Pearce hits slam to sink Angels

TORONTO – Angels closer Bud Norris gave up a walk-off grand slam to Blue Jays left fielder Steve Pearce in the bottom of the ninth inning, squandering a six-run lead and cementing an 11-10 loss to Toronto on Sunday afternoon at a sold-out Rogers Centre.

For Norris, it was the second time in a week that someone hit a grand slam to win a game against his pitching.Cleveland Indians first baseman did it on Tuesday in the 11th inning of a tie game.

“Can’t sum it up yet,” Norris said when asked how difficult this week has been for him. “It’s humbling. It’s something to really learn from. A lot’s been going on in my head and everything else, but in the heat of the moment, I have to stay focused on what I can control, and that’s one pitch at a time. I made some really good pitches, I made some bad pitches, and the one I didn’t make tonight really got punished.”

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Griffin wastes no time

LOS ANGELES – With the start of the NBA free agency period looming late last month, Blake Griffin had every intention of testing the market.

He opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers – making him an unrestricted free agent – and scheduled meetings with the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the Clippers. Griffin met with his incumbent team first, and after hearing what owner Steve Ballmer, head coach Doc Rivers and vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank had to say, he didn’t need to hear any more.

Griffin cancelled his meetings with Denver and Phoenix, and committed to signing a five-year, $175 million max contract with the Clippers – all before the official start of free agency on July 1.

“In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me,” Griffin said Wednesday during a press conference. “This was the best place for me, and this is the place I want to start and finish my career.”

Rivers appreciated that Griffin made his decision so quickly. He said Griffin committing allowed the Clippers to make other roster moves. They ended up signing Milos Teodosic from Europe and trading for Danilo Gallinari.

Rivers said by signing, Griffin’s message to the team was, “I wanna be a Clipper,” which meant worlds to him and the rest of the organization.

“This organization hasn’t had that,” Rivers said. “The fact that we have that now, that messaging is huge for us.”

Griffin’s signing came on the heels of the team introducing four players from the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and brought back a package of Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. Griffin said he spoke to Paul the day the trade happened, and both wished each other well.

“No hard feelings,” Griffin said of how he felt about Paul’s departure. “I think we’re all professional enough to know and we all have been in this situation now to know that sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself and your family. I’ve never had a hard feeling with any of my teammates who have decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave, so I wouldn’t start now.”

Well wishes aside, Paul’s departure meant for many that the Clippers were incapable of winning a championship as previously constructed. Griffin scoffed at the notion that Paul leaving will motivate him more to lead Los Angeles to a title.

“I don’t need any extra motivation to win a championship,” Griffin said. “Nobody’s words or anything can motivate me any more than I’m already motivated.”

Griffin will now be expected to function as the focal point of the offense, which Rivers said will feature more ball movement now that Paul is gone. Griffin said he likes the speed, size and versatility of the new roster.

“I think we went out and put together probably the best roster we could and got the guys that we need in certain positions – guys that are very, very versatile, guys that impact the game on both ends of the floor in several different ways,” Griffin said. “That, to me, is extremely exciting. The more versatility we have, the harder you are to guard. Like Doc said, I think that’s the recipe for winning in today’s NBA.”

INJURY UPDATE

Griffin’s injury to the plantar plate in his right toe is progressing, he said, and his rehabilitation has allowed him to do more than he previously thought he could.

Griffin said he met with “probably five different foot specialists” before having surgery. The consensus was that he should be ready before the regular season begins.

“I expect to be ready to go by training camp,” said Griffin, who sustained the injury in last year’s playoffs. “Within the next few weeks here, I’ll be able to get on the court and ramp up things there. It’s been nice to be on the court just doing ball handling and free throws and stuff like that, but it’s just taking it week by week, really.”

Lakers add some muscle to lineup

EL SEGUNDO – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope seemed destined to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations for the Lakers, first learned about Caldwell-Pope on a recommendation from his father, Earvin Sr. Caldwell-Pope was Johnson’s father’s favorite Detroit Pistons player, and Johnson repeatedly received calls from his dad saying he had to watch Caldwell-Pope play.

So when Caldwell-Pope became a free agent in the offseason, Magic and Lakers general manager took a hard look at him. Last week, the Lakers signed him to a one-year, $18 million contract.

“The two of us could not taylor-stitch more of a perfect two-guard,” Lakers general manager Pelinka said of Caldwell-Pope on Tuesday during an introductory press conference. “He has a mentality that is consistent with what Magic brought to the table, what Kobe Bryant brought to the table. KCP is about winning and he’s about playing the game the right way.”

Caldwell-Pope sent four seasons with the Pistons. Earlier this month, Detroit renounced its rights to Caldwell-Pope, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Sometime later, Rich Paul, Caldwell-Pope’s agent, contacted Johnson and Pelinka and expressed his client’s interest in signing a one-year deal with the Lakers. Johnson said it took one day to finalize the transaction, and that others have called the signing of Caldwell-Pope “a steal.”

“We never thought we’d have an opportunity,” Johnson said. “But we’re so happy. And my dad is happy.”

Caldwell-Pope averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists with the Pistons, and was known for being a two-way player. It was his abilities at both sides of the court that had the Lakers interested, but Johnson also liked his toughness.

“I wanted somebody mean and tough that we can count on to get that big stop for us, fourth quarter, shut somebody down,” Johnson said.

Johnson also spoke to the style of play he wants to see from the Lakers, and said Caldwell-Pope fits the team’s desire to “run, run, run, run, run.” Caldwell-Pope agreed.

“I think that’s part of my game – just running the wing, defending,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I’m good for running. I run every day. That’s me. I like to run. When you get the rebound, I’m already gone down the court. When we get a stop, I’m gone. So I’m just so excited to get ready for this season.”

Caldwell-Pope averaged 33.3 minutes per game last season, per basketball-reference.com. Pelinka said he envisions Caldwell-Pope getting significant playing time due to his versatility.

“I think (Lakers head coach) Luke Walton has a vision for positionless basketball,” Pelinka said. “So not only is he going to play a lot of minutes, but he’s gonna play a lot of minutes at different positions and do different things.”

While Caldwell-Pope is only 24 years old, he’s entering his fifth season in the NBA, making him one of the players with the most experience on the team. He said he wants to bring leadership to the Lakers.

“Just try to get the guys’ motor going (and) try to get them going in different ways,” Caldwell-Pope said.

Johnson said Caldwell-Pope has already proven himself in he NBA as a member of the Pistons, and that could positively influence the younger players on the Lakers.

“We wanted somebody who could be the example to the others guys,” Johnson said. “So he’s one of those guys.”

Since his arrival in Los Angeles, Caldwell-Pope has worked with some of the team’s coaches, Pelinka said. Caldwell-Pope seemed eager to start working with his new teammates.

“I feel like I bring a lot to the table,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I play both sides of the ball. I’m ready to get to it.”

New Clippers make their point

PLAYA VISTA – Patrick Beverley made it very clear.

“I’m going to go ahead and get his out the way because I’m going to be asked this a lot this year: I am not Chris Paul,” Beverly said Tuesday at an introductory press conference for the Los Angeles Clippers. “I reiterate: I am not Chris Paul. In saying that, he is not me either.”

The Clippers introduced six of their new players in a press conference at their practice facility. Four of those players – Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell – came in the deal that sent Paul to the Houston Rockets. The other two players introduced were rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell.

Los Angeles traded Paul last month, and has faced questions about how the new look of the team will function now that the face of the franchise, the emotional leader and the fulcrum of the offense is gone. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the team’s style will be predicated on ball movement, which he has preached at other coaching stops.

“If you look at my work historically, we were more of a ball-movement, cut and pass-the-ball team,” Rivers said. “That’s what we’re gonna get back to doing.”

Beverley said playing under coach Mike D’Antoni in Houston will help the new Clippers to play the style Rivers wants.

“Playing under D’Antoni was a blessing. Playing under James (Harden) is a blessing,” Beverley said. “All the mileage and IQ that I learned there, I’m very fortunate to be able to bring it here.”

In Houston, Beverley was asked to play more of a defensive role. Lawrence Frank, executive vice president of basketball operations, called Beverley and “instigator” and “agitator” on the court, but also mentioned his talent.

