SPORTS DIGEST: Games Will Resume, But Some Players Will Be Missing

These are different times we are living in.

After virtually no sports for almost four months due to the coronavirus, most of the sports leagues in this country are starting to gear back up.

The Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club are back in Florida ready to resume the Major League Soccer season with a tournament format.

The Dodgers began summer workouts last week at Dodger Stadium, preparing for their July 23 season opener against the San Francisco Giants.

And the Lakers and Clippers have ramped up preparations before flying to Florida to live in a bubble and play basketball for possibly as long as three months.

When the games resume, there will be no spectators in the audience. The players will be playing without the adulation and cheering they are used to, But spectators won’t be the only people missing. Some of the players will be missing as well.

Carlos Vela, the star of LAFC, has announced he will skip the league’s tournament in Orlando because his wife is pregnant with the couple’s second child and is going through what Vela called a “risky pregnancy.”

The Lakers’ Avery Bradley announced that he would skip the rest of the season because he has a son with a respiratory condition that could worsen if he contracted the coronavirus. Bradley doesn’t want to bring the disease home to his son so he his staying home.

The Dodgers’ David Price, one of the team’s primary off-season acquisitions, decided he would skip the shortened season this year and stay home with his family.

The Angels’ Mike Trout, generally considered the best player in baseball, is still deciding whether he wants to play a 60-game season or stay home with his pregnant wife.

Other players throughout the country are making similar decisions, possibly forgoing a paycheck for safety and peace of mind. Granted, these athletes are well paid and can afford to sit out a portion of a season.

And, so far, there has been no backlash from the front office or other teammates.

Bradley is a key player in the Lakers’ rotation. He generally guards the top guard or forward for the opposing team, can hit an open jumper when defenders sag toward LeBron James or Anthony Davis and also provides a fire and energy that all good teams need.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and the recently added J.R. Smith will assume his minutes but will be hard-pressed to replace what Bradley brings the team.

Vela will be the biggest hole to fill for a local team. LAFC was expected to contend for the MLS Tournament title with Vela, who scored a league record 34 goals last year. His absence leaves a huge hole in the team’s offense.

The Dodgers will have an easier time filling the hole Price will leave in the starting rotation. Julio Urias simply moves up from the fourth starter to the third and Ross Stripling, Alex Wood and Dustin May will fight for the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation.

We still don’t know if these sports leagues can pull off resuming play amidst the coronavirus. There are many people who think all sports should shut down for the rest of the year and see what 2021 will bring.

Those of us who miss sports are anxious to see the games resume. We can only stand watching replays of past game for so long.

But the health of players and their families should be of some concern, also. You have to tip your cap to these players who have things in the proper perspective.

SCHEDULE SET: The Dodgers open the 2020 baseball season in two weeks, hosting the San Francisco Giants July 23 at 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. The game will be the second game of the season.

The Yankees will play the defending world champion Washington Nationals at 4 p.m. that day. Both games will be carried as a doubleheader on ESPN.

The Dodgers will play 10 games each against the Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies — the rest of the National League West — and four games each against the Angels, the Oakland A’s, the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, the five teams in the American League West.

The Dodgers will only travel as far away as Houston until the postseason. And the Houston series follows the opening series against the Giants.

The Dodgers main opponent this year will be complacency and the short season. The Dodgers have won seven consecutive National League Western Division titles and are happily favored to make it eight in a row. They swept through the division last year, winning a franchise record 106 games. They were 41-19 after 60 games last year.

But in some recent years, the Dodgers have struggled at the start of the season and were hovering around .500 after 60 games.

The bullpen continues to be a question mark, especially since Kenlay Jansen and Pedro Baez haven’t reported to training camp yet.

The Dodgers have the deepest starting rotation in the Major Leagues, even without Price. And they can hit with the best teams. The National League using the designated hitter in this shortened season just makes the Dodgers lineup deeper.

Pencil them in the playoffs. But, as last year proved, anything can happen in the playoