The Sports Report: Mick Cronin is a breath of fresh air for the L.A. sports scene

January 9, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

UCLA BASKETBALL

Columnist Dylan Hernandez takes a look at the new UCLA basketball coach:

Considering the strength of USC’s frontcourt, UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin was asked if he would have to go big more often when UCLA hosts its crosstown rival on Saturday.

“I would say … ,” Cronin started, only to fumble for words.

The coach ran his left hand over his bald head.

“I would disagree with … ,” he said.

Cronin crossed his arms. After a couple of more sentence fragments, he abandoned his search for a diplomatic answer and got to the point.

“Is our big lineup better than their big lineup?” he asked.

Cronin smiled.

The question was rhetorical. The answer was obvious: No.

Cronin broke the silence with a chuckle.

Such frankness has become a trademark of UCLA’s new coach in the first two-plus months of the college basketball season.

Read the rest of the column by clicking here.

Read more UCLA:

UCLA’s Chris Smith is getting more confident and it’s showing on court

NFL

Sam Farmer, with a great story on….. well, I won’t spoil it:

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, lay writhing on the grass and clutching his left knee. It was a “Monday Night Football” game here at Arrowhead Stadium in 2017, and the 320-pound right guard needed a doctor.

Fortunately, one was close by. Before the medical team could hurry onto the field, Duvernay-Tardif turned his foot this way and that, wincing as he applied pressure to his knee area. The diagnosis: He didn’t have a torn anterior cruciate ligament but a sprained medial collateral ligament, a more benign injury.

“Of course, I was biased, because nobody wants to tear his ACL,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “But I was right; it was an MCL sprain.”

The man knows his medicine. Duvernay-Tardif is the NFL’s only active player who doubles as a physician. The 28-year-old Montreal native graduated from the prestigious McGill University Faculty of Medicine in May 2018 with a doctorate in medicine and master’s in surgery.

In a small-world coincidence, that’s the same school where the mother of Chiefs coach Andy Reid received her medical degree.

“He’s brilliant,” Reid said of Duvernay-Tardif. “Doesn’t take long after talking to him to figure out that he’s on the ball, and he’d be a great doctor. I tell him with those fingers that big, though, man, they’re not going to have him do any small surgeries. He’s a big man.”

Early in his NFL career, Duvernay-Tardif felt out of place. A native French speaker, he started introducing himself as “Larry” to make it easier for teammates who butchered “Laurent,” pronounced LOR-uhn.

“It took me a little longer to integrate fully into the locker room just because of where I was coming from,” said Duvernay-Tardif, who speaks flawless English with a mild French accent. “Not playing the same football, not growing up watching football and knowing the NFL rules. I feel like when you get into an NFL locker room as a rookie, you for sure know somebody that you played against and somebody that you went to a bowl game with. You have connections. I had nobody.”

Now, vive la différence.

Not all of his efforts to do that have been successful. The NFL denied his request to put “M.D.” at the end of the 15-character last name on his jersey.

Read the rest of the column by clicking here.

NFL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Divisional Round

Saturday

Minnesota at San Francisco, 1:30 p.m., NBC

Tennessee at Baltimore, 5:15 p.m., CBS

Sunday

Houston at Kansas City, Noon, CBS

Seattle at Green Bay, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Conference Championship

Sunday, Jan. 19

TBD at TBD, Noon, CBS

TBD at TBD, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Super Bowl

Sunday Feb. 2

TBD vs. TBD, 3:30 p.m., FOX

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

In his travels across the country, Fox Sports officiating analyst Mike Pereira has noticed two things.

Regardless of region, college football officials get lambasted everywhere: “If I’m in SEC territory, the SEC officials are getting blasted in the media. If I’m in ACC territory, the ACC guys are getting blasted. Same way in the Big Ten. Same way in the Big 12. Same way in the Pac-12.”

But no matter where he goes, the officials from one league get derided the most.

“The one noticeable difference to me,” Pereira said, “is the perception the Pac-12 [officials] are the worst.”

Unfair or not, unwarranted or not, this has become the reality for the Pac-12, which will supply the officiating crew for the College Football Playoff title game Monday night between No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 3 Clemson.

Pereira is among those who agree that the league’s overall officiating is on par with the rest of the nation. But one egregious error after another — ranging from on-field oversights to administrative mayhem — has eroded public confidence in the conference’s crews.

“I don’t consider them any better and I don’t consider them any worse,” said Pereira, a former NCAA and NFL referee who offers officiating commentary for Fox’s coverage of NFL and college games. “But the reputation is still out there. That’s hard to overcome.”

LAKERS

After a Tuesday night filled with fear and uncertainty, the Lakers received good news Wednesday morning.

Anthony Davis did not have a bone bruise, as the team’s medical staff believed he had Tuesday night after taking a hard fall. Instead, Davis has a bruise on his gluteus maximus, the main muscle that makes up the buttocks.

Although it wasn’t certain whether Davis would travel with the team on its upcoming trip, the Lakers are listing Davis as questionable for Friday’s game in Dallas. The Lakers will play the next night in Oklahoma City.

KINGS

The Dallas Stars extended their winning streak to five with a 2-1 victory over the Kings as Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau scored 37 seconds apart in the second period.

Dallas has come from behind for all the wins on its current streak, and this was only the second time the Stars didn’t trail going into the third period.

Anton Khudobin gave up a goal to Anze Kopitar on the Kings’ first shot before making 30 saves. Esa Lindell added a pair of assists for Dallas, which has won five of its last six against the Kings.

It was Kopitar’s 328th goal in 14 seasons with the Kings, moving him past Bernie Nicholls for fourth-most in franchise history.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Kings at Vegas, 7 p.m., FSW

Dallas at Ducks, 7 p.m., PRIME, AM 830

BORN ON THIS DATE

1934: Football player Bart Starr (d. 2019)

1935: Sportscaster Dick Enberg (d. 2017)

1959: Race car driver Mark Martin

1965: Basketball player Muggsy Bogues

1971: Hockey player Scott Thornton

1975: Archer Justin Huish

1976: Hockey player Radek Bonk

1978: Football player Chad Johnson

1980: Golfer Sergio García

DIED ON THIS DATE

2004: Basketball player Yinka Dare, 31

2012: Boxer Brian Curvis, 74

AND FINALLY

Bart Starr is honored at halftime of the Packers-Vikings game this season. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here