“It seems like every time the bar is raised, he meets it,” Frank said of Beverley.

Dekker, who was drafted No. 18 by Houston in 2015, said Beverley will have no problems handling any pressure he might face from essentially replacing Paul in the lineup.

“Pat’s gonna be fine,” Dekker said. “Chris is great, but Pat’s also a very good player and he’s got his skill set and his tools he’s gonna bring to the table. He’s a prideful guy. He wants to show that he can win games here, too, and help a good team out.”

Williams said there will be “no adjustment,” for the team because the new Clippers players never played with Paul.

“We don’t really care what happened before,” Williams said. “We never played with him. We’re not part of that history with the Clippers. We have the opportunity to come in with a clean slate and see how they build this team out in training camp and we’ll go from there.”

Beverley said the team’s transition period won’t be as difficult because it has “a chip on its shoulder.”

“Of course, we’re counted out. I’ve been used to that,” Beverley said. “Like I keep telling everybody, it won’t be easy. It’s gonna be extremely hard. Winning in this league is extremely hard. But I think with the group of guys that we have, from the bottom to the top, that everyone wants to win and wants to win the right way. That’s the biggest key in this league.”

But when asked what the ceiling of this iteration of the Clippers could be, Beverley said he didn’t know.

“I’ll let you know at the end of the season,” Beverley said.

HOMECOMING

Williams is returning to Los Angeles after playing with the Lakers for part of last season. The Lakers traded him to Houston in February in exchange for Corey Brewer.

Williams was only in Houston for a few months, but said all of his things were still there. He sold his home in Los Angeles and moved his family to Houston.

“I shouldn’t have moved,” Williams said. “I should’ve kept my place a couple months longer and stayed patient, but I didn’t. All my stuff is in Houston, so I gotta get it right back.”

But Williams managed to find a place in Marina Del Rey around where he lived previously.

Williams said he feels the Clippers signed him to fill the role left vacant by Jamal Crawford signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency this offseason. Crawford won two Sixth Man of the Year awards with the Clippers.

Williams also said he’s looking forward to playing for Rivers.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing for coaches that have played the game, that understands scheduling, understands how the body works and understands how to get the most of out his players,” Williams said.

A time to heal

LANCASTER – Going into her senior year, Lancaster High School graduate Emily Moreno went about just like many other high school students. She attended classes, spent time with her friends, watched football games and played libero on the girls volleyball team.

But just weeks after her final year of high school started, Moreno’s life changed. She said problems at home affected her to the point that she chose to move out.

That decision forced her to grow up faster than she would’ve liked, Moreno said.

“I kinda relied on myself,” Moreno said. “I pretty much took care of myself. … I kind of felt like I was pretty much an adult already my senior year. I feel like I’m grown up, so I am pretty independent on my own.”

But the experience of fending for herself – an experience that lasted the better part of seven months – allowed Moreno to make the biggest decision of her life to date.

Rather than go the conventional route of attending a four-year university after high school, Moreno chose to join the Army as a combat medic. Before she chose to help heal soldiers injured in combat, she had to fight to heal herself.

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JetHawks get past Storm

LANCASTER – The Lancaster JetHawks stole Tuesday night’s game in every way possible.

The JetHawks, in front of a sold-out crowd, gave up four straight runs to start the game, and trailed by five in the top of the second. It was the second night in a row the JetHawks trailed by five runs in a game.

But Lancaster overcame the early deficit and beat the Lake Elsinore Storm 10-9 on a Fourth of July Fireworks Night at The Hangar. It was the fourth game this season the JetHawks won when trailing by at least five runs.

“It was a good game because obviously we got down big early in the game,” JetHawks manager Freddy Ocasio said. “The guys, they never gave up. They battled, and we were able to get a win.”

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Dodgers start new streaks

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers lost three streaks Monday night against the Angels. The very next day, however, they started them back up again.

Center fielder Joc Pederson hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to help the Los Angeles Dodgers even the Freeway Series on Tuesday night with a 4-0 shutout over the L.A. Angels.

On Monday, the Angels broke the Dodgers’ 10-game overall winning streak, their 11-game home winning streak, and 17-game home run streak.

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