By Don Wanlass
It’s a good thing the Dodgers are in the World Series.
Their up-and-down performances in the post-season have their fans on such an emotional roller coaster that nobody has noticed the Lakers are off to a 0-3 start despite the presence of a certain newcomer.
In a week from now the World Series will be over and Dodger fans will either be planning a parade or crying in their beer. That’s when the focus will really turn to LeBron James.
So far, LeBron has been LeBron. He is averaging 27.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds and assists per game, just the kind of stats you might expect from a 33-year-old superstar in his 15th year. James may be slowing down but that only means more of the mere mortal players can keep up with him now.
He gave a brief demonstration of the young LeBron with back-to-back tomahawk slam dunks for his first four points as a Laker in the season-opener at Portland Oct. 17. The Lakers lost that one, 128-119, although James led Lakers scorers with 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
On Oct. 20, they opened the home schedule with a 124-115 loss to the Houston Rockets that was marred by a fourth-quarter fight that resulted in suspensions for Brandon Ingram (four games) and Rajon Rondo (three games). James was again the Lakers leading scorer with 24 points.
With Ingram and Rondo out Oct. 22, James stepped up and scored 32 points while almost posting his first triple double as a Laker. He had to settle for 14 assists and eight rebounds as the Lakers lost in overtime to San Antonio, 143-142. James missed two free throws down the stretch that prevented the Lakers from winning in regulation.
Kyle Kuzma started in Ingram’s place and scored 37 points, just one shy of his career high. Kuzma and Ingram are both going to be something special. So is Josh Hart, who is averaging 17 points a game and playing tough defense against opposing guards.
Rondo recorded more than 10 assists in the two games he played in and JaVale McGee is averaging 15 points a game so far, so the Lakers won’t have any trouble scoring the ball. Their trouble will be trying to stop the opposing team, as they are averaging giving up 125 points so far.
They have a good blend of youth and veterans and James to lead the way. That doesn’t mean they are good enough to beat Golden State in a playoff series or even good enough to go to the playoffs.
They still have to win a game. That may not happen until the Dallas Mavericks come to town for Halloween.
But once the Lakers get rolling, they should be a team that’s fun to watch while they get better and better.
GAME ONE BLUES: After losing game one of the World Series, this is no time for Dodgers fans to moan and groan, even though they started doing that the moment the ball left Eduardo Nuñez’s bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Nuñez’s homer off Alex Wood gave the Red Sox an 8-4 win over the Dodgers. Wood had just replaced Pedro Baez, who had struck out two batters after walking the first batter he faced.
Two months ago, Baez was the player Dodgers fans were the most angry with, but he has pitched extremely well over the last month and is out of the fans’ doghouse apparently.
Wood can take his place there, along with manager Dave Roberts. Apparently three division titles and two World Series appearances aren’t enough for the fans who don’t like all of Roberts’ decisions.
Boston fans were secure enough with their 8-4 lead that they focused their attention on the hated Yankees during the bottom of the eighth inning, starting a “Yankees suck” chant during a lull in the action.
The Dodgers have been bouncing back all year. They may be able to do it again. One week from now, one way or another, we will know their fate.
LACKING ATTENTION: The two NFL teams in Los Angeles are making as much noise as they can, even if no one is paying attention. The Rams continue to be the only undefeated team in the league at 7-0 after defeating the San Francisco 49ers Oct. 21, 39-10.
The Rams continue to be the second highest-scoring offense in the league, with 235 points only trailing the Kansas Chiefs, who have scored 260. New England and New Orleans are the only other teams to score more than 200 points.
Quarterback Jared Goff is completing almost 70 percent of his passes for 2,130 yards. 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Running back Todd Gurley is leading the league in touchdowns with 14, 11 running the ball and three catching passes. He has gained 686 yards rushing and 270 yards receiving while averaging 5.66 yards per touch. Those are all-start numbers after seven weeks.
Three receivers have more than 30 receptions each, led by Robert Wood with 41 catches for 602 yards. Woods has added 90 yards in eight rushing attempts to make him more dangerous than Gurley.
Defensively, Aaron Donald is earning his huge salary with four sacks against the 49ers and eight overall.
The Rams host Green Bay Oct. 28 in the Coliseum. Aaron Rodgers is still playing on an injured knee. You can expect Donald and Ndamukong Suh to spend most of the afternoon chasing Rodgers around the backfield as the Rams extend their record to 8-0.
The undefeated Rams have overshadowed the Chargers, who are 5-2 headed into their bye week. The Chargers have lost to the Rams and the Chiefs, who are 6-1. The Saints and the Patriots are the only other teams with at least 5 wins.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is having as good a year as Goff. He is completing 69 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Melvin Gordon has gained 466 yards rushing after sitting out last week’s 20-19 win over Tennessee in London and Keenan Allen is becoming a star wide receiver.
The Chargers aren’t scoring as much as the Rams or defending as well, but they are only a game behind Kansas City in the AFC West with nine games left to play. Almost halfway through the NFL season, both of L.A.’s teams are playing well and looking to be playing in January, when the playoffs start.
AND THEN THERE’S USC: The USC Trojans should be happy their game with Utah Oct. 20 started about the same time game seven of the National League Championship Series did. Most of Southern California was tuned in to the Dodgers playing the Milwaukee Brewers and missed the Trojans rolling over and dying in Utah,
The Trojans led 14-0 in the first quarter and then got smashed, 41-28. Quarterback JT Daniels left the game with concussion symptoms and backup Matt Fink suffered broken ribs, meaning the Trojans may have to face Arizona State Oct. 27 with third-string quarterback Jack Sears at the helm.
Sears succeeded Sam Darnold at San Clemente High so he knows what it is like stepping into some big shoes.
The loss to Utah snapped the Trojans’ three-game winning streak and raised more questions about coach Clay Helton’s status with the team.
The problems with the Trojans start with the arrogance of their players. They have been told for so long how good they are that they believe they can win on their talent alone. After jumping off to that 14-0 after returning a fumble for a touchdown, the Trojans seemed to lose all incentive and energy. Utah fed off its home crowd to get back in the game and by that time, the Trojans couldn’t stop the Utes momentum.
I’m not sure it’s Helton’s fault, but plenty of USC fans are quick to blame him.
Even at 4-3, the Trojans still have a shot at playing for the Pac 12 championship the first week of December. But their chance for playing for something bigger than that pretty much ended in Utah.