Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Bad week for the Rams, worse week for the Lakers

It’s hard to tell which team has had a better week so far: The Rams or the Lakers.

After being one of the top-scoring teams in the NFL all year, the Rams could hardly move the ball and lost to the New England Patriots, 13-3 in the Super Bowl Feb. 3. 

The Lakers got smacked down on the court by the Indiana Pacers, 136-94 Feb. 5, after getting beat down by the New Orleans Pelicans in a battle between the teams’ front offices. Neither was a pretty sight.

For the Rams, there’s no shame in losing the Super Bowl, especially to a team coached by Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by Tom Brady.

Going in to the game, I thought the Rams best chance to win was to control the ball, keeping it away from Brady while using up the clock and putting up points after long scoring drives.

The Rams ended up with one drive lasting 10 plays or more. It was their one scoring drive.

The reason the Patriots have won six of the nine Super Bowls they have played in since 2002 is that Belichick is great at figuring out how to confuse a team when he has two weeks to prepare.

Belichick stifled the Rams offense by playing more zone coverage in the defensive secondary instead of the man-to-man coverage he normally utilizes. By playing zone, it allowed the rest of the defense to blitz Jared Goff and the third-year quarterback was obviously confused.

While the Patriots only scored 13 points themselves, they were able to move the ball enough on offense to win the battle of field position. The Rams started more of their drives deep in their own territory compared to the Patriots.

The Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel had a better game than his former University of Georgia teammate Todd Gurley, receiver Julian Edelman constantly got open for first down to extend drives and Ron Gronkowski caught a 29-yard pass with about four minutes to play that set up the only touchdown of the day.

The Rams next drive ended in an interception and the Patriots drove down for a meaningless field goal at the end that settled all the office pools.

Second-year Rams head coach Sean McVay admitted after the game he had been outcoached by Belichick and he can join a club that includes Mike Martz, Pete Carroll, Dan Quinn, Andy Reid and John Fox.

Only Tom Coughlin (twice) and Doug Pederson last year with the Eagles have managed to defeat Belichick in the Super Bowl.

Brady has quarterbacked all nine Super Bowls under Belichick. He is now 6-3 and the Patriots have created the greatest dynasty in NFL history with nine Super Bowl appearances in 18 years in a league that thrives on parity between the teams and uses a salary cap and other measures to discourage teams staying together and winning year after year.

Can the Rams put a string of Super Bowl appearances together to match the Patriots? It’s doubtful because the more your teams wins, the more the players want to get paid. 

Jared Goff is still playing on his “rookie” contract, which means he isn’t making the money now that he will in his next contract. Right now the Rams’ too biggest salaries belong to defensive tackle Aaron Donald and running back Todd Gurley.

They have several players who will become free agents March 1. 

Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh earned $14 million on a one-year contract this year. He will want more next year and will probably find it somewhere else. So will cornerback Aqib Talib.

What the Rams have created in the past two years is a culture of winning. McVay is being credited with creating that culture and many team executives were looking for the next McVay as they made their coaching hiring choices.

It takes as much luck as it does skill to build a winning NFL franchise. Over the last two years, the Rams have been lucky and skillful.

They will need to do more of the same, plus avoid the Super Bowl hangover losing teams often deal with, to make it back to the big game next year.

THIS IS LeBRON: It took to the end of January, maybe early February for the Lakers and their fans to see the real LeBron James in action. 

There’s a reason he was the most vilified player in the NBA from the time he left Cleveland the first time to play in Miami until he was triumphant on his return to Cleveland, winning the 2016 NBA title.

When Luke Walton gets fired, he won’t be the first coach James did like that. 

And now his teammates are seeing what kind of guy James really is. 

When Anthony Davis’ agent Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent and business partner) went public last week that Davis would not resign with the New Orleans Pelicans and would prefer to be traded to the Lakers, the Lakers, who had fallen out of a playoff berth while James was injured, began to fall apart.

Basketball, like all professional sports, is a cruel business. James was just being a businessman when he tried to bring the top big man in the game currently (Davis) to the Lakers, much as be brought Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat and Kevin Love to Cleveland when he rejoined the Cavaliers.

It takes at least two superstars (if not three), to win an NBA title these days.

But it forcing the Lakers to begin trade talks with New Orleans before they were ready, it opened the doors to want we saw Feb. 5, when the Indiana Pacers smoked the Lakers, 136-94. The 42-point deficit was the biggest loss a James team had ever been dealt.

The Lakers’ kids, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma in particular, haven’t been playing well knowing they could be headed to New Orleans in a trade for Davis.

They now know that James doesn’t want to play with them, something that has to be crushing to young egos.

Even the opposing fans picked up on the vibe, with Indiana fans chanting at Ingram “LeBron wants to trade you” while he was shooting free throws. 

The Rams started the season 17-10, better than anyone thought they would. Since that high-water mark, they have gone 10-17.

Granted, they were terrible when James was out with a groin injury. Lonzo Ball is hurt again and Josh Hart has been missing in action lately.

The Lakers still have two months to regain playoff position. I don’t think Davis will be traded here in the next 24 hours, which means the team they have now will be the team that takes them to into April. 

Kuzma and Ingram are still here, although they could be gone this summer. Walton is a three-game losing streak from being fired, no matter how hard Jeanie Buss fights to keep him and that’s a shame.

Walton has improved the team’s record all three years he has been the coach. He has developed Kuzma, Ingram, Hart and Ivica Zubac into fine young NBA players. They all have higher ceilings than they have reached yet.

But they just learned this can be an ugly business and you can get relocated on the whim of the greatest player in the game. And he won’t care.

Staff Writer

By Don Wanlass