SPORTS DIGEST: Justin Turner is deserving of all-star recognition

July 6, 2017

Justin Turner is a feel-good story if ever there was one.

The Dodger third baseman was born in Long Beach, attended Mayfair High in Lakewood and then attended Cal State Fullerton, where he went to back-to-back College World Series in 2003 and 2004, winning the series the second year.

Drafted by the Yankees in the 29th round of the 2005 Major League draft, Turner chose to return to college for his senior year and he ended up being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of 2006, receiving a $50,000 bonus when he signed with the Reds.

The Reds traded him to Baltimore before the start of the 2009 season and Turner made his Major League debut at the end of that season, but the Orioles let him go early the next season after he failed to hit after being called up to replace an injured player.

The Mets claimed him on waivers and he spent most of the next four years playing a variety of infield positions for the Mets. At the end of the 2013 season, Turner was released by the Mets and became a free agent.

He went several months without a team until he ran into then Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach at the Cal State Fullerton annual alumni game. The Dodgers ended up offering Turner a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training. Turner won a job as a utility infielder during the spring and when Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez both suffered injuries Turner found himself in 109 games, leading the Dodger hitters with a .340 average.

In 2015, Turner took over as the regular third baseman, hitting .294 with 16 home runs and 60 runs batted in.

By 2016, Turner had established himself as one of the team leaders, playing in 151 games and hitting .275 with 27 homers and 90 RBI.

The Dodgers rewarded him with a four-year contract worth $64 million.

This season finds Turner leading the National League with a .384 batting average. Still, when it came to all-star voting, Turner was not among the top third basemen, probably because there is a glut of all-star third basemen in the National League.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is one of the best players in the league, combining power hitting and a Gold Glove on defense. Kris Bryant is one of the leaders of the world champion Chicago Cubs. So Turner was not on the all star team when it was announced July 2 on ESPN.

But he was given a chance by being one of five National League players chosen for the final position on the team, which is being selected by fans this week.

With a deadline at 1 p.m. July 6, Turner is leading the way with 12.9 million votes as of 10 a.m. July 5.

He deserves to be on the all star team and the Dodgers — the best team in the National League so far this season — deserve to have more than the four players who were selected so far.

Rookie sensation Cody Bellinger will play in the All Star Game July 11 after being selected as a reserve. Bellinger already has hit 24 home runs this season. (Photo by Nick Koza)

Shortstop Corey Seager and rookie sensation Cody Bellinger have been selected as reserves and pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen also were chosen.

Kershaw may not pitch in the game because he is currently scheduled to pitch July 9, the last game before the all-star break.

If he doesn’t go, left hander Alex Wood, with his 9-0 record and 1.83 earned run average, should replace Kershaw.

The game will be played July 11 in Miami. And, a good thing, this year’s winner will not determine the home field advantage in this year’s World Series.

The Clippers have acquired small forward Danilo Gallinari from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade that also involved the Atlanta Hawks. (Courtesy photo)

NBA FREE AGENCY: The Clippers have been extremely busy in the first week of free agency in the NBA, trading away Chris Paul, losing J.J. Redick, resigning Blake Griffin and acquiring Denver forward Danilo Gallinari in a three-team deal that involved shipping sixth-man supreme Jamal Crawford to Atlanta.

The Lakers have taken things a little slower after trading for center Brook Lopez before free agency started.

By adding Gallinari, the Clippers have filled their long-standing void at small forward, but they are going to have to replace a lot of offensive firepower with Paul, Redick and Crawford gone.

They were the second-, third- and fifth-leading scorers on the team last season, accounting for 45.4 points a game.

Still, all is not lost for the Clippers. Beverley will probably replace Paul at point guard. He averaged 9.5 points a game with the Houston Rockets, where James Harden controlled the ball 90 percent of the time. Lou Williams, also acquired in the trade for Paul, will take Crawford’s role as the first man of the bench, a role he excels at.

Gallinari scored more than 18 points a game last year for Denver.

Doc Rivers now has the rest of the off-season to put the pieces together for the Clippers. They still figure to be a playoff team next season, but they will have to work hard to earn home-court advantage for the playoffs next spring.

The Lakers don’t want to sign any long-term free agents this off-season, choosing to save their bullets for next season’s free agent market that could include LeBron James, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

George, who just got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, has let the whole league know he wants to be a Laker in 2018.

Whether the Lakers young prospects and George will be enough to lure James or Westbrook remains to be seen.

The Lakers figure to move up the standings this season, but I don’t anticipate a playoff berth. That would require spectacular growth from Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers already have lost Nick Young, who signed with Golden State, and Tarik Black, who they put on waivers.

They begin summer league play in Las Vegas July 7 against the Clippers. They also will play Boston July 8 and Sacramento July 9 before two games next week when the league shifts to tournament play.

Ball and Ingram will get their first chance to play together in the summer league, which could be fun to watch.

The team also includes two other players who played for the Lakers in the 2016-17 season — center Zubac and guard David Nwaba — and the rookies they acquired in draft day trades — center Thomas Bryant, guard Josh Hart and forward Kyle Kuzma.

Nwaba was the late-season surprise who signed a 10-day contract in February and managed to earn a spot in the rotation by season end. He played high school basketball at University High on the westside before playing at Santa Monica College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Also on the summer league roster is former UCLA forward Travis Wear and guard Vander Blue, who has played five NBA games and was the NBA Development League’s MVP in the 2016-17 season when he played for the Lakers affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

The Lakers summer league team will be coached by Laker assistant coach Jud Buechler.

OLYMPIAN KOBE: Retired Laker great Kobe Bryant has joined the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic Games to Los Angeles.

Bryant will serve on the Board of Directors and Athletes’ Advisory Commission of LA 2024, the group trying to bring the 2024 Olympics to Los Angeles.

“I want to bring my experience playing in L.A. and as an Olympian to help guarantee an elite experience for athletes in this city in 2024,” said Bryant, a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. men’s basketball teams in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

“The Los Angeles community has embraced me as one of their own for 20 years. I love this city and how people support both athletes and the creative community. Working with LA 2024, I hope we can bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to Los Angeles.”

“Kobe is synonymous with L.A.’s status as a global sports and entertainment capital and he will be an excellent addition to our bid team,” said LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman.

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