How Doc Rivers faith-healed a franchise and came out the other side as the 2014 L.A. News Group Sports Person of the Year

Clippers coach Doc Rivers waits for the start of his team's game against Toronto at Staples Center on Saturday.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Clippers coach Doc Rivers waits for the start of his team’s game against Toronto at Staples Center on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

It was the middle of June, just about a month after the Clippers’ 2013-14 season skidded to an ending after a physically and emotionally exhausting series against Oklahoma City in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals.
Al Michaels and Bill Simmons were discussing what Doc Rivers just went through during Simmons’ “B.S. Report” podcast.
But there was no B.S.-ing here.
“He saved the Clippers,” said Simmons, a season-seat holder of the team who, because of his opinions, had some run-ins with the coach.
“Yup,” said Michaels, one of Rivers’ close friends and a former NBC NBA broadcast partner.
“Here’s how I look at it,” added Michaels. “I call my friend, Jon Wertheim at Sports Illustrated, after the Clippers beat Golden State (in the first round) and I said, ‘If they beat Oklahoma City and somehow go on to win the NBA title, Doc Rivers has to be your ‘Sportsman of the Year.’”
“He might anyway,” replied Simmons.
The votes came in, and, for whatever the reason, Rivers wasn’t.
Not that we’re trying to right a wrong here, but that’s just not acceptable.
For the way he showed by example how to lead through adversity and keep priorities in order, Rivers has earned the distinction as the 10th recipient of the Los Angeles News Group Sports Person of the Year.
For more of the story, here’s the link. The Simmons-Michaels video is below:

Previous winners of the Los Angeles Sports Person of the Year award:
2013: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig
2012: Dodgers ownership team — Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson
2011: AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke
2010: New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush
2009: Thousand Oaks teenage sailors Zac and Abby Sunderland
2008: Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez
2007: Galaxy midfielder David Beckham
2006: Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti
2005: USC running back Reggie Bush and USC quarterback Matt Leinart

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Play It Forward Dec. 29-Jan. 4: A new/old way to look at New Year’s Day college football, with a Final Four

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota  gets the point -- win the Rose Bowl, advance to the first College Football Playoff championship game. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang, File)

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota gets the point — win the Rose Bowl, advance to the first College Football Playoff championship game. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang, File)

Ranking top 10 sports events Dec. 29-Jan. 4 you won’t want to miss


Details/TV: At Pasadena, Thursday at 2 p.m., ESPN

Details/TV: At New Orleans, Thursday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has led his team to a BCS title already with a win at the Rose Bowl in early 2014.  (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has led his team to a BCS title already with a win at the Rose Bowl in early 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Maybe the organizers of this first College Football Playoff Final Four should have consulted with the software company that manipulates the inner workings of, to at least examine the human harmonic condition that should go into creating more fan-sensitive semifinal matchmaking. Start with eliminating the somewhat random ranking designations, which were really just a way to filter out the top four teams from the other 128 that had some kind of shot in the first place (*even Alabama-Birmingham, which now won’t be siphoning all the talent in the state away from the Crimson Tide). So now that you’ve given Alabama a regional advantage by going to New Orleans because of its top seeding, why not also cut Florida State fans a break? This is the same group of supporters who had to scrape together their casino earnings and pull their covered wagons all the way to Pasadena a year ago in order to witness the Seminoles’ stake in last year’s final BCS championship. What more could FSU do this season but win every game on its schedule? Again? And then get a No. 3 seeding behind two one-loss programs? Why not drop ‘em to No. 4 if there’s so much backlash to this wins-over-character Jameis Winston issues that keep factoring into every discussion? Whatever the reasoning, the residue of that illogical-based decision would finally create what we wanted all along — a Pac-12/Big Ten semi-traditional Rose Bowl match up with Oregon and Ohio State, where we could at least pretend that Woody Hayes had something to do with making it happen from up in his own iCloud perch. Those left creating obvious storylines for these particular human-biased matchups will lean heavily on the Urban Meyer-Nick Saban mastermind angle on one side of the bracket, while the last two Heisman winners fight it out in a gentlemanly manner on the other side. Great. The bottom line is you like to think fans of the victorious semifinal games have enough disposable income so they can circle back to Dallas for the Jan. 12 championship matchup. We suspect most tapped out die-hards will be traveling alone by this point in the fleecing, hoping to hook up with similar-minded fans at a pregame tailgate. Maybe that’s when’s services finally come into play before everyone just punts.


