for the final home game of 2017.

Notes: Lakers forward Julius Randle only played 11 minutes in the loss, as he continues to struggle for time on the court. Jordan Clarkson got the start in place of Ball for the second game in a row, and Clarkson finished with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists in 38 minutes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gurley, Kupp, and Whitworth Win Annual LA Rams Team Awards]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 20:23:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898097674.jpg

And the award goes to… 

The Los Angeles Rams announced the winners of their annual team awards on Wednesday, and running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, were the recipients of awards voted on by their teammates.

Gurley received the Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Award given to the team's Most Valuable Player. The award was introduced in 1969 to honor former Rams owner Dan Reeves.

Reeves owned the Rams from 1941-71 and won World Championships in 1945 and 1951. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967.

Gurley leads the NFL in touchdowns with 19, and ranks first in the league in yards from scrimmage (2,093), and rushing yards (1,305). He is also the first NFL player since former Ram Marshall Faulk to have at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 10 or more rushing touchdowns, and at least six receiving touchdowns in a single season.

Whitworth was the recipient of the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award, given to the Rams player that best exemplifies sportsmanship, ethic, and commitment to his teammates.

The award was introduced in 1990 in memory of Rams linebacker Carl Ekern who was killed in an automobile accident in 1990. Ekern exemplified these traits while starting for the Rams from 1982-88.

Despite playing his first season with the Rams in 2017, Whitworth is one of the leaders in the locker room and a mentor to young players both on and off the field.

Whitworth is a 12-year NFL veteran and was voted as one of the team's captains before the season began. Whitworth is the leader of an offensive line that has allowed just 25 sacks this season.

Kupp was the recipient of the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award given to the team's best rookie.

The award was introduced in 1979 in honor of the passing of former owner Carroll Rosenbloom who became the owner of the Rams in an unprecedented franchise trade in 1972.

Kupp is one of eight rookies in 2017, and leads the team in receiving yards (869) and is second in receptions with 62. As a rookie, he's posted five receiving touchdowns, and leads all rookie receivers in the NFL in yards, first downs, and 20-plus yard receptions.

Kupp was drafted No. 69 overall in the 2017 NFL draft out of Eastern Washington University. 

Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams to Rest Starters in Week 17]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 19:20:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898114238.jpg

It's going to be a starless night sky at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on New Year's Eve.

The Los Angeles Rams have locked up their first NFC West division title since 2003, and have guaranteed themselves a first-round home playoff game next week (Jan. 6 or 7).

The Rams are unable to earn a first round bye (by virtue of Vikings tiebreaker) by beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, so with either the 3rd or 4th seed guaranteed, the team has decided to rest their starters for the final game of the regular season.

"For us, everything that we do is intentional and designed to try to be best for our team and our players," said head coach Sean McVay in his media availability on Wednesday afternoon. "I think they understand that. I know sometimes people might not always agree, but when situations like this come up, we talk about it's a nice luxury to be able to have. We feel that this is the best approach for us."

Among the rested starters for the final game of the regular season are linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, center John Sullivan, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and linebacker Connor Barwin.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is also expected to sit out the contest as he nurses an oblique injury, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp could miss the contest with a knee injury.

The decision to rest players when there's nothing to play for in the final game of the season is one that has long haunted teams and coaches in the NFL. There's no right or wrong answer, either. Some teams rest their starters, some teams play them for the entirety of the game. Others, like the New England Patriots, treat the game like a preseason game, opting to play starters for the first half or first quarter before inserting their backups. 

For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in a similar situation as the Rams. They have clinched the AFC South division, and the no. 3 overall seed in the AFC playoffs. Despite nothing to play for, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has chosen to play all his starters and play to win against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday (something the Chargers are thankful for).

In the case of Gurley, the week off could hinder his MVP bid as the running back could have added to his case, following his back-to-back breakout performances in Week 15 and 16, respectively. 

Gurley became the third player in NFL history with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 10 or more rushing touchdowns and six or more receiving touchdowns in a single season, joining former Ram Marshall Faulk and O.J. Simpson.

However, as coach McVay mentioned, Gurley and Goff's production could be limited anyways, especially if three starters on the offensive line don't suit up for the game as expected.

Sean Mannion will start at quarterback for the Rams on Sunday, with Goff dressed and serving as the backup in an emergency.

