Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Lakers get fourth pick in NBA Draft and a coach

This has probably been the Lakers’ best week of 2019.

Not only did they hire a coach (or two), they received the fourth pick in the June NBA Draft after moving up in the draft lottery.

The only problem with moving up to fourth in this year’s draft is that there are three players everyone wants in the draft, meaning the Lakers probably won’t get a chance to draft Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett from Duke or guard Ja Morant from Murray State, generally considered the three best players in this year’s draft.

Early prognosticators see the Lakers choosing Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver or Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland with the first pick, but a lot can happen in the next six weeks.

By then, perhaps, we will have some idea of who is making personnel decisions for the Lakers. Since no one in the Lakers front office is talking, we can assume it is general manager Rob Pelinka making most of the front office decisions regarding the team itself.

How much input Jeanie Buss and her shadow cabinet had in the naming of Frank Vogel as the Lakers head coach and Jason Kidd as his top assistant is unclear because the team won’t hold a press conference to formally introduce the new coach until May 20. We might get some idea then, judging on who hosts the press conference and who does most of the talking for the team.

Vogel is not a bad NBA coach. He made the playoffs five out of six seasons with the Indiana Pacers from 2011 to 2016, coaching the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals twice, where they lost to LeBron James.

The only year the Pacers didn’t make the playoffs was 2014-15 when star forward Paul George missed most of the season with a broken leg.

When the Pacers failed to make the conference finals in 2016, Vogel was fired. He coached two years in Orlando where he was lucky to win 54 games with a weak Magic team.

It will be interesting to see how Vogel and Kidd will mesh. Kidd hasn’t been as successful as Vogel in his coaching career, but he has a relationship with LeBron James after playing with him on the 2008 Olympic team. That might be the only thing that matters.

It was the Lakers insistence on Kidd being part of the coaching staff that was one of the reasons Tyronn Lue turned the job down last week.

The Lakers made Lue an insulting offer, only offering him a three-year, $15-million contract and insisting that Kidd be part of his staff.

Lue said thanks, but no thanks, since the Cleveland Cavaliers will be paying him not to coach next season.

The Lakers now must decide what direction they want to go. Do they package this solid draft choice with two or three young players (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Josh Hart) for Anthony Davis, Brandon Beal or some other disgruntled superstar, or try their hand at free agency and see if Jimmy Butler, Kawai Leonard, Klay Thompson or some other elite player wants to join James here and chase a championship?

Who will make that ultimate decision? Jeanie Buss? Pelinka? Kurt Rambis? Joey Buss? Jesse Buss? Or a combination of those five.

Jerry West announced this week he has signed a contract extension to remain a consultant for the Clippers. Maybe Jeanie can call up her old boyfriend Phil Jackson to see if he wants to run a front office again.

That worked so well for him and the Knicks.

The next two months will tell us a lot about the 2019-20 Lakers. I hope the picture is brighter in 60 days.

CLIPPERS CLIPPED: The Clippers don’t have a first-round draft pick this year. The Boston Celtics hold their 20th pick, one of three first round picks the Celtics have accumulated.

The Clippers don’t need as much help as the Lakers do, either. They have a stable front office, a solid head coach in Doc Rivers and some good assistants.

They could use another solid shooter in the starting lineup to take the pressure off Danilo Gallinari, or they can just see how Shai Gilgeous-Alexander develops in the offseason.

With Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers already have the best bench in the NBA.

The Clippers also have plenty of salary cap space that could lure someone like Kawai Leonard. A year ago at this time, Leonard said he wanted to come home to Southern California when he hit free agency and everyone assumed he meant the Lakers.

But a lot of people can see Leonard, who is from the Riverside area originally, signing with the Clippers instead of the Lakers because the Lakers would still be LeBron’s team and he could be the difference-maker with the Clippers.

But if he leads the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Finals he could choose to remain in Toronto, where he would be elected prime minister if he brings home a championship.

No matter what happens in the offseason, expect the Clippers to be better than the Lakers again next year.

BAD ARREST: No arrest is ever good news. The arrest May 13 of Dodger pitcher Julio Urias on suspicion of domestic violence was horrible news for the player, his girlfriend and the Dodgers.

Professional sports leagues have decided that domestic violence is not a good thing and they are reacting with severe penalties on players arrested on those charges when there is evidence to support the arrest.

Apparently there is video of Urias either pushing or knocking his girlfriend to the ground during an argument or altercation at the Beverly Center. Major League Baseball immediately put him on the administrative leave list, where he will stay for a minimum of seven days.

Last year, Major League Baseball suspended Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna for 75 games after he was arrested on suspicion of assault. Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell received a 40-game suspension after his former wife went public with allegations of physical and emotional abuse.

The Dodgers were looking at ways to reduce the amount of innings Urias would pitch this year, but I doubt they had this in mind.

At 22, with only 133 Major League innings under his belt, Urias is already the third or fourth most important pitcher for the Dodgers. He is currently pitching out of the bullpen, but the team planned to return him to the starting rotation in September to gear him up for the playoffs.

Now there is this cloud hanging over him. As a Mexican citizen, Urias could be deported if convicted of domestic violence.

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov returned to Russia rather than face deportation after he pleaded no contest in 2015 to a charge of corporal injury on a spouse. More than four years later, he is trying to get reinstated into the National Hockey League.

Urias had the chance to become the next Fernando Valenzuela, a left-handed pitcher from Mexico who was revered by Dodgers fans everywhere. Now he has an uncertain future.

No matter how much the Dodgers have invested in him, management might decide they don’t want a domestic violence offender on their roster.

And that could have a major impact on a season that has started so well for the Dodgers.