Details/TV: At San Antonio, Friday at 3:45 p.m., ESPN:
Remember the Alamo Bowl, when it meant something? Neither do we, except for the chance to see what San Antonio looks like from inside a biodome. What it appears to mean to Bruins fans is a send-off game for non-Heisman winner Brett Hundley, and more rumors that Jim Mora might find more incentive to take an NFL opening should one come up soon (think San Francisco). Given enough time to strategize for one exhibition game like this, the edge should go to Kansas State’s 75-year-old Bill Snyder, who this year guided a team that, other than losing by 21 at TCU and by 9 at Baylor, was the best in the Big 12 at 9-3 (including a non-conference loss to Auburn). As for common opponents this year, K-State shutout visiting Texas, 23-0, in late October, five weeks after the Bruins pulled off that wild 20-17 win over the Longhorns in Dallas.


The NFL wildcard round starts Saturday with Arizona (the host city for the upcoming Super Bowl) going to Carolina … There’s an Orange, Fiesta and Peach Bowl set for New Year’s Eve, with the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day …UCLA and USC start Pac-12 basketball’s regular season with games in Utah and Colorado on Friday-Sunday … the Clippers play host to the Knicks on New Year’s Eve … for more, go to this link.

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Our Top 10 list of what defined the L.A. sports media in 2014, in 2,014 words or less

Who's on the Dodgers' bandwagon for a delivery of SportsNet L.A. in time for the 2015 season? Wait, and see. Again.

Who’s on the Dodgers’ bandwagon for a delivery of SportsNet L.A. in time for the 2015 season? Wait, and see. Again. At least this time, the Puig sticker on the truck wasn’t unveiled too early.

One of the latest Twitter trends is #2014in5Words.
Which not only seems to be a bit short sighted, but it’s one word short of what the hashtag requirement. Or, as lead columnist Dan Levy replied:

The proper amount, if you want to get technical.

By our count, we found the L.A. sports media in 2014 often focused on stories about things that didn’t quite add up right once all the pieces were there in front of us, all accounted for. The irony is that we probably used too many words to detail week after week about these misfit shortcomings. That’s just the culture of the media business.
(And by the way, “culture” was what Merriam-Webster picked as its 2014 “word of the year.” As in, the Dodgers’ bullpen was about as effective as yogurt culture.)
We will try to apply Twitter logic in conveying our Top 10 list of this local media year in review, the stories and moments with the most impact, importance and impatience. With the option to expand a bit to add context:

No. 1: I Can’t See Vin Scully?
channel-numbersNine days into 2014, we spotted the billboard off the 405 Freeway in Culver City touting the launch of the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA channel. Turns it, it was premature exultation. It also turned out that for about 70 percent of the TV viewers in Southern California, the channel was just a rumor. El Segundo-based DirecTV directed all that didn’t happen in this area, squashing Time Warner Cable’s distribution efforts by claiming the price per customer was too outrageous. Legal action was threatened, politicians and the FCC started barking, but all that actually happened was during the final week of the regular season, we got a sneak peek of the Dodgers clinching the NL West (over the eventual World Series champion Giants). Add to the frustration: The Dodgers’ playoff games kept showing up on Fox Sports 1 or the MLB Network. Now, Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who promised the channel saturation by Opening Day, 2014, says he’s “reasonably confident” it will happen by April, 2015 “because of all the various business deals going on.” That would entail a DirecTV-AT&T merger along with Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable. See us holding our breaths?

