BASKETBALL

No. 4 San Diego St still unbeaten after rout of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — It didn’t take San Diego State long to put away New Mexico and remain undefeated.
KJ Feagin scored 18 points and the No. 4 Aztecs scored the first 17 points of the game to rout undermanned New Mexico 85-57 on Wednesday night.
San Diego State (22-0, 11-0 Mountain West) made seven of its first nine shots, including three 3-pointers, to blow the game open early. The Lobos missed their first seven shots and also turned it over twice in that span. The lead never dropped below 12 points thereafter and the Aztecs continued their perfect season.
Malachi Flynn added 12 points with six assists and was the key to the game.
“We played the right way and we were rewarded for it,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “Malachi was a perfect example of it. He could have run out here and scored 20 or 30 points but he didn’t care. He just moved the ball. He played effortless basketball. He set the tone.”
Nothing New Mexico (16-7, 5-5) did early could slow down the Aztecs.
“I thought that opening three minutes by San Diego State was the most impressive three minutes I’ve ever gone up against another team in my four years as a head coach,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “They came out laser focused, not missing.”
New Mexico, which lost at home for the first time this season, was missing four starters from the beginning of the season – two to suspensions, one because he was dismissed and another for an injury.
The latest was leading scorer JaQuan Lyle, who already had just missed two games because of an injury. He was suspended Wednesday for two games after he was host to a party Saturday in which two people were shot, suffering non-life-threatening wounds.
Playing so shorthanded meant everything had to go right for New Mexico.
But nothing did.

Lakers return to practice amid grief over Bryant’s death

EL SEGUNDO (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers ended practice with a few somber, almost plaintive laughs. As they left the court, they all passed under the oversized 8 and 24 outlined in white on the black wall above the door to their locker room.
Anthony Davis and several other Lakers paused and looked up at Kobe Bryant’s two retired numbers for a moment before they moved forward.
The Lakers are still grieving and mourning Bryant’s death Sunday in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. Los Angeles’ players and coaches returned to work Wednesday at their training complex with a determination to keep Bryant and the victims in their thoughts while getting on with the business of basketball and life.
“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”
Vogel, who joined the Lakers eight months ago, was the only person to speak to the media after the workout. The loss apparently was still too raw for the players, including superstars LeBron James and Davis, who played in the Olympics with Bryant.
Although Bryant retired in 2016, he is still enormously important to his franchise and his sport. Ever since the Lakers drafted the 17-year-old guard from suburban Philadelphia in 1996, Bryant had been a face of this franchise and a basketball-mad city while he became a five-time NBA champion and his team’s career leader in points and games played.
The current Lakers are still grappling with the loss while they prepare for their next game Friday night at Staples Center against Portland.
“We’ve become a family in a very short time,” Vogel said of the Lakers’ roster, which features only one player who suited up with Bryant. “It’s something that we talk about in the NBA with your teams, but this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly, and we understand the importance and the opportunity we have this year. This has just brought us closer together.”

Kobe on Clippers’ minds as they return to practice

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since Kobe Bryant’s death, many still numb and struggling to comprehend his sudden loss.
The scoreboard at their training facility posted Bryant’s jersey numbers with the rival Lakers — 8 and 24. There was none of the usual joking and hollering that marks the end of most practices.
“It doesn’t seem real,” Leonard said. “It seems like you’re in a movie or something. It’s still surreal to me.”
Leonard, who lives near Staples Center, has witnessed the city’s daily outpouring of affection for Bryant at the plaza across from the arena. Adults and children wearing Bryant jerseys, shoes and T-shirts, pets being toted to view the candles and handwritten tributes.
“It’s sad every day,” Leonard said.
Lou Williams said, “I cried myself to sleep last night.”
The Clippers host Sacramento on Thursday night in their second game since Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash Sunday. They won at Orlando hours after learning of the accident that also took the lives of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
“Near the end of the game Kawhi told the team, ‘Hey listen, Kobe was a winner. We’re not losing tonight,'” coach Doc Rivers recalled. “That kind of got us through the night.”

HOCKEY

Stamkos, Lightning beat Kings 4-2 in somber Staples Center

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings all came to work wearing Kobe Bryant’s jersey. Two stalls in their dressing room held a uniform and a nameplate for the former Lakers superstar.
When the puck dropped on the first sporting event at Staples Center since Bryant’s death, the Tampa Bay Lightning proudly joined their opponents in wearing helmet stickers with “Kobe” and “Gigi” superimposed on a gold heart.
A painful week in Los Angeles continued with two hockey teams paying heartfelt tributes to an athlete who inspired reverence and awe that crossed all borders. Even those between sports.
Steven Stamkos had two goals and an assist, and Eric Cernak scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period of the Lightning’s 4-2 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night.
Staples Center held a somber pregame ceremony honoring Bryant and the other eight victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash. Bryant’s two retired jersey numbers hang high on the walls of the building, which was his home for the final 17 years of his two-decade career.
“It certainly wasn’t easy,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said of the ceremony. “Even though you know it’s coming, you still get choked up, obviously. The stature of Kobe, not just in this building, but literally all over the world, it’s going to sting for a while. … We’re trying to obviously show appreciation and respect to Mamba before the game, and that’s about it. You still get choked up, really. At least I did.”

BASEBALL

Dusty Baker replaces AJ Hinch as Houston Astros manager

HOUSTON (AP) — Dusty Baker has been hired to replace AJ Hinch as the manager of the Houston Astros.
The team announced the hiring on Wednesday and said Baker will be introduced in Houston on Thursday.
The 70-year-old became the oldest manager in the big leagues. Hinch was fired Jan. 13 just an hour after he was suspended for the season by Major League Baseball for his role in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal.
“Throughout his successful career, Dusty has embodied the qualities that we were looking for in a manager,” Astros owner Jim Crane said in a statement. “He’s a winner, and more importantly, a strong leader who has earned the respect of not only his players, but of virtually everyone that he has touched in baseball. We’re extremely excited to name Dusty as the new leader of our ballclub.”
Baker’s hiring was a sign the AL champions wanted to add a veteran presence to a franchise reeling from the dismissal of Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Baker has 22 years of managerial experience, starting in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants.
A three-time National League Manager of the Year, Baker last managed the Washington Nationals, who let him go after a 97-65 season in 2017.
“I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity,” Baker said. “This is a great ballclub with outstanding players that know how to win. I applaud Jim Crane for the leadership he has shown in recent weeks and look forward to working with him and the players to bring a championship to the city of Houston.”

TENNIS

Coco Gauff to play Indian Wells for 1st time in March

INDIAN WELLS (AP) — Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old rising American star, will make her first appearance at the BNP Paribas Open, joining all the top 75-ranked men’s and women’s players in the world.
Gauff reached the fourth round at the Australian Open last week. Last year, she made the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at the U.S. Open.
Nine former champions are among the field for the tournament that runs March 9-22 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Last year’s winners were Dominic Thiem and Bianca Andreescu. Other former winners are Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.
Current women’s world No. 1 Ash Barty is also in the field announced Wednesday.
The remaining spots in the draws will be filled by the winners of the qualifying tournament in March, the top two American women and men with the most points in the Oracle Challenger Series, and wild cards to be announced.