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The Morning Column: August 11, 2021
Sometimes you need luck in order to be great. No franchise knows that better than the Lakers. The latest example was introducing Russell Westbrook on the same day Dennis Schröder signed with Boston.
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1. 🏀 Russell Westbrook introduced as a Laker
Russell Westbrook smiled as he sat down inside of the Chick Hearn Press Room at Staples Center and picked up a microphone for his introductory press conference with the Lakers. He looked at his family sitting in the front row and nodded as he looked around the room covered with photos of some of the biggest moments in the arena’s history.
Westbrook was an 11-year-old Lakers fan when Staples Center opened. He grew up about 13 miles south in Hawthorne and would go with his dad to the championship parades after the Lakers won three titles in a row in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Those celebrations attracted over half a million fans each year and on Tuesday one of those fans returned with the dream of being part of another Lakers championship parade.
“It's surreal,” Westbrook said. “I think it still hasn't hit me yet, being from L.A., growing up not too far from here and being able to watch the parades and try to go to them, miss school to try to go to them. Being a Laker fan and being from L.A., but now everything coming full circle for me. It’s a blessing. There’s a lot of things I can’t put into actual words just because some of these dreams don’t come true for people like myself.”
While Westbrook grew up a Lakers fan and dreamed of one day playing for his favorite team, it was a dream seemingly destined to remain just that for the 32-year-old entering his 14th season in the league until two weeks ago when the Lakers agreed to trade Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a 2021 first-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook and two second-round picks.
“Obviously being from L.A., you always wish that you can play for your home team and be able to do that,” Westbrook said. “That's definitely something that always kind of circled around in my mind. Maybe one day. But I would always come back and be like, ‘That probably won't happen.’ But now we’re here and I’m going to take full advantage of it."
One of the players Westbrook looked up to growing up in Los Angeles was Kobe Bryant. The two grew to be good friends and often talked about the possibility of Westbrook joining the Lakers. Westbrook thought about Bryant when the trade was finally completed and will think about him before every game he plays for the Lakers.
"It hasn't left my head,” Westbrook said. “Things that we’ve talked about, me and him, just the potential of me being able to be a Laker, understanding what that entails. It's just crazy to think about, and that will be with me every time I put that Laker jersey on.”
2. ⛹️♂️ Dennis Schröder signs with the Celtics
Westbrook’s path back home to Los Angeles was cleared earlier this year when Dennis Schröder turned down a four-year, $84 million offer from the Lakers in March to pursue a bigger contract in free agency. Things went south for both Schröder and the Lakers after he passed on their deal.
The Lakers went 14-17, lost LeBron James and Anthony Davis for much of that stretch to injury and were bounced in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. In Game 5 of that series, Schröder recorded 0 points, 1 assist and 4 rebounds in a 115-85 loss. He had seemingly checked out on the Lakers before the season was even over.
After luckily dodging a bullet when Schröder turned down their offer, the Lakers were able to make a deal to land Westbrook. On the same day the Lakers introduced Westbrook as their new point guard, Schröder signed a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics for $5.9 million. As the old saying goes, “Life comes at you fast.”
3. ⚾️ Dodgers slide past Philadelphia
Rain ruined a classic pitchers’ duel between Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola on Tuesday in Philadelphia but Dodgers fans once again got a glimpse of how good Scherzer is and how big he will be for them in the postseason as they try to repeat as World Series champions. Scherzer and Nola combined for 13 strikeouts before a rain delay ended their nights in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Dodgers would go on to win 5-0.
The highlight of the game, however, came from Trea Turner, who came over to the Dodgers with Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. Turner’s slide home off an RBI single from Will Smith to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead looked a figure skating move as he gently glided past the plate and came up in one swift motion.
“It's just how I slide, I guess,” Turner told reporters after the game. “I try not to hit the ground too hard because it doesn’t feel good. I try and be as soft as I can be on slides.”
4. ⛹️♂️ Lakers sign fan favorite McClung
One of the biggest fan favorites of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas has been Mac McClung, who went undrafted despite being the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season. McClung has impressed the Lakers enough during the Summer League that the team signed him and Chaundee Brown Jr. to contracts on Tuesday.
5. 💵 Odds and Ends Powered by Bovada
Here are some local odds if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:
Russell Westbrook Assists/Game (Season) –
Over 8.5: -105
Under 8.5: -135
Russell Westbrook Points/Game (Season) –
Over 19.5: -105
Under 19.5: -135
Russell Westbrook Rebounds/Game (Season) –
Over 8.5: -105
Under 8.5: -135
6. 📆 Aug. 11, 1951: First baseball game in color televised
On this day 70 years ago, WCBS in New York City televised the first color broadcast of a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. There is no replay of that game available online but here’s some great color footage of the Dodgers at Wrigley Field in 1952.
7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Hulk Hogan
Happy Birthday to Hulk Hogan, who turns 68 years old today. The WWE legend has had his issues over the years but I will always remember being a little Hulkamaniac when I was younger and forcing my dad to drive me to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena to see him wrestle the likes of Ric Flair, King Kong Bundy and Sgt. Slaughter. I even somehow convinced my dad to drive me to Las Vegas to watch him at WerstleMania IX at Caesars Palace. Here I am losing my mind after Hogan beat Yokozuna to win the championship, next to me making my debut as a WWE announcer during WrestleMania week this year.
8. 🎟 Ticket Time Powered by StubHub
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game today:
9. 📺 On The Air
⚾️ 4 p.m. – Los Angeles Dodgers at Philadelphia Phillies – SportsNet LA
⚾️ 6:30 p.m. – Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels – Bally Sports West
🏀 7 p.m. – Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks (Summer League) – ESPN 2
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On yesterday’s show, we previewed the Russell Westbrook press conference at Staples Center and talked to Andy and Brian Kamenetzky about the Lakers’ busy offseason.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow!