Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Lakers enter all-star break outside a playoff seed

It’s too early to panic, Laker fans. 

The Lakers enter the all-star break with a record of 28-29, the first time they have been under .500 since Nov. 7, when the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves to move to 5-6 on the season.

The Lakers were at the start of a run that saw them win 13 of 17 games that left them at 17-10 on Dec. 10. Since then, they are 11-19.

LeBron James missed 17 games because of a strained groin he suffered Christmas Day and the Lakers lost 10 of those 17. 

Still, the Lakers will have nine days over the break to regroup, figure out how to work newcomers Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala into the rotation and get over the fact that half the roster was on the trading block leading up to last week’s trading deadline.

The earliest Anthony Davis will arrive now is during the summer. The young players who found themselves mentioned as pawns in trade talks can now figure out that professional basketball is a business and just get used to that fact.

When they return to action, the Lakers will find themselves 2 ½ games outside a playoff seed, needing the climb past the Clippers and Sacramento Kings.

It’s more than possible. After all, the Lakers have the best player in the world in James, who is averaging 26.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.

Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram continue to show signs that they could become all stars one day if they keep developing their skills.

Kuzma is averaging 19.1 points a game and Ingram averages 17.

Rajon Rondo is doing a good job running the offense in the absence of Lonzo Ball, but the Lakers really need Ball, currently out with an ankle injury,  for the playoff run. 

The jury is still out on the two minor deals the team pulled off at the trade deadline. Reggie Bullock, acquired from Detroit in a trade for guard Svi Mykhailiuk, is a shooting guard or forward who should improve the team’s shooting percentage from outside.

Mike Miscala is a power forward or center who can shoot from outside. He was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Clippers in the Tobias Harris trade and then was shipped down the hall at Staples Center to the Lakers for Michael Beasley, who the Clippers promptly waived, and Ivica Zubac.

The Lakers might one day rue the day they traded Zubac. The young center from Bosnia and Herzegovina had played his way into the starting lineup after showing flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons with the Lakers.

At 21, he is only going to get better and we might have to watch him do it with the Clippers, who — like the Lakers — are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs at the all star break.

The Clippers are the ninth-seed in the NBA Western Conference, with a record of 31-27. The Clippers were big players at the trading deadline, making three deals.

The biggest deal sent leading scorer Tobias Harris, popular big man Boban Marjanovic and forward Michael Scott to Philadelphia for Wilson Chandler, Landry Shamet and Muscala, who was promptly traded to the Lakers for Zubac. 

The Clippers also sent guard Avery Bradley to Memphis for power forward JaMychal Green and swing man Garrett Temple.  

Head coach Doc Rivers has 24 games to figure out where the newcomers fit best with Pat Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and supersub Lou Williams.

If Zubac develops into a low-post force, the Clippers should have no trouble chasing down Sacramento and San Antonio in the playoff picture.

What the Clippers don’t want to do is finish eighth in the conference. That’s a playoff seed but it figures to be against the Golden State Warriors, who don’t look like they can be stopped at the moment.

TIGER SIGHTING: It isn’t every day that you get to see one of a sorts all-time greats in action, so you might want to head over to Riviera Golf Course this week where Tiger Woods is competing in the Genesis Open this week. 

This is the 13th time Woods will play in the tournament that used to be known simply as the Los Angeles Open. He has yet to win it.

Freddie Couples is playing in the tournament on a sponsor exemption. He has played 36 times at Rivera, counting two PGA Championships in 1983 and 1995. He won the tournament in 1990 and 1992.

Couples is one of the most likable golfers in the world. At 59, back problems don’t allow him to play on the regular PGA Tour much anymore, but Couples has always liked Riviera and Riviera has always been good to him.

TOP STORIES: Sports fans are being asked to help select the greatest moment in local sports for 2018 by the Los Angeles Sports Council.

Balloting takes place through March 6 and the results will be revealed March 25 during the 14th annual LA Sports Awards gala at the Beverly Hilton.

Voting is quick and easy and is done exclusively by visiting any of the Los Angeles Sports Council’s social media sites on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

In addition to the countdown of 2018’s Top 10 moments, the ceremony also will feature the presentation of the Sportsmen of the Year award to NFL stars Philip Rivers and Aaron Donald, the Sportswoman award to Olympic champion Chloe Kim, the Coach award to Anthony Lynn of the Chargers and the Sports Executive of the Year award to LAFC’s Tom Penn.

Among the top highlights of the year are LeBron James signing with the Lakers, Mike Scioscia stepping down as Angeles manager after 19 season, former Angel Vladimir Guerrero getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Max Muncy’s 18th-inning home run to win game 3 of the World series last October and the Rams 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in November.  

The awards show will be taped and aired multiple times on Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket in the weeks following the gala.

The LA Sports Awards are produced annually by the Sports Council to celebrate the top sports moments of the year in the Los Angeles/Orange County area and to recognize the outstanding achievements of local athletes, coaches and sports executives.

IN MEMORIAM: A memorial service was held Feb. 10 in the gymnasium at Santa Fe High in Santa Fe Springs for Jack Mahlstede. Mahlstede, who coached football at Santa Fe for more than 40 years, died of cancer Jan. 24. he was 80.

Over the years, he coached the Chiefs to 16 league football championships. He also coached track and field and cross country, winning 10 boys and nine girls league championships in track and another five cross country titles.

Along the way, he coached his sons, Jeff and Ken, and his grandsons as well.

In 2014, the Whittier Union High School District dedicated Santa Fe High School’s football field to Mahlstede, a respected role model and father figure to many, including La Serna High School teacher Ken LaVigne.

“He gave me structure and purpose, confidence and encouragement,” said LaVigne, who played under Mahlstede for three years from 1969 to 1971. “He’s the reason I became a coach. I saw what he did for me and I wanted to do the same for others. Other than my father, he is the greatest influence in my life.”

Staff Writer

By Don Wanlass