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December 29, 2007

It's Neuheisel

It took a while, but UCLA hired the right guy to take over as head coach. As we've said before, Rick Neuheisel was immensely successful at Colorado and Washington. He's also a popular UCLA alum who quarterbacked the Bruins to a Rose Bowl title. He has the dynamic personality to match Pete Carroll in recruiting, he is very smart, and he has a law degree. His 2000 Washington Huskies team should have played Oklahoma in the national title game after being the only team that season to defeat Miami, but the BCS computers disagreed.

Some have asked if Neuheisel is so smart, why did he get caught with so many recruiting violations. It's a legitimate question. But at one time, Neuheisel was reportedly so full of himself that he tried to push the limits of the NCAA rulebook. Sports Illustrated once wrote about an instance during a recruiting period when coaches were not allowed to meet with recruits in person, but could speak with them on the phone. Neuheisel reportedly flew to a recruit's house, stood across the street from the recruit's home, called the player from his cell phone, and told the kid to look out the window.

Neuheisel says that he's matured, and I believe him. He simply has too much to lose if he screws up again. He already sank about as low as any coach could, when he was stuck serving as the volunteer assistant for a high school team in the Seattle area. Now he's worked his way back into people's good graces, and he wants to leave a legacy at his alma mater.

As for DeWayne Walker, he's an outstanding defensive coach and he deserves to be a college head coach. Many UCLA fans have called for Walker to stay on as defensive coordinator. That's all fine and good, but he should only stay on if Neuheisel wants him to. One never knows how two people will gel, and it's uncertain if Walker will fit into Neuheisel's system. If they get along, then that's great. But it's certainly not the end of the world for the Bruins if Walker chooses to go to Washington and be Tyrone Willingham's defensive coordinator, or if Neuheisel decides to hire someone he feels he can work with better.

December 26, 2007

Stu Nahan dies at 81

Legendary SoCal sports broadcaster Stu Nahan passed away today at the age of 81. When you think of classic LA sportscasters, it's hard not to think of Stu Nahan. He always brought class and dignity to the airwaves and was a pleasure to listen to. Personally, I'll remember his work on the Rocky movies and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" as much as any of his sports work. Larry Stewart writes the obituary for the LA Times.

Not so Golden

Temple head coach Al Golden officially dropped out of the running for the UCLA football job today.

"UCLA is a world-class institution, and athletic director Dan Guerrero is a first-class person," Golden said in a statement. "However, we are on the brink of something truly special here at Temple."

Golden and Rick Neuheisel are the only candidates who have reportedly met with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block -- a requirement for getting the job. It's believed that DeWayne Walker is still a candidate. The Bruins search has now taken 23 days, and the school has lost some valuable recruiting time. While the UC bureaucracy can slow down any hire, college football is a fast-moving endeavor. If they want Rick Neuheisel, they'd be well-advised to seal the deal soon.

Are they for real?

Are they for real? That's the question everyone has about the Lakers after their impressive 122-115 victory over the Suns on Christmas Day. At 18-10, the Lakers are just one game behind Phoenix and Dallas in the West, and two behind San Antonio. As Mark Heisler points out in the LA Times today, the Lakers rise is coinciding with the West's elite teams faltering a bit.

The real key to the Lakers success is Andrew Bynum, whose 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting with 12 rebounds has Los Angeles buzzing today. All of that hard work with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appears to be paying off, as Bynum suddenly looks like a top-flight NBA center.

"I don't know if he's up and coming," Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's there."

Still, it's way too early to start celebrating. The Lakers got off to a nice start last season before faltering in January. Andrew Bynum also looked good early last season, before he seemed to wear down and lose his edge. Anyone can in the NBA can have a few good games, but the real test for Bynum will be for him to sustain his high level of play throughout the entire season. Opposing coaches are going to scout Bynum and find ways to weaken him. How he adjusts and how he deals with this newfound attention will paramount to the Lakers hopes. Right now though, things are looking awfully good.

December 21, 2007

Sports Updates

--Less than one day after news broke that Mike Bellotti was interested in the UCLA coaching job, the Oregon coach officially took himself out of the running. The Bruins really need to move quickly and make a decision on their new hire. They are losing valuable recruiting time. My guess is that the job will now go to Rick Neuheisel.

--The Coliseum Commission and the State agreed to a deal on rent, which should help negotiations with USC. The commission can no longer hold up the process due to uncertain rent payments.

--USC will play Cal Poly in men's basketball tomorrow, and I will be doing the play-by-play on KSCR 1560 AM or KSCR.org.

Bellotti Break?

The UCLA football coaching search took a dramatic turn yesterday as it was reported that Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has met with Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero. In other news, Norm Chow has reportedly dropped out, but it's believed that Rick Neuheisel and Al Golden are still candidates.

We've said on here before that Neuheisel and Chow would be great fits, but Bellotti's entrance into the race changes everything. Bellotti is an established winning coach who has turned Oregon into a top-flight national program. He brings instant credibility to the Bruins, and would dramatically change the nature of the whole program. He also has gone 2-3 against Pete Carroll (not 5-3 as Bill Plaschke's column reported today), but ironically he did turn down the USC job after the 2000 season.

Bellotti is said to be upset with the media in Oregon, reporting on news regarding his wife and kids that he believes are private matters. He may be looking for a change of pace. He'll get that at UCLA, where he won't be nearly as much of a celebrity. But Bellotti also probably realizes that UCLA doesn't have Oregon's resources. The Ducks program has been funded by Phil Knight and Nike for years, and UCLA doesn't have the space-age locker rooms, plethora of dry-fit uniform combinations, and sterling practice facilities that you'll find in Eugene. Still, if it works out, then there is much to be excited about in Westwood.

December 20, 2007

Sports Beat, 12-20-07

--Just when it seemed like UCLA was closing in on hiring Rick Neuheisel, the LA Times is reporting that Temple coach Al Golden became the second candidate to meet with chancellor Gene Block. Golden's name seemed to come out of nowhere, and I'd be shocked if he actually got the job.

Granted, Golden has won some high marks for going 4-8 this year at Temple, one of the worst programs in the country, but Temple is in a weaker conference now. Golden has only been a head coach for two years, and he reportedly has no real recruiting ties to the West Coast.

I have no inside information on this search, but if I were a betting man, then I'd bet on Neuheisel to get the job. He's the right fit.

--Mark Cuban could be owning a pro football team in LA soon. No, it's not an NFL team. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Cuban is believed to be the person to set to own LA's team in the United Football League or the UFL. The league will begin play in August, and will likely host games on Friday nights.

We don't have a lot of information yet about the UFL, but I'd expect the talent level to be similar to the old XFL or WFL, and not quite as high as the old USFL. We also have no idea where this Los Angeles team would play, whether it be at the Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Home Depot Center, or somewhere else. Still, it would be a lot of fun to have Cuban owning a team here.

--Speaking of LA football facilities, it appeared that USC and the LA Coliseum were close to a compromise that would allow the Trojans to play at the venerable stadium in the future. But today, it sounds like the Coliseum Commission is still reluctant to give up much control to USC, and negotiations seem to have taken a step back. The Commission argues that the Coliseum could generate $7 billion over the next 50 years. I don't know if that's true, but I do know it won't get half that much without significant renovations. USC's proposals seem very fair, and they're simply being resisted by politicians who are acting out for their own self-interest and have no idea how to run a stadium.

--After watching the Lakers beat the Bulls on Tuesday night, it's hard to believe that Kobe Bryant wanted to leave LA for Chicago. The Lakers are fourth in the West now, but they still have to play more consistent basketball.

Rumors are flying around sports talk radio that the Lakers and Nets might be discussing a Jason Kidd trade again. Kidd is one of the best point guards in NBA history, and he creates opportunities on the court like few other floor generals I've ever seen. But it's important to put Kidd in perspective. He turns 35 in March, and I don't think he's 100% healthy. The Nets are 10-15 right now, and one wonders why they haven't been an upper-echelon East team the last few years with Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson. If the Lakers can really get Kidd for just Kwame Brown's expiring contract, Jordan Farmar, and one other fill-in, then that does sound awfully nice. But right now, it looks like the Lakers made the right call in hanging onto Andrew Bynum.

--There was a time when no current Dodgers were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. That time lasted less than a week. On Monday, the Dodgers signed Gary Bennett, Jr. to be their backup catcher. The veteran with uninspiring stats, admitted to using HGH in 2003 to rehab his injured knee. He claims to have been a one-time user. The truth is that with Russell Martin playing more games than anyone at catcher, few veterans are clamoring to be his backup. Still, if the Dodgers were only looking to sign someone with a .242 career batting average, one would think they could find someone who wasn't in the Mitchell Report. Let's hope Gary Bennett's name doesn't come up again in connection with HGH.

--SportsCenter from Los Angeles? It will happen by 2009, as ESPN is working on completing its new studios at AEG's LA Live. The new five-story ESPN building will include an ESPN Zone and numerous television production studios. ESPN will still be headquarted in Bristol, Conn., and many SportsCenter broadcasts will originate from there, but some will also be aired live in Los Angeles. How cool does that sound? This move will represent a major step in raising LA's sports profile. And hopefully it means West Coast teams will get more coverage on the network.

December 15, 2007

Dodgers Sign Kuroda

The Dodgers reportedly have signed Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a three-year contract that will pay him between $36-40 million. It's obviously a lot of money, but it's a pretty good signing for the Blue Crew.

After Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Chad Billingsley, there were serious questions about who would fill the final two spots in the Dodger rotation. Jason Schmidt and Esteban Loaiza are both coming off injuries, and no one wants to rely on DJ Houlton, Eric Stults, or Hong-Chih Kuo. Kuroda led the Central League in complete games from 1999-2005, and has been one of the most consistent pitchers in Japan this decade. Given the lack of available quality free agent pitchers (Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse may be the two best on the market now), this was really about the best the Dodgers could do. (Unless they wanted to sell the farm for Johan Santana.)

The signing goes to show the power that the Dodgers brand name has in Asia, but also give credit to Takashi Saito who reportedly played a role in luring Kuroda to come here.

Signing Japanese players does come with some inherent risk. One never knows how they will adjust culturally or how they might adapt to US training methods. And admittedly, I've never seen Kuroda pitch. But the track record for Japanese players with a high-quality resume like Kuroda's is particularly good, and one would have to assume that the Dodgers wouldn't spend $40 million on someone who their scouts didn't like. Kuroda signed a market-rate contract for starting pitchers and he figures to solidify the team's starting rotation.

December 14, 2007

Sports Beat, 12-14-07

--Kevin Roderick notes that the Dodgers were one of the teams most implicated in the Mitchell Report. However none of the players listed are current Dodgers, and virtually all of the allegations came before Frank McCourt took control of the team. Still, former Yankees assistant strength coach Brian McNamee is one of the major sources in the report, and some are wondering if this tarnishes the Yankee championships won under Joe Torre. I don't think it does, but another perfectly reasonable question to ask is what Torre (now the Dodgers manager) might have known about McNamee supplying his own players with HGH. McNamee was on Torre's staff, although it's very conceivable that he wanted to hide this practice from his boss.

Former Yankee Dave Justice vehemently denied the accusations against him in the Mitchell Report today on ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd Show. He sounded sincere and fairly convincing. Justice claims that McNamee did give him HGH to rehab a groin injury, but that he refused to use the substance because he doesn't like needles. He claims he probably would have used it if it came in pill form.

Justice called on more players in the report to answer allegations, and come forward to deny them if untrue. I'm somewhat surprised by the lack of response from most of the 86 players named in the report. Many have witheld comments for legal reasons. Others are waiting for a cue from the players association. Roger Clemens did have his lawyer issue a denial. But former Dodger FP Santangelo was one person who spoke out.

Santangelo said the report inaccurately claims he took the steroid Deca-Durabolin. Instead, he says that he used HGH.

"I don't know where that came from," said Santangelo, now a radio talk show host in Sacramento. "I never did any of that.

"But I did growth hormones. I was at a point of my career when I took it twice because I panicked. I didn't want my career to end. I can't justify it and say it was right, because cheating is wrong, but I admit, I did it." (Sacramento Bee)

In the meantime, the NL West just got more difficult for the Dodgers as the Arizona Diamondbacks traded for All-Star pitcher Dan Haren.

--The Los Angeles Daily News reports that UCLA will interview Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel for their head coaching position, and that interview may have taken place today. Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh (brother of Jim) will also reportedly be interviewed.

Neuheisel seems like he'd be a good fit for the Bruins. He's an alum who quarterbacked them to a Rose Bowl win. He's very smart. And he had success as a college head coach at both Washington and Colorado. He also has a charisma and energy that rivals Pete Carroll. The obvious drawbacks though are the numerous allegations of NCAA violations against Neuheisel regarding recruiting and an NCAA betting pool (he was cleared on the latter). It's also known that Norm Chow and DeWayne Walker have interviewed for the job. As I said last week, UCLA would be fortunate to hire Chow or Walker, but I also think Neuheisel would be a great choice assuming he's learned his from his mistakes in the past. I don't know much about Harbaugh. Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach is also a possibility, and there are some rumors swirling around Hawaii head coach June Jones. Additionally, former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden is reportedly interested and UCLA may talk to BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall (ironic, since UCLA plays BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl).

--The Lakers did what they needed to last night, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 102-97. If a team can't beat the Spurs without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, then they never will.

--USC nearly upset Stanford in the Final Four of the NCAA Women's Volleyball tournament, but fell 16-14 in the final game.

December 13, 2007

Naming names

The Mitchell Report has been released and it lists numerous baseball players who allegedly used performance-enhancing substances in the past 15 years. No current Dodgers are named, but several former Dodgers are, including Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, and Paul Lo Duca. The only current Angel named is Gary Matthews, Jr., and former Angels include Troy Glaus, Mo Vaughn, and Brendan Donnelly.

Of course, there are several big names discussed in the report, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Miguel Tejada.

Personally, I don't think this report offers closure. I think there is still a lot of information that will be coming out on steroids and HGH in the months and years ahead. It will be interesting to see how all of the players named in this report react to these allegations. In some cases, Mitchell has copies of checks to known dealers, or shipment forms addressed to players. It would not surprise me if more names surfaced in the future.

It's clear that baseball handled this problem poorly in the 1990s and 2000s. The question now is what's next. And should some of these top players be admitted to the Hall of Fame. I believe that Hall of Fame in Cooperstown needs to get together with Commissioner Bud Selig and immediately place a moratorium on voting in every player named in the report. I'd then recommend that they establish a panel for how best to deal with the potential election of these players. The panel probably should not make a recommendation on numerous players for several years, when they have had the benefit of time to properly reflect back on the "steroid era."

As for what's next, I think Mitchell outlines a series of excellent recommendations that MLB should adopt. I do believe that this report will help reduce steroid and HGH use, but I also think that performance-enhancing drug use was on the decline anyways in baseball, after the recent congressional hearings and the new testing plans. No matter how one looks at this, today is a dark day for baseball. But it's a day that we were going to have to get past in order to move forward.

December 11, 2007

Why Times scribes don't vote for awards

Adam Rose of the Los Angeles Times' USC blog revisits the paper's decision to stop its sports writers from participating in polls and awards voting. He also finds a dissenter in the Times' former sports editor, Bill Dwyre:

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times implemented a policy that prohibits the paper's staff from participating in the type of media votes that you've been hearing about all season. Per Sports Editor Randy Harvey, "The reason is simple: We are here to report news, not make it."

The policy is in line with other major papers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun. The voting-neutral movement at the LA Times started under editor John Carroll. It casts a wide net, meaning the Times avoids other polls and awards commonly associated with Hollywood or Washington. In the sports world, the policy extends to obvious situations like the AP poll and Heisman balloting, and less obvious ones like naming an official player of the game.


Bill Dwyre, who preceded Harvey as Sports Editor and currently writes two columns per week, believes sports writers are well qualified and bring valuable expertise to the table. "Any voting system in sports is imperfect, but the least imperfect system is sports writers who get paid to know this better than anybody."

Read the whole thing over there.

December 9, 2007

Sports Beat, 12-9-07

--Congratulations to the USC Women's Soccer team on winning the NCAA National Championships! First, the Women of Troy knocked off UCLA in the Final Four, and then they defeated Florida State today 2-0 in the national title game at College Station, TX. Led by goalkeeper Kristen Olsen, USC managed five shutouts in their six tournament games. Marihelen Tomer and Janessa Currier both scored today, but the contributions of Amy Rodriguez are not to be overlooked. A-Rod, as she's called, was a star all season.

USC clearly made the right call this past offseason when they hired Ali Khosroshahin from Cal State Fullerton. Khosroshahin became the first coach in NCAA women's soccer history to win a title in his first season with a team.

--It's also a good time to be a fan of USC women's volleyball. The Women of Troy will travel to Sacramento for the Final Four and take on No. 1 seeded Stanford. Cal and Penn State will play in the other national semi-final. Stanford advanced by beating UCLA.

--Good win for the Lakers today, as they defeated the Warriors 123-103. The Lakers have been playing really inconsistent basketball of late, and Phil Jackson has already said they won't win 50 games (how many other coaches could get away with saying that?). But they have some time off now to get healthy, and at least they're above Golden State in the standings right now.

--The LA Times' Kurt Streeter discusses Karl Dorrell's firing from UCLA again, and advises the Bruins to consider two minority candidates in Norm Chow and DeWayne Walker. It's absolutely shocking to me that Norm Chow hasn't gotten a college head coaching job yet. Right now, he's the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, but he has one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. He may be 61 years old, and he may not be the flashiest guy in the world, but UCLA would be very lucky to have him. Some coaches are quieter like Tony Dungy, and some are more boisterous. But everyone knows that Norm Chow can coach.

Walker would also be an excellent hire, if UCLA chose to go in that direction. He's paid his dues as an assistant, and is one of the best defensive coaches out there. He would also help the Bruins preserve their excellent recruiting class.

According to Tom Dienhart of the Sporting News, UCLA will talk with Chow on Monday, Mike Leach of Texas Tech on Tuesday, and Steve Mariucci on Wednesday. If the Bruins go with Leach, expect them to score a ton of points... and expect them to give up a lot of points too. I'm not quite sure what to expect from Mariucci since he hasn't coached college football in more than a decade. He went 6-6 in his only season in college at Cal, but had success with the San Francisco 49ers. His stint with the Detroit Lions didn't get go well, but it's hard to blame him for that.

--Unless there is major news next week, my next post will probably not come for another 10 days. I've got a few things on my plate in the coming days. Happy Holidays!

December 5, 2007

Dodgers Sign Andruw Jones

The Los Angeles Times is reporting tonight that the Dodgers have agreed to terms with Andruw Jones. According to the Times, the former Braves centerfielder has agreed to a 2-year $36 million contract.

First off, contrary to popular opinion, the Dodgers didn't "have to" do something. As I've pointed out on LAObserved before, teams such as the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Indians were successful last year without going for high-priced free agents. Instead they relied on player development and building from within. The Dodgers have an excellent farm system, and they already had a team in place that could compete for the pennant.

That being said, Andruw Jones makes the Dodgers a better team. While he has had some erratic seasons over his career, the body of Jones' work has been very good. He's a legit power bat, who plays fantastic defense in centerfield. I'm almost impressed that the Dodgers were able to get Jones to sign just a two-year contract. Given his disappointing 2007 season, the last thing the Dodgers would want is a long-term contract that could prove to be a mistake. Yet, despite having Scott Boras as an agent, Jones wound up agreeing to a shorter-term commitment (although, it's hard to feel bad for a guy making $18 million a year).

The real question now for the Dodgers is what this does to Juan Pierre. Will Pierre shift over to left field? Will the Dodgers trade Pierre and start both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier? Many in Los Angeles have been frustrated with Pierre's poor on-base percentage and subpar defense. So why not complement Jones in the outfield with two excellent young players in Kemp and Ethier? That part of the equation remains to be seen. But what will be seen is an improved Dodger offense in 2008. They got that power bat they've wanted for so long.

December 3, 2007

Walter O'Malley Elected to the Hall-of-Fame

It's taken a long time, but Walter O'Malley was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame today. O'Malley's selection is well-deserved and it's a wonderful thing for the Dodgers organization.

There are many people from Brooklyn who will decry this announcement and claim that O'Malley was the reincarnation of the devil. But history has shown that Robert Moses is as responsible as anyone for the Dodgers move in 1957. Moses prevented O'Malley from building baseball's first domed stadium on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, right at the Long Island Railroad Station, and demanded the Dodgers move to Flushing Meadows in Queens. Instead, O'Malley moved the Dodgers to LA and talked the Giants into moving to San Francisco.

O'Malley isn't in the Hall-of-Fame though because he's been largely vindicated for moving the Dodgers. He's being selected because he was one of the great visionaries in the history of the game. O'Malley expanded baseball across the country. He had about as much power in MLB as anyone in the 1950s and 60s, and deserves a ton of credit for many expansion franchises that started in the 1960s and 70s, including the Angels. O'Malley created modern day Spring Training with Dodgertown in Vero Beach, and he played a major role in spreading baseball internationally, both in Asia and Latin America.

Locally, O'Malley built Dodger Stadium, which we all know is one of the best stadiums in the game and it's still going strong. Under his leadership, the Dodgers became a model MLB organization, one that exemplified class and continuity. The Dodgers are a powerful brand, and O'Malley is responsible for that. Vin Scully and Tommy Lasorda have been campaigning for O'Malley for years, and it's wonderful to see the fruits of their labor.

December 2, 2007

Sports Beat, 12-2-07

--USC defeated UCLA 24-7 yesterday in a game that neither team thought it played well. Most USC fans felt like the Trojans could have run up the score, while UCLA fans are wondering what happened to their offense. Give credit to Bruins defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker for keeping USC in check as best as they could. But the Bruins had absolutely nothing that resembled an adequate offense.

USC will now go to the Rose Bowl and play Illinois. The matchup preserves the Pac-10/Big 10 rivalry, and that will no doubt please some. However, with Ohio State ranked No. 1 in the BCS, the Rose Bowl had the first choice for a replacement and could have picked Georgia. If the Ohio State-LSU game is really ugly and won by LSU, then a USC-Georgia game might have led to an AP national title for the winner. And many think that the Pac-10 and SEC are the two best conferences in college football, and that USC and Georgia the NCAA's two hottest teams. But alas, there's something to be said for tradition. Expect USC to be heavily favored over No. 13 Illinois.

Some are disappointed that USC isn't in the BCS Title game against Ohio State. Fans of Oklahoma, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and other schools also think they have a case. The truth is that it's impossible to objectively compare teams that play radically different schedules. Later this week, I'll write a post on a proposed playoff system that would solve many of college football's problems.

--UCLA hasn't made any announcements regarding Karl Dorrell, but the Los Angeles Times reports three potential candidates have already been contacted. While Rick Neuheisel is reportedly interested, the Times says that he will not be a candidate. Instead, the early list includes Boise State Head Coach Chris Petersen, Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach, and former 49ers, Lions, and Cal Head Coach Steve Mariucci. Based on that list, it appears UCLA wants an experienced head coach who has an offensive background.

In the meantime, it's not clear who will coach UCLA when they play BYU in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl on December 22. The game is a rematch of UCLA's 27-17 victory over the Cougars earlier this season.

--Tough day for both USC and UCLA basketball, as they lost at home to Kansas and Texas, respectively. I missed the UCLA-Texas game, but USC couldn't match Kansas on the boards with Taj Gibson in foul trouble.

--In other local college sports news, Cal beat USC for the NCAA men's water polo championship. USC and UCLA will play each other in the Final Four for NCAA women's soccer tournament. The winner gets the winner of Notre Dame and Florida State. Both USC and UCLA are also in the Sweet 16 for the NCAA women's volleyball tournament. I broadcast USC's first round win over Pepperdine (as well as Long Beach State's thrilling victory over UNLV) on USCTrojans.com.

--The Lakers continue to struggle, falling tonight 104-97 to the Orlando Magic. It has to be frustrating to lose to Orlando and New Jersey at home, and then go to Utah and get blown out when the Jazz are missing Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Phil Jackson may be signed for another two years, but Kobe Bryant can't be too happy with the organization right now.

--With the Clippers also struggling, Mark Heisler gives some advice to Donald Sterling.

--I was at STAPLES Center last night for the Kings-Avalanche game. The Kings were looking great early on, but eventually gave up three third period goals and lost 5-2 to Colorado. Head Coach Marc Crawford was so upset with his team's play that he scheduled an extra practice today, which would normally be an off-day.