College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Clippers could have different look next season

There was no way the Los Angeles Clippers were going to get past the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA playoffs, even with a healthy Blake Griffin.

That being said, it would have been nice to see the Clippers advance to the second round anyway. Instead, the Clippers lost to the Utah Jazz, 104-91 April 30, ending a season that looked so promising when the Clippers were 14-2 in early December.

Now, the Clippers face an uncertain future. Their two stars, Chris Paul and Griffin, can both opt out of the last year of their contracts and become free agents.

Shooting guard J.J. Ridick is already headed for free agency. So are backups Ray Felton, Brandon Bass and Alan Anderson.

Starting small forward Luc Mbah a Moute and backup center Marreese Speights also can opt out of their contracts. Paul Pierce already has announced he is retiring. That’s nine players on a 15-man roster that could be gone next year.

After winning 50 games or more for the last five years — by far, the most successful run in Clippers history — the team is looking at rebuilding. There are even rumors afloat that head coach and head of basketball operations Doc Rivers might leave to take over basketball operations for the Orlando Magic.

Rivers got his coaching start there and still as a home there. Depending on what Paul and Griffin choose to do, he might want to get out of town while he can.

It’s ironic, but the Clippers now find themselves in a situation the Lakers were in several years ago. Their stars are getting older and have big contracts that don’t allow for much manipulation under the salary cap. The Clippers also don’t have a first-round draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

What can they do? One suggestion is to make a trade with the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony. The small forward position has been a big hole for some time. Anthony would provide scoring punch that will be missing once Redick leaves.

Of course, Anthony brings with him the baggage of being Carmelo Anthony. He is a shoot-first forward who plays little defense and rebounds only when he feels like it. Whether he would fit it offensively with Paul and Griffin — assuming both come back — is uncertain.

And going from Mbah a Moute at small forward to Anthony would leave a huge hole in the Clippers defense that would be very hard to fill.

Owner Steve Ballmer has some tough decisions to make this offseason. His team has ruled Staples Center in recent years as the Lakers have struggled. That could change next season, if the Lakers keep their top draft pick and their key players continue to develop.

The Clippers window of success is closing fast.

Gerald Everett, a tight end from South Alabama, was the team’s top choice in the NFL draft April 28. He was taken in thje second round and figures to be a key target for Rams quarterback Jared Goff. (Courtesy photo)

DRAFT NOTES: Both the Rams and the Chargers are happy with the results of the draft last weekend. What else are they going to say?

The Rams, who gave up their number one draft pick to Tennessee last year so they could draft quarterback Jared Goff, drafted South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett in the second round and Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Boston College safety John Johnson in the third round.

On the last day they drafted Texas A&M wide receiver Josh Reynolds, Eastern Washington linebacker Samson Ebukam, Tulane defensive tackle Tanzel Smart, Virginia Tech fullback Sam Rogers and Pittsburgh defensive end Ejuan Price.

“I don’t think you can ever go into one draft and say you addressed all of your needs,” general manager Ed Snead told reporters after the draft. “Overall, we definitely had some target positions … and I think we addressed most of those guys.”

The Rams did get some help for Goff with skill position acquisitions Kupp and Everett, but without a first-round pick, there was no way the Rams were going to make a big splash in the draft. They have strengthened the offensive line during free agency, which was the biggest weakness on the team last year.

The idea this year is to get Goff more experience, build up his confidence and try to reach the .500 mark. That would make for a successful season.

Mike Williams, a large, talented wide receiver from Clemson, was the first choice of the Los Angeles Chargers in the NFL Draft April 27. Williams was the seventh overall selection. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers)

The Chargers have higher goals and showed that when they drafter Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams in the first round. Williams had a fine senior year after breaking a bone in his neck and missing most of his junior season.

He gives quarterback Phillip Rivers another big receiving target.

After Williams, the Chargers drafted three offensive lineman, two defensive backs and a defensive tackle. The offensive linemen are Forrest Lamp, a guard from Western Kentucky; Dan Feeney, a guard from Indiana; and Sam Tevi, a tackle from Utah.

On defense, they drafted safety Rayshawn Jenkins from Miami, Desmond King from Iowa and defensive tackle Isaac Rochell from Notre Dame.

King could be a sleeper. He won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s top collegiate defensive back in 2015, but didn’t have as strong a year last year, probably because most teams wouldn’t throw his way. He might make the transition from corner to safety.

Five USC Trojans were drafted by NFL teams, including defensive back and return specialist Adoree Jackson, who was chosen 18th overall in the first round by the Tennessee Titans.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster went in the second round to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Also drafted were offensive tackle Zach Banner (fourth round, Indianapolis), safety Leon McQuay III (sixth round, Kansas City) and defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovtu (seventh round, Tampa Bay).

McQuay became the 500th USC football player to be drafted by NFL teams, making USC the first collegiate program to hit the 500 mark. The Trojans also lead with 80 first round picks and are tioed with Notre Dame with most overall number one picks at five.

UCLA also had five players selected in the NFL draft. Defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley was the 26th pick in the first round, going to the Atlanta Falcons.

Defensive back Fabian Moreau was drafted in the third round (81st overall) by Washington and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes went seven picks later to the Oakland Raiders.On day three of the draft, linebacker Jayon Brown was drafted in the fifth round by the Tennessee Titans and offensive lineman Conor McDermott was selected in the sixth round by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Cody Bellinger, who was called up by the Dodgers from Oklahoma City last week, is making a case to remain in the big leagues. He is hitting .345 with two home runs and five runs batted in during his first week with the team. (Courtesy photo)

MAKING HIS PUSH: The Dodgers top prospect likes being in the major leagues and is making it difficult for Dodgers management to send him back down to the minors.

Cody Bellinger was called up from Oklahoma City last week when center fielder Joc Pederson went on the disabled list with a groin strain. The plan was to get Bellinger’s feet wet in the majors and then send him back to Oklahoma when Pederson was healthy.

Pederson is expected to come off the disabled list May 5, but Bellinger isn’t ready to be sent down.

On April 29, Bellinger hit his first two home runs as a Dodger as the team staged a four-run ninth-inning comeback to win 6-5.

Then on May 2, with the Dodgers in an early 4-1 hole, Bellinger cleared the bases with a triple in the second inning to tie the score and send the Dodgers on their way to a 13-5 victory. Bellinger is hitting .345 with the two home runs and five runs batted in during his first week-plus in the big leagues.

And with the Dodgers struggling for consistent hitting throughout the lineup, it will be hard to return him to the minors. The Dodgers could option Andrew Tolles to Oklahoma City, even though Tolles is tied for first on the team in home runs and is fourth in runs batted in with 13.

Another option would be putting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez on the disabled list and let his right forearm get healthy. Gonzalez has yet to hit a home run this season and has never been on the disabled list in his entire career.

It’s a tough choice for Dodger management, but I would keep the kid here and in the lineup every day.