The week in L.A. sports (6/23/16-6/29/16)

If you inhale deeply through your nose — down to the diaphragm — you’d be a little confused. Sure, there’s the purification of the Dodgers that makes you want to gag, but wait, is that optimism I smell for other teams?

It is. To wit:

Lakers: Even if you hate the team — and like the Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees, there is no middle ground; you either love or hate them — the Lakers held an excellent draft last week.

It would be most surprising if small forward Brandon Ingram didn’t start quickly for the Lakers this year, perhaps opening night. And if you’re a fan, you already knew that makes an interesting core of point guard D’Angelo Russell and power forward Julius Randle. 

That leaves 1 1/2 holes to fill. It’s possible Jordan Clarkson is a long-term solution to shooting guard, but I doubt that. Then there’s a great void at center. The kid drafted in the second round, Ivica Zubac, might play quickly. Pundits suggested he stay in Europe. I don’t see that, but I don’t see him starting, either.

The Lakers will not land one of the Crown Jewels in free agency — such as Kevin Durant. If they sign center Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside, though, the Lakers you have an outside shot of doubling the win total from last year. You’d still miss the playoffs with that, but it would make for a fun miss.

Quick side note: I read a story about the Lakers being surprised that Durant doesn’t want to come to L.A. There’s a reason the top free agents have snubbed the Lakers recently. It’s because there’s a big difference between Jerry Buss and Jim Buss. Jerry was revered. Jim is a trust-fund baby. End of story.

Clippers: I can’t help but like their draft pick of Brice Jordan. I don’t see him starting this year, but like most North Carolina players, he will perform like a professional in the NBA. Solid contributions. No disruptions. Every team needs that.

Free agency is another matter. The Lakers have $62 million of room under the league salary cap. The Clippers have about $8 million of wiggle room.

Rams: A few weeks ago, I was taken aback by an NFL columnist suggesting defensive lineman Aaron Donald was one of the top five players in the game. Since then, the hype has grown. J.J. Watt gets all the commercials in Houston, but Donald, some think, might be even better.

This team likely will miss the playoffs with a rookie at quarterback, but if you live in LA, you might want a Rams jersey simply due to Donald or running back Todd Gurley III.

Dodgers: The six-game winning streak turned out to be a fraud. They went on a road trip to play slumping Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. In the process, they are 2-4 with one more game later today, a full six games behind the Giants. In addition, three more players might be injured and they called up a guy who pitched in Single A earlier this year to start last night’s game.

There’s no getting around it. This team is suffering from the neglect of its front office. Injuries do play a part of the game, yes. But if you sign pitchers with a profound history of getting injured, why are you surprised when they get injured? That’s just logic.

If you let a man with one game of managerial experience lead the team, why are you surprised when the team plays poorly for long stretches of time? That’s just logic.

Make no mistake about it. This team is a whisker away from giving up and the season isn’t halfway over yet.

When injuries pile up, don’t forget it was Andrew Friedman who let this team go to seed over the last offseason, paving the way for this mess.

Galaxy: Soccer, for the uninitiated, is a funny sport. Other sports, you play in a league for a title and that’s that. The offseason starts. Where are the groupies?

In this sport, however, you not only play for a league title, but join these quirky side tournaments.

So the Galaxy last night beat the defending MLS champion Portland Timbers 1-0. Only it wasn’t an MLS game. It was an early round game in the U.S. Open Cup. I’ll leave you to determine if that makes your day better.

Kings: They didn’t even have a pick in the first round of the NHL draft. I’m not going to lie and claim I know anything about players taken after the first round.

The week in LA sports (6/9/16-6/16/16)

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com asked a fair question: Why can’t we wait until the end of LeBron James’ career before we talk about his legacy?

The answer: Look to your competitors over at ESPN. James is a 31-year-old man. He came into the league at age 18 and was annointed the next Jordan back then by the network, and this was before the network debuted “First Take” and infected the nation with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. That cheaply produced hype show begat many more. Now, ESPN has 11 shows that feature at least two opinion flingers disguised as journalists chucking poo disguised as original thought.

And all of them, as recently as last year’s NBA Finals, still called James the greatest of all time even though he was about to lose yet another title shot.

I wish I didn’t have to write that. I don’t hate LeBron James. He’s had a damn good career to me.

But don’t direct “legacy” talk here like it’s my fault. Blame ESPN.

Now to the SoCal teams:

Dodgers: There is no good news on the horizon. The team simply can’t hit, aside from shortstop Corey Seager, and can’t pitch, outside of the incredible Clayton Kershaw. At their current pace, the $250 million roster with the alleged smartest front office in sports history will be sellers at the trade deadline. They are six games behind the Giants and only one Dodgers team has ever rallied from more than seven games out to win the division.

The Dodgers have not been to the World Series, let alone won one, since 1988. Every team in the division has gone since, even the Rockies and Padres. There is no reason to expect that streak to break this year.

I have many more thoughts on this plummet to mediocrity, but i will save that for a later time. 

Lakers and Clippers: I just read a rumor that claimed the Lakers will trade starting point guard D’Angelo Russell and starting forward Julius Randle to the Boston Celtics for the No.3 overall pick. Let me get this straight: Two starters — your two best players — to your worst rival for a couple of draft picks?

Now do you see why sports blogs aren’t worth a bucket of chum?

So let’s keep it simple: The Lakers have the following picks — the No.2 overall pick in the first round and the 32nd overall pick. They need height and shooters. In my opinion, they will take the best player available with No. 2 and the best center available at No.32.

The Clippers have the 25th and 33rd overall picks. They could use help at small forward and so-called “wing” players.
The draft will be held one week from tonight, June 23.

Rams: The death of former running back and career criminal Lawrence Philips in prison was ruled a suicide. I’ll shed fake tears the moment I find a needle.

New quarterback Jared Goff finally got to run plays with the first-team offense. The first-team defense confused him, but he said he liked it. In other words, spin. He’s a rookie. He wasn’t going to say anything else, lest he look like a punk.

Kings: Priority free agent Milan Lucic and the team are at a bit of an impasse in contract talks. It doesn’t appear to be acrimonious. The Kings are standing firm at $6 million per year, which doesn’t sound like much unless it’s the NHL. Then it’s a massive amount of dough.

Galaxy: While many of its top players are part of international tournaments, what was left of the franchise began U.S. Open Cup and earned arguably the ugliest win in franchise history — needing extra time to put away a team of amateurs.

Amateurs. Look at the link. The goalie has a bigger beer gut than I have.

This is my problem with the Galaxy. Not that I expect Robbie Keane, Giovani Dos Santos, et al, to play 90 minutes of every match, but this franchise doesn’t take tournaments seriously. The Galaxy is to MLS what the Cowboys are to the NFL. If MLS is going to grow on the world’s stage, the LA Galaxy have to dominate these tournaments.