The resting Rams give 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo the opportunity to improve to 5-0 on the season as the starting quarterback in San Francisco, and 7-0 overall to start his NFL career. 

Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Purchase LA Rams Playoff Tickets]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 19:04:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-873362586.jpg

Yes, we're talking about playoffs.

The Rams are headed to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2004, and the first time in Los Angeles since 1989. (The Raiders were the last LA-based NFL team to make the playoffs in 1993).

The team celebrated their first NFC West division title since 2003 in the visitor's locker room of Nissan Stadium on Sunday, as they donned their NFC West Champion shirts and hats, following a 27-23 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Now that the regular season is all but wrapped up, it's time for fans to direct their attention towards the postseason as tickets go on sale on Friday, December 29th.

Tickets were offered on Tuesday to current season ticket holders, and on Thursday will be offered to 2018 season ticket holders, and season ticket holders of the Rams new stadium in Inglewood set to open in 2020.

After all those presale tickets have been accounted for, the Rams will release the remaining tickets to the NFC Wild Card game on Friday at 10:00 AM PST.

Rams Chief Operating Office Kevin Demoff said that if the public wants to guarantee themselves playoff tickets, that they can place a deposit for 2018 season tickets or 2020 season tickets at the new stadium, and will have a presale opportunity on Thursday, Dec. 28.

The Rams will host one of four teams: The New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons or Seattle Seahawks at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on either Saturday, January 6 or Sunday, January 7.

The NFL will announce the date and time of the playoff game following Week 17, which will also be when the Rams discover who their first round opponent will be.

Fans interested in purchasing tickets can buy them at:  therams.com/playoffs.

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Kyle Kuzma Too Valuable to Sit Down]]>Tue, 26 Dec 2017 15:21:35 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kyle-Kuzma-heavy-minutes-12-26-17.jpg

On Christmas, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 25 or more points for the fourth time in his last five games, and the former Utah Ute continued to turn heads with an impressive start to his NBA career. While Kuzma's production has been a welcome surprise for the purple and gold over the first 32 games, the Lakers still have 50 games remaining in the marathon 2017-18 NBA season.

Recently, Kuzma's minutes have crept up, as the 22-year-old has topped 40 minutes in those same four of the past five games, but Lakers coach Luke Walton explained his dilemma with the rookie following a Boxing Day practice session at the team's practice facility in El Segundo.

"I'd like to," Walton said when asked about reducing the rookie's minutes.

But how could the coach keep his top scorer and, arguably, most promising player off the court?

"You rely on other guys," Walton said. "Again, it's next man up. Hopefully, we get Brandon (Ingram) back. You know, we were playing Brandon at some backup [power forward]. Julius (Randle) and Larry (Nance Jr.) get more opportunities for sure."

Walton seemed to hesitate as he continued answering the question.

Walton added, "But at the same time, we're trying to play a certain way and win these games, and if Kuzma looks healthy, then it's tough to get him out of there. It really is. The way that he's playing, it's hard to get him off the floor. But I would like to ideally play him less than he's playing right now, as a rookie, just to keep him healthy throughout the whole season."

Effectively, the coach conceded that Kuzma is playing too well for any of the other options to take minutes away from the 220-pound forward, and the coach hinted that Ingram's return following a couple games out with minor issues in both quadriceps could help lighten the rookie's load. The "certain type of way" Walton was most likely referencing has to do with floor spacing and offering the threat of shooting outside the painted are.

Nance and Randle, seemingly, cannot steal a steady stream of minutes from Kuzma because they don't offer the type of shooting that the Flint, Michigan native brings to the game. Over his last five games, Kuzma is attempting nearly eight 3-pointers per game and making a ridiculous 56.4 percent from distance.

Meanwhile, Randle is averaging 22.3 minutes for the season, and Nance is close behind at 22.0 minutes per game and dropping, as the Ohio native is no longer starting and has only touched 30 minutes in a game once during the month of December.

Based on Walton's comments, both Nance and Randle would ideally lighten the load off Kuzma and Ingram's return will help, but the rookie is simply playing too well to sit down if the goal is to win games. Considering the Lakers do not have any incentive to tank and lose games, one expects Walton will continue to play Kuzma big minutes, especially late in games. 

Kuzma the last five games: 27.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals in 39.8 minutes per game.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No Lonzo, No Ingram, No Win for Lakers on Xmas]]>Tue, 26 Dec 2017 00:01:40 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-vs-Twolves-12-25-17.jpg

Down three starters, the Los Angeles Lakers faced long odds to get a Christmas night victory at STAPLES Center, but they managed to keep the game competitive and fans in their seats for the majority of the contest thanks to another stellar performance from rookie Kyle Kuzma, who became the first rookie since LeBron James to score 30 points on Christmas.

Averaging 24.5 points per game over his past six games, Kuzma finished the night with a game high 31 points, along with three rebounds and four assists in the 121-104 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"No, not really," Kuzma said when asked about whether being the the same company as James carried meaning.

After being pressed, Kuzma added, "Of course its cool, but at the same time I expect to do all of this, I work hard, I feel like I should be doing all of this, so its not like a surprising type feel, but it’s definitely cool to reach milestones and what not"

Per Lakers PR, Kuzma's 31-point outing made him the fourth highest scoring rookie on the December holiday behind only James (34 points), Bill Cartwright (33 points) and Patrick Ewing (32 points).

Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler led the visitors offensively, with all three of the Timberwolves' starts scored over 20 points in the win. Butler and Gibson each scored 23 points, while Towns scored 21 points in the win.

The Lakers could not slow down Minnesota offensively, as the Timberwovles finished with four different players scoring 19 or more points. Kuzma was the only Laker to top that modest mark to show the dropoff for the home team.

In addition, the Timberwovles shot 58.3 percent from the field, which was notably higher than the Lakers' 43.5 percent. 

With Lonzo Ball out, Jordan Clarkson got the start at point guard and managed 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the defeat, while rookie Josh Hart contribed 12 points, six rebounds and two assists deputizing for Brandon Ingram.

"We're not getting blown out by nobody [sic]," Clarkson said he thought the Lakers were in a better spot than the previous year's team, which also had an 11-21 record after 32 games. "I think the score tonight wasn't indicitive of how the game flowed, but I feel like we're right there competing every night."

Off the bench, Julius Randle scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds in only 19 minutes on the court, as the backup forward/center continues to struggle for regular minutes with Lakers coach Luke Walton juggling big bodies like Larry Nance Jr. and Andrew Bogut.

When eyeing the talent on the floor for Minnesota versus the talent available for LA, it was a Christmas miracle that the Lakers kept the game close for three quarters and even managed to take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Timberwolves promptly spit off a 13-0 run and outscored the Lakers 38-24 in the fourth quarter to finish with the lopsided 17-point victory, which was also the visitors' largest lead of the night.

In the end, the Lakers lost, and this turned out to be the sixth loss in the past seven games for the purple and gold. Next, the Lakers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Rams: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas']]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 20:57:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898124612.jpg

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the field
Not a Titan was stirring, not even Marcus Mariota's shield.
The Rams had arrived by a plane with care,
In hopes that a NFC West Crown soon would be there;

The Rams were nestled in huddles and threads,
While visions of the playoffs danced in their heads;
And Jared Goff in his helmet, and Gurley in his pads,
Had just told their teammates, 'Let's win Lads!'

When out on the field, there arose such a clatter,
Fans across the country arose to see what was the matter.
It was the Rams new kicker, he missed left and right,
So fans and players knew, they were in for a long night.

The sun on the breast of the freshly cut field,
Was evidence enough that one team must yield.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an 80-yard touchdown that saw Gurley reach top gear.

With the youngest head coach in the NFL, so lively and play,
I knew in a moment it must be Sean McVay.
His protégé, more accurate than Mariota, as his passes they came,
As they whistled by defenders, receivers shouted his name;

"Goff! I'm Open! Throw it now! We'll score!
Said Woods, and Watkins, and Cupp Galore!
From beyond the 50! To inside the red zone!
Touchdown after touchdown was thrown!"

Four in total as the offense it roared,
Even the mighty defense almost scored.
So up the NFC West to their first division title they flew,
The first since 2003, to accomplish that too.

The final score, 27-23, read the board,
The Rams had now become, an unstoppable horde.
They celebrated on the field, with smiles all around.
Back to Los Angeles for Christmas they soon would be bound.

McVay the youngest in history to win the NFC West,
The youngest since Madden, who was one of the best.
"One more game!" He said with a 'woo!"
Maybe even a first-round bye for the yellow and blue.

A new franchise record for points (250) they scored on the road,
and a force to be reckoned with to the NFL they showed.
So on to the playoffs for the Rams, how merry!
For many of these players, uncharted territory, how scary!

So off to the Nashville airport they went with a flash,
Escorted by the police to make sure they didn't crash.
As the plane took off, and flew out a sight,
I heard the Rams yell, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams clinch 1st NFC West title since '03]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 19:50:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898124618.jpg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams and first-year coach Sean McVay saved the real celebration for the locker room.

That's where McVay, the youngest coach in modern NFL history, channeled wrestler Ric Flair after the Rams clinched the franchise's first NFC West title since 2003 by beating the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday.

"When you find a way to come on the road and finish up your road record 7-1 and win a division title, there's only one thing you can say. Woooo! One more: Woooo!" McVay said before giving the Rams off until Wednesday.

Los Angeles trailed 23-20 before Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:41 left. The Rams (11-4), who came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division, took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.

Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs, including a screen he took 80 yards for the longest reception of his career. He became only the third in NFL history to put together such a performance in the same game, joining Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986). Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.

"He is in my book," Goff said, vouching for Gurley for MVP. "If there's anyone out there that's a running back that deserves it, he's the guy."

Gurley finished the game with two receiving touchdowns, giving him 19 on the season, a new Rams franchise record.

Gurley's 80-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter was the longest by a running back in franchise history, surpassing Marshall Faulk in 2000.

The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008. The loss handed the AFC South title to the Jaguars, and Tennessee hosts Jacksonville in the regular-season finale needing a win to reach the postseason.

"We still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and that is the next objective," coach Mike Mularkey said.

The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.

The Rams ran out the final 1:35 for their second straight victory and fourth in five games.

Head coach Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL history to make the playoffs, and surpassed John Madden's record as the youngest head coach in the NFL to win their division. Madden was 34 years old when the Raiders won the AFC West in 1970.

The Rams finished the season 7-1 on the road, and set a new franchise record for most points scored on the road in a single season with 250. 


The Titans' penchant for settling for field goals was costly once again. They had four trips inside the Rams 20 and scored only one offensive TD on DeMarco Murray's 6-yard run. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals and missed a 45-yarder wide right. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard scored Tennessee's first defensive TD of the season on a 4-yard fumble return.


Greg Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and the Rams really missed their Pro Bowl kicker. Instead of letting Sam Ficken kick with Los Angeles at the Titans 32 on their opening drive, the Rams picked up a delay of game penalty the Titans declined. Then punter Johnny Hekker's pass intended for Michael Thomas was batted down. Ficken also missed his first point after attempt.

When the Rams turned first-and-goal at the Titans 7 into fourth-and-18, McVay sent Ficken out for a 36-yard field-goal try. The kick bounced off the right upright no good.


It looked as if the Rams benefited from a confusing sequence in the third quarter. After Murray scored on a 6-yard run, the Titans recovered an onside kick. Succop said the official signaled live ball, so he tried the onside kick to steal a possession. But officials threw a flag, and referee Walt Anderson announced the Rams took their first timeout just before kickoff. Then he announced there was no timeout because the ball had not been put in play. Then he said, "First down." The Titans kicked deep on the next try.


The Rams forced a turnover on the opening drive for the eighth time this season. Linebacker Cory Littleton, starting with Mark Barron scratched, intercepted Mariota on the Titans' second play from scrimmage.


Rams left guard Rodger Saffold hurt his ribs late in the game, and Rams safety Marqui Christian hurt a shoulder.

Murray was helped to the sideline with 2:23 left with an injured right knee. Mularkey said Murray will have an MRI exam, but it doesn't look good.


Rams: Host 49ers on Sunday.

Titans: Host Jaguars on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Have Record-Setting Day On The Road]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 18:35:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/12.24.17_Anotion-Gates-Chargers.jpg

Not only did the Los Angeles Chargers pull off a narrow 14-7 victory over the New York Jets Sunday, they also kept their playoff hopes alive with the win and the Bills' and Titans' losses.

Several Chargers players set records on Sunday that were extremely important.

In the second quarter, quarterback Philip Rivers found Antonio Gates on a 3-yard pass in the end zone for the touchdown. It was the 114th touchdown catch of Gates' career, but his just third of the season. It's also the 87th time that Rivers and Gates have connected in the end zone.

In the second half, running back Melvin Gordon not only scored his eighth touchdown of the season, and also became a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in his three-year career. Gordon currently has 1,012 yards rushing with one game remaining against the Oakland Raiders.

It is the first time the Bolts had a 1,000-yard rusher in Gordon and a 1,000 yard receiver in Keenan Allen (1,250) since 2013. Former Bolts running back Ryan Mathews (1,255 rushing yards) and rookie Allen (1,046 yards) were the last combo to achieve this milestone.

Quarterback Philip Rivers completed 22-of-40 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's victory. Rivers passed for 4,000 yards on the season for the ninth time in his illustrious career. He's only the fourth quarterback to ever accomplish that milestone in the NFL.

If Los Angeles is fortunate enough to make the post season, this is truly a Hollywood script, or a future "30-For-30" documentary.

The Chargers finish the regular season against AFC West opponent Oakland Raiders at Stubhub Center next weekend. Kickoff is on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 1:25 p.m. PT on CBS.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Remain Alive for Postseason In Win Against Jets]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 15:46:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-898089064.jpg

On 4th down in the final quarter, New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty decided to throw the ball toward Robby Anderson in the end zone, and was broken up by Pro-Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward. That play broke the spirit of the Jets as the Los Angeles Chargers held on for the 14-7 win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.

If the Kansas City Chiefs win one more game, the Chargers cannot win the AFC West. And the only way Los Angeles can get a wild card spot is if the Ravens (8-6) or Titans (8-6) get the No. 5 seed, the other loses both their remaining games to finish 8-8, and the Chargers finish tied with the Bills for the No. 6 seed at 9-7, because they beat the Bills in Week 11.

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, the team's third-leading receiver with 579 yards and four touchdowns, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of a lacerated kidney suffered against the Chiefs. Running back Austin Ekeler broke his hand and was out of action. The Bolts were without middle linebacker Denzel Perryman with a hamstring tendon strain, and Corey Liguet.

After a lethargic start by both the Chargers' and Jets' offenses, Los Angeles finally found their rhythm in the second quarter when Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a huge 27-yard catch for a first down. The Bolts caught a break when Rivers threw a pass for Tyrell Williams in the end zone, but couldn't hold on due to a pass interference penalty.

Two plays later, Rivers found Gates for the 3-yard touchdown catch and the 7-0 lead. That's the 114th touchdown catch of Gates' career, but his just third of the season. It's also the 87th time that Rivers and Gates have connected in the end zone.

The Jets offense gets off of life support as Bilal Powell ran thought the holes and outran every Chargers opponent for a 57-yard touchdown. That tied the game 7-7 early in the third quarter.

C. Jonathan Harrison started his first game for the Jets, and provided protection the entire way for Powell down the sidelines to the end zone.

Rivers answered quickly as he spread the ball around to Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Sean McGrath, who caught an imperative pass near the 2-yard line. Next play, Gordon spun around for the one-yard touchdown and the 14-7 lead. Gordon scored his 8th touchdown of the season. On the next drive Gordon had a 7-yard run that gave him over 1,000 yards rushing, the first time the Bolts had a 1,000 yard rusher in Gordon and a 1,000 yard receiver in Allen since 2013.

Bryce Petty overcame a horrible first half and made sure that he beat the Chargers with his legs, since his arm wasn't getting the job done in the second half. Two solid runs by Petty kept the Jets offensive drive alive in the final quarter. The Jets didn't enter the red zone until midway through the fourth quarter, which spoke well for the Chargers defense all afternoon.

The Chargers remain alive in the playoff hunt due to the Los Angeles Rams victory over the Tennessee Titans, and the New England Patriots victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Philip Rivers completed 22-of-40 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. Rivers passed 4,000 yards on the season for the ninth time in his illustrious career. He's only the fourth quarterback to ever accomplish that milestone.

Running back Melvin Gordon currently has 1,012 yards on the season, and left the game late in the fourth quarter with a mild left ankle injury. Gordon is expected to be available for the Dec. 31 showdown against the Oakland Raiders at Stub Hub Center.

"He'll be listed a day-to-day; it's an injury that he's nursed all week," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said on the status of Gordon this coming week. "It's an ankle he was dealing with all (last) week."

Byrce Petty completed 15-of-28 passes for 119 yards and one interception. Petty was also sacked three times in the loss to the Chargers. Running back Bilal Powell finished with 19 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Coach Frustrated With Refs Following Loss]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 23:59:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-frustrated-officials-Luke-Walton.jpg

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost yet another close contest, 95-92, to the Portland Trial Blazers, and this time, Lakers coach Luke Walton could no longer bite his tongue.

As he was answering his first question during his postgame press conference, Walton paused as if to decide whether he should finally say what was on his mind and accept the likely financial fine that would come with it.

"It's funny," Walton started out. "Every night, I learn about new rules about what's a foul, what's not a foul."

The frustrated coach rambled somewhat incoherently for a moment about the technicality of a defensive blocking foul, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope not getting a couple calls, James Harden marching to the foul line every time a Laker sneezed on him and Lonzo Ball having his "shoulder ripped" before he got to the point he was attempting to make.

"It's frustrating," Walton said. "We're trying to teach this young team how to play and what to do and do it properly, and it just feels like every night, it's a different excuse on why we're not getting calls."

Walton did not put all the blame of Saturday's loss or the other recent close defeats on officiating alone, but clearly, the issue had boiled to a point that he felt he needed to address it publicly, even if his comments will likely bring a hefty fine from the NBA's league office.

Of course, the experienced response to Walton's comments is that he's coaching a team of young players, and referees have a reputation of swallowing their whistles when rookies are the players getting fouled. On Saturday, the Lakers started three rookies, and one of the plays that frustrated Walton was a non-call on rookie Kyle Kuzma that would have given the forward three free throws with the Lakers leading by a point late in a close ball game.

"Some of it, yea," Walton said when asked if the lack of calls had to do with rookies simply not getting calls. "But then, I was told in Golden State that [the referees] don't look at names on jerseys. They only call what they see. So, if that's the case, that shouldn't be an excuse for it. So, I don't know."

Walton added, "I'm getting different answers every night."

Lakers Frustrated By More Than Officials

After a brutal stretch of games, the Lakers started a four-game home stand on Saturday with a tough loss to Portland. With the defeat, the Lakers fell to 11-20 on the season and have now lost five of their last six games. Saturday's loss seemed to sting a bit more than the others, as the Lakers faced a Blazers team that was without Damian Lillard.

Even with Brandon Ingram sitting out for the Lakers, LA had a great opportunity to get a victory. After the game, Walton said that something felt off and that the energy didn't feel right for his team. He said his guys seemed like they were "pouting" and wasn't sure exactly why that was the case.

Asked about the team pouting after the game, veteran center Andrew Bogut offered his opinion on what was going on.

"Guys are frustrated," Bogut stated the obvious. "There’s [sic] some injuries right now. There’s [sic] different rotations. So, guys are frustrated obviously. You’d be lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team."

Then, Bogut pulled the curtains back and shared a bit of insight into the psychology of the Lakers' young team playing in front of a backdrop of a major free agency shakeup coming in the upcoming offseason, based on the front office's public comments.

"Everyone knows what’s going on with the salary cap situation next season and all that," Bogut said. "They’re distractions that we can’t let affect us. That’s part of this league. They’re the business decisions that front offices and coaches make. So, if that’s distracting guys, it’s going to be like that your whole career. That’s just the nature of this league."

Asked if the players talk about the front office's public statements about saving salary cap space and chasing top level free agents in the summer of 2018, Bogut confirmed that the topic comes up from time to time.

"We make light of it," Bogut said. "We have a laugh about it. You just can't let it affect you. It's hard to tell young guys, 18, 19, 20 (years old), that comes [sic] from a great college environment which is usually great cultures that are built on team first and then you come into a situation like this sometimes where kind of guys don't know if they're coming or going."

Bogut added, "That's just the way it is in professional sports. You just have to come in and do the job to the best of your ability."

Bogut, though, did not put Saturday's defeat on any one player: "Tonight, as a collective group, not just one guy, we didn't have that energy and focus."

Next, the Lakers play on Christmas night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UCLA Players in Shoplifting Scandal Suspended Through Season]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 15:51:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ucla-basketball-hill-riley.jpg

Two freshman UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China will remain suspended through the remainder of the 2017-18 season, the university announced.

Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were initially suspended "indefinitely" pending the outcome of the university's disciplinary process. UCLA officials said the decision to suspend them for the balance of the season "operates in conjunction" with the results of that disciplinary process, the outcome of which will remain confidential.

A third player who was arrested, LiAngelo Ball, previously withdrew from UCLA. Ball is the younger brother of former Bruin and current Laker Lonzo Ball.

Hill and Riley will not be permitted to travel with the team or suit up for home games, but they will be permitted to attend team meetings and take part in practices beginning Tuesday.

"Cody and Jalen are a part of our basketball and university families, and we will continue to support them as they serve their suspensions," head coach Steve Alford said. "Since returning from China, they have done everything asked of them and continued to work hard in the classroom and in their own personal workouts.

"I've told our players all along that actions have consequences, and the season-long suspension shows how seriously we take their misconduct," he said. "Though they will not suit up for games or travel with the team, I look forward to their return after the Christmas holiday. I am confident they will make significant contributions to the university moving forward."

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the players' actions "were contrary to the values of UCLA" and harmful to the university and basketball program.

"As members of the Bruin family, it is our responsibility to help them grow from this situation," he said. "We will continue to support them as students, as athletes and as young men, and we hope that they will use this as a learning experience."

The three players were arrested while the team was on a trip to China for a season-opening game against Georgia Tech. They remained at the team's hotel in China until the case was resolved, with President Donald Trump saying he discussed the situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics]]>
<![CDATA[Durant Scores 33 Vs. Lakers, Says Kuzma 'Is a Problem']]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 02:22:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Kyle-Kuzma-Lakers-Warriors-Durant.jpg

On Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors led by as many as 23 points and looked ready to run away with a feel-good blow out home victory to claim the NBA's best record and the team's 11th straight victory.

Though the Warriors would eventually claim a 113-106 victory, with Kevin Durant getting the on-court postgame television interview with a game-high 33 points, along with seven assists and seven rebounds, this game was anything but an easy practice session for the Warriors.

"Kuzma should have been a lottery pick," Durant said about Lakers' rookie Kyle Kuzma in that postgame ESPN interview. "Kuz is a problem. I like him."

The 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Utah scored 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the loss. Friday's game brought Kuzma's streak of 20-point games to four, including a 38-point outburst in Houston on Wednesday.

"He's shown maturity," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Kuzma's development in the Lakers' recent brutal schedule of games on Spectrum SportsNet after the game. "He's just a great competitor. And I think that's why he's had these great nights. Obviously, more minutes, more opportunities in that starting lineup and he's taken full advantage of that. Give him credit."

The rookie's ability to score helped get the Lakers get back into the game, as LA erased Golden State's advantage and even took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Along with Kuzma, fellow rookie Lonzo Ball put forth his second highest point total as a professional. The 20-year-old former UCLA Bruin scored 24 points and made five of his six three-point attempts on the night, to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Over his past five games, Ball is shooting 47 percent from three-point land, as the rookie appears to have rebounded from his poor shooting start.

With three minutes remaining, the Lakers and Warriors were only separated by two points. A couple questionable calls, a hurried shot, and Durant playing for the Warriors resulted in the Lakers failing to claim a victory on Friday night.

This was the third close loss to the Warriors in the 2017-18 season. The previous two defeats had come in overtime at Staples Center. The final meeting between the two Pacific Division foes is set for Mar. 14, 2018 at Oracle Arena.

Given an extra three months of NBA experience, Ball and Kuzma could be even more of a problem for the Warriors the next time these two teams meet.

Kenavious Caldwell-Pope Back Starting

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Wednesday's game due to a court order than requires him not to leave the state of California in connection with a March DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, returned to the starting lineup. On Spectrum SportsNet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Caldwell-Pope clearly seemed to be affected by his legal status. The Lakers' starting shooting guard went 1-10 from three-point land and missed numerous open shots that he normally makes.

Julius Randle Gets Minutes

Julius Randle scored 21 points in 24 minutes after only playing eight minutes in Houston. Randle also had 10 rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist in Golden State. Randle even his two of his three 3-point attempts. He played a vital role in the Lakers' second-half comeback.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Revealed: Tanzel Smart]]>Thu, 21 Dec 2017 06:32:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Tanzel+Smart+Rams+Revealed.png

NBC LA Sports Reporter Michael J. Duarte interviews Los Angeles Rams rookie defensive tackle, Tanzel Smart, about playing alongside Aaron Donald, growing up in Baton Rouge, and what he wants to do after his playing career is done.

Photo Credit: Michael Duarte]]>