No. 2: Pac-12 Net Absent 12 Months:
Screen-shot-2012-09-14-at-1.17.38-AMAnother DirecTV power play move by a company claiming to have the sports viewers’ best vested interests at its core. But the business model isn’t working in Year 2 of this freeze-out. It’s become so acceptable that we Tweeted out the other day why UCLA might have wanted the second half of its basketball game against Kentucky moved from CBS to the Pac-12 Net, so no one could see how it ended. Meanwhile, those who have Dish Network will probably see more of their sports channels go away as it changes its strategy toward more of a wireless service, with Verizon on the horizon of taking over.

No. 3: Donald Sterling Tarnished, TMZ Sez:
042514-donald-sterling-large-launch-v4-3By deciding it had the ethical duty to release a private conversation between the Clippers owner and his girlfriend, the gossip website based near Marina del Rey began the swift process of Sterling’s exit, even if his actions often spoke louder than his words for years before this. Somehow, Harvey Levin gets the assist on Adam Silver’s layup, and Steve Ballmer is taking the ball and going the other way. He’s paid out some $2 billion for a team based on a perception of a media rights deals down the road. Add to that TMZ providing the defining video in the Ray Rice assault/NFL suspension, and the company had a role in the two biggest national stories of the sports year.

No. 4: Simmons, Kellerman: You’ve Been Served:

Photo: Rolling Stone magazine.

Photo: Rolling Stone magazine.

ESPN decided to suspend its L.A.-based media megastar and Rolling Stone profile boy  Simmons for three weeks in September because he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” and then dared his bosses to punish him. Done. Now the parlor game is predicting where he’ll take his ball and go when his ESPN deal is up. The network also forced a week vacation for Kellerman for talking out of turn about the Rice case. The ban also affected Kellerman from his KSPN-AM (710) radio show (although, we had to be told that happened, since the mute button is often activated in the afternoons to avoid most of his show). In a year with suspensions were handed out for all kinds of things said, tweeted or debated, these affected the local economy the most.

No. 5: The Beast At Its Best?
at9uOMfLWhen the old KFWB-AM (980) finally figured out how to get Jim Rome’s nationally syndicated show back in L.A. via the CBS Sports Radio Network, it decided also to rearrange the nebulous format and go all-sports, with new/old local-hosted shows subdividing the airways. Constructive criticism: Do better. With a rather vague ownership situation, there’s no guarantee this Clipper-strong attempt to compete with the Lakers/USC KSPN-AM (710), the Dodgers/UCLA  KLAC-AM (570) or the Angels KLAA-AM (830) lineup won’t continue its dead spots. The station will start taking callers soon, right?

No. 6: A Hall Call for Enberg:
photoWhen Dick Enberg found out at the recent MLB Winter Meetings that he would be the 2015 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame, he said the moment “took me to my knees.” The play-by-play man for the Padres (since 2010) who launched his career with the Angels (1969-1978, on KTLA-Channel 5 and KMPC-AM) even received a call of congratulations from Vin Scully, one of the voters for the award. The one-time San Fernando Valley State baseball coach will join another Padres’ broadcast legend, Jerry Coleman, who passed away five days into the 2014 calendar.

No. 7: Bookish Times for Showtime, Wooden
51GljUBHdGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Our top-shelf book of the year, “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s,” landed in March, coinciding with the Lakers’ fall from the NBA playoff radar. The best interviews that author Jeff Pearlman uncovered in the 496 pages were from the bit players of that era, including Michael Cooper’s ex-wife. Three months earlier, Seth Davis unloaded a 608-page inventory called “Wooden: A Coach’s Life,” based on an abundance of research by the Sports Illustrated writer and CBS college hoops analyst. We also got a reminder of John Wooden’s final season as it was recalled by then-KTLA play-by-play man and Brentwood resident Al Michaels in his new autobiography, “You Can’t Make This Up.” It was such a revelation that Michaels said his own daughter didn’t know he called Bruins basketball games until she read the book.

No. 8: Lawler’s Law Doesn’t Cover This:
polaroid_rlawlerRalph Lawler, the Clippers’ spry 76-year-old play-by-play voice who’ll eventually have his microphone hanging from the Staples Center rafters before any Clippers jersey gets there, called in sick earlier this month. From a guy who wouldn’t let prostate cancer get in the way during his 36-season career. A kidney stone procedure interrupted his plans for a Clippers-Pelicans game. It had been bothering him a few weeks before, but he plowed ahead anyway with medication and fastening his seat belt. It’s a tribute to his perseverance and tolerance for pain, likely built up over years of covering the team.


No. 9: Eisen, His Own Show? Uhhh:
richeisenDirecTV offered up a studio for the lead voice of the Culver City-based NFL Network to hold his own three-hour morning program, simulcast on Fox Sports Radio. The local affiliate, KLAC, hasn’t thought enough of it to add the thing to its lineup. Frankly, we haven’t thought enough of it to include it on an extended DVR programming after “The Dan Patrick Show” lead-in. We get enough of Eisen’s smarminess when he appears weekly on Patrick’s show as it is.

No. 10: Crawford Goes Off For 17:
ESPN reporter Lisa Salters stopped Clippers guard Jamal Crawford for an interview at halftime of a game against OKC in February, and said she heard he could recite the name of every NBA coach he has ever played for – 17 of ‘em. And on live TV, he did it, from Tim Floyd to Doc Rivers.’s Matt Yoder included it in his piece for’s 2014 national year in review, under “Best Moment” in an interview.

That’s good enough for us.
Notice how that last sentence got it all done in five words? Probably sums up our #2014LASportsMedia, with whatever set of thumbs you choose to type with.

What else we could have included in our 2014 L.A. media in review, but will leave here under these categories:

== Best ESPN pin to the mat: Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0,” from its Santa Monica studios, responding to how the network stole his “web redemption” segment (as we again provide the inspired video):


== Next local reporter to go national: Alex Curry. Her Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket work, especially on the Kings magazine show, give her a major platform for possibly bigger things.

== Next national reporter to go local: L.A.-based Fox Sports continues to promote Erin Andrews, giving her Pam Oliver’s top NFL sideline spot this year (really, based on her Richard Sherman moment?) and including her on some of the most awkward situations  from the World Series post-game interviews. And her ongoing relationship with the Kings’ Jarret Stoll meant we had to keep seeing her pop up in all kinds of Stanley Cup-related celebration photos.

== Most amusing out-of-town L.A.-related story: The New York Post decided that, during the Stanley Cup Final when their Rangers played the Kings, not enough New Yorkers knew about the L.A. roster. So they printed this with all the “fun facts” they could find.

== Most pleasant re-connection: With the Kings now on KABC-AM (790) often keeping the radio dial on the station the next morning, we’ve caught former Channel 7 sports anchor Todd Donoho delivering the sports reports on the weekday “McIntyre in the Morning Show.” Donoho moved from Valencia to Columbia, Missouri about 10 years ago and kept a lifeline with the former “Mark & Brian” show. He also continues to do the 7:30 a.m. sports on the “Heidi and Frank Show” on KLOS. “I can’t believe it has been that long since I moved from Southern California,” Donoho said in a recent email. “Time flies. The other morning Heidi said she was 8 years old when I started at KLOS (in 1988). She sure knows how to make a guy feel old!”

== Most noteworthy disconnection: Rich Marotta ended a 34-year on So Cal radio, including the last 21-plus on KFI-AM (640) Bill Handel’s morning show, in September. “The KFI job has been a fantastic experience, but now I’m going to get some sleep,” Marotta said.

