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After Bill Plaschke’s May 26 column declaring “the Lakers are back,” they dropped three straight games by a total of 51 points en route to an embarrassing postseason exit.
It’s nice to know that although Sports Illustrated continues to lose relevance, their cover jinx role has been embraced by one of your longest-serving writers.
It is completely unfair to place even a scintilla of blame in the Lakers' season with either LeBron or Anthony Davis. They played like heroes down the stretch. LeBron’s 29-9-7 line and A.D. doing his best Willis Reed imitation to give the team all he had was heroic, not questionable.
The rest of the team was put together like the land of misfit toys. Particularly at the center position, the team was matched poorly. I can’t think of any two players in the league who could have carried the Lakers any further.
Corona Del Mar
Not really a surprise, but Bill Plaschke got it wrong again. The question is not, “Can LeBron carry a team at an NBA 'old' ” 36? Nor is the question, “Can AD become more consistent?"
Bill, do you understand that both players were injured?
The real question is can NBA owners smarten up and become less greedy and give the finalists more than two months off before the start of a new season. Did the players association really go along with this? I suppose Golden State did, as they and the like had plenty of rest.
Lakers lose in six in first round and the Heat get swept in the first round.
The NBA is following directly in the footsteps of the NFL, where playoff football is more a battle of attrition than anything else (especially next season with a 17-game schedule).
The Lakers' untimely demise can be left directly at the door of Rob Pelinka, their “genius” GM. Rich Paul, not Pelinka, was responsible for bringing LeBron James and Anthony Davis to L.A. After winning a title in the bubble, Pelinka proceeded to ditch Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, the role players who were critical to their success. Good news, Pelinka has a long offseason to work on Paul to restock the team.
Mark S. Roth
Lots of Lakers questions going forward and one I can’t let go of is, what happened to Kyle Kuzma?
I see ex-Lakers like Ingram, Randle, Clarkson and Russell flourish in the NBA, then I see Kuzma disappear in the playoffs. Of all the players that should have stepped up with AD out, and Kuzma was silent.
Could this be a coaching thing? While on that possibility, what on earth happened to Montrezl Harrell, one of the best sixth men in the league? They needed his energy, and yet he barely played in the recent games.
Maybe it’s time for Coach Vogel to speak the truth, or would that come from LeBron, the other coach?
With the arrival of Andre Drummond, an excellent addition, Montrezl Harrell, the reigning sixth man of year and team energizer along with Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, was relegated to DNPs with Marc Gasol taking crucial minutes from both Drummond and Harrell and using it to create toll-free lanes to the basket by opponents involving him in the high pick and roll as soon as he enters the game.
Montrezl will flourish next year with Golden State, and who knows where Drummond will next call home. Not to worry, Marc Gasol will still be available, more stationary than ever.
Now that the Lakers are looking at a short postseason and the unraveling of their title defense with a team of aging veterans built around one superstar in his twilight and another who is injury-prone, one can’t help but wonder what could have been. Imagine a starting lineup including Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson and even Ivica Zubac, out from under the shadow of Kobe Bryant and coached by someone like Frank Vogel. The kids have turned out all right — and could have been Lakers for years. The price for that one championship is now looking really high.
Bill “The Sky is Falling” Plaschke might be correct about LeBron’s future — but I doubt it. This is the same Plaschke who after every single Lakers playoff loss last season wrote about the disasters that surely awaited the team.
What Bill seems to have forgotten is that during the first half of this season, before the cavalcade of Lakers injuries commenced, LeBron was considered a strong MVP candidate. So while it is possible that Father Time has caught up with LeBron, if I were a betting man, given the entire offseason for LeBron to rest and recuperate, my money would be on LeBron coming back as strong as ever next season, not on the position taken by our very own Chicken Little.
It seems the Clippers miscalculated with their end-of-season “coasting” games. Clearly, they should have tanked it for a few more to get the fifth seed rather than the fourth. That way, they could advance in their opening series with Dallas without needing to win a home game.
Clipper Curse? How about Fan Frustration!
So, the young champ who had the guts, stamina and talent to overpower the great Serena Williams is undone by news conferences?
Part of the price of being a high-paid professional athlete is being accessible to the media. If speaking to the press has caused “mental illness” for Naomi Osaka, she has had three years and $100 million to deal with the problem. Perhaps she should seek another line of work.
If Naomi Osaka really had mental health issues, she wouldn’t have shown up in the first place. She created her own problem by skipping out on the required media session. She’s acting like a spoiled brat. It’s so easy to cop out by saying it’s a mental health issue, when it’s just frustration at getting fined. She’ll be back on the court soon after she realizes the mistake she’s made.
So, after Naomi Osaka makes it known that in order to protect her mental health she needs to decline media interviews while competing at the French Open, the “powers that be” at all four Grand Slam tournaments gang up and threaten her with stiffer fines, disqualification or even suspension if she refuses to speak to the press. For the love of God and tennis, please leave her alone and respect her wishes.
Speed it up
I am normally against drastic changes in the rules of baseball. For example, I hope that the NL never adopts the DH. The only reason I am at all sympathetic to the idea of runner-on-second rule is the inability of baseball to play a nine-inning game under 3½ hours. I am old enough to remember going to twi-night doubleheaders on Tuesday nights at Dodger Stadium. They started at 5 and would end in time for me to get to bed at a reasonable time on a school night. Baseball can’t even get one game in like that anymore.
One for the team
As beloved by the players as he may be, Dave Roberts is primarily responsible for the Dodgers’ shortcomings. Sure, injuries have plagued the team this season, but it’s Roberts who is mismanaging the pitching staff. Last Saturday against the Giants, Julio Urías arguably had his worst performance of the year. In only five innings of work, he yielded seven runs and 11 hits. I could see Urías laboring throughout. Yet Roberts left him in as his team fell into a 7-2 hole. In essence, the game was over.
Afterword, Roberts’ only comment regarding Urías' horrible outing was, “He needed to give us five innings, and he did that.”
What? Since when has the quantity of innings pitched surpassed quality? Why even play the game in that case? Why not forfeit the game to rest the players?
I move that Dave Roberts be under oath and asked this question before every game:
“Dave, is today’s goal to win the game or preserve the bullpen?”
The Dodgers could have used Rich Hill as a fifth starter as he concluded May with an 0.78 ERA in six starts. What’s also amazing is that he did not encounter any blisters on his pitching hand.
Wood, Hill, Ryu, Maeda! Impressive rotation. It proves just how good the Dodgers are this year.
Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” arguably the best sports book ever, did not rate a mention in the L.A. Times’ piece about knuckleballs even though Bouton became a knuckleballer late in his career and devoted much of his book to the pitch.
Bouton believed that most knuckleballers, including himself, were inconsistent from one appearance to the next: On any day, either the ball would “knuckle” or not. If not, the pitcher would get shelled. This inconsistency might be a reason that even the great knuckleballers had only a handful of seasons when their ERA didn’t hover around 4. Perhaps there are no knuckleballers today because management can’t stand the excitement of a pitcher giving up a lot of hits, stolen bases and passed balls. Oh, yes, they injure catchers.
Thomas A. Butterworth
To paraphrase, “It was the best of Times” (Sports) to read two outstanding columns by the “other” Bill. Both of Bll Shaikin’s articles were a refreshing take on today’s baseball.
He made several valid points in the report of the Dodgers’ willful decision to make a punching bag out of Julio Urías — whatever happened to “a win in May is as good as a win in September?” — to say nothing of not prioritizing a game for fans paying hundreds of dollars to watch.
Shaikin’s other column on the knuckleball was well researched, documented and included a point-of-view on current thinking regarding the lost pitching art. With all the potential positives awaiting, it’s hard to understand why more of the zillions of wannabes don’t attempt to master something that doesn’t require a howitzer for an arm.
It must be Bill week as the “other” Bill got some nice mentions in today’s letters.
Thanks to Jack Harris for telling us that Astros fans are OK with their team cheating in 2017. First, let me say I am sorry about the hurricane and the flood.
If I were put together a top 10 list of the people who suffered because Astros players did not play by the rules, it would include everyone involved with the two teams they eliminated in the American League playoffs on their way to getting to the World Series and everyone involved with the 2017 Dodgers team including their fans. I would highlight the players and the clubhouse guys and everyone else who either did not get a chance to get a World Series share or in the case of the Dodgers were robbed of their winners share. But I would reserve these top three for special consideration.
3. The American people for having their national pastime tarnished.
2. Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred, who now have to live under the dual disclaimers that not only is there no crying in baseball but there is also no integrity in baseball.
1. Houston Astros fans who have to live forever with their tainted World Series championship.
Astros fan: Where is your sense of decency?
As a 40-plus-year subscriber of the L.A. Times and avid sports fan, I am shocked and disappointed that the paper devoted just three shortened columns of writing to the biggest event in sports, the Indianapolis 500.
When you think about it, this race commemorates the return of spectator sports. As a country that’s turned the corner on the pandemic, The Times could have celebrated this by allocating at least the entire back page today to feature driver profiles, take the rightful opportunity to pay deserved tribute to the event, and as such honor those who’ve given their lives to their country.
For subscribers who’ve had to see their beloved Times Sports page on most days reduced to the back of the California Section, again today could have been a great day for the paper, but no, baseball and tennis won the front page, not The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
Tour de horse
If he wins like Lance Armstrong, lies like Armstrong, cries foul like Armstrong, it must be horse trainer Bob Baffert. A new annual sports event should be inaugurated — The Running of the Investigators.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.