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Play It Forward Dec. 22-28 on your sports calendar: It wouldn’t be Christmas without Kobe, Clippers … and a USC bowl game days later


The Clippers' Blake Griffin (center) and the Warriors' Andrew Bogut (right) are the focus of a push-and-shove match during their Christmas Day game in 2013. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

The Clippers’ Blake Griffin (center) and the Warriors’ Andrew Bogut (right) are the focus of a push-and-shove match during their Christmas Day game in 2013. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

Details/TV: Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT
Details/TV: Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT:
Our grand plan for Christmas Day afternoon was to head over to the multiplex and stake out a prime seat for a screening of “Unbroken,” and then sneak over to see “The Interview” afterward. Apparently something Dennis Rodman did messed this all up. So now our doubleheader due-diligence revolves around parking in front of our new 70-inch flat-screen (that’s a hint to Santa) and bearing witness this Lakers-Clippers back-to-back TNT display, curious to see who comes out less unbroken by the time there are post-game interviews. The Lakers’ regular spot in this holiday lineup seems to be less about Kobe Bryant vs. Derrick Rose (because there’s no guaranteeing the later will show), but more about Pau Gasol’s first game against his old team.
IMG_2184The special NBA jerseys issued for this day may help Gasol remember who he left behind – they have the players’ first name on the back and a simple team logo above the number on the front. That kind of dress code probably won’t be helpful in the Clippers-Warriors game when the refs start ejecting players. In what promises to be the most contentious contest of the five jammed into this day, we just have to go back a year ago when, in Oakland, Blake Griffin was banished after he got into a tiff with Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ center battling a knee injury and missing games. Remember: During the Clippers’ seven-game first-round playoff series win over the Warriors last year, there was plenty more battles taking place. And considering these Warriors have jumped out to the best record in the league to date, this could be where the Clippers test to see if their spirit is unbroken.|
Also on this day:
Washington at New York, 9 a.m., ESPN
Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 10:30 a.m., Channel 7
Cleveland at Miami, 2 p.m., Channel 7
The Clippers’ week also includes stops at San Antonio (Monday, 5:30 p.m.) and at Atlanta (Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.) before coming home; The Lakers have home games against Golden State (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.) and Phoenix (Sunday, 6:30 p.m.) as well as one at Dallas (Friday, 5:30 p.m.)


The NFL says Week 17 is the last one of the regular season, and the Chargers setill need some help in defeating Kansas City (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2)… USC’s Holiday Bowl appearance against Nebraska should draw a crowd on Saturday in San Diego (5 p.m., ESPN) … The Kings have another version of “Shark Week” with San Jose back at home (Saturday, 7 p.m., NBCSN) …  UCLA basketball finishes the non-conference schedule with a game at Alabama (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU), while Cal State Northridge goes to Louisville (Tuesday, 4 p.m., ESPNU) and Long Beach State is at St. John’s (Monday, 4:30 p.m., CBS SportsNet) and at Syracuse (Sunday, 11 a.m., ESPNU) …. The link to the rest of it is here.

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It’s Out of the Question: When does the NHL finally quarantine its fans from this puckish mumps pandemic?

Is Penguins star Sidney Crosby looking a little 'mump-ish'? Take a number.

Is Penguins star Sidney Crosby looking a little ‘mump-ish’? Take a number.

After going through her extensive shoe box of family records, Mom says there’s no evidence that I’ve ever had a vaccination for the mumps.

“Your sister had them on both sides in 1969, and your brother had them on one side in 1969,” she added in her text. “I do recall taking you all to the doctor for a gamma globulin to boost against infection.”

4829-31FrIf my memory is correct, Gamma Globulin was a nickname that Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke once tried to force on goalie Denis DeJordy before giving up and trading him to Montreal for Rogie Vachon in the early ‘70s.

Long before the Not-So-Great NHL Mumps Outbreak of 2014.

So far, no one at the Centers for Disease Control or The Gary Bettman Triage for Health, Education and Warfare has any good guesses as to what’s causing a puck-driven pandemic. More disconcerting is why there isn’t any kind of local or government action to warn patrons who attend games that they could be walking into a Staples Center Chernobyl if they’ve lax on their annual booster shots.

Is there another doctor in the house who isn’t named Doc Rivers?

Continue reading “It’s Out of the Question: When does the NHL finally quarantine its fans from this puckish mumps pandemic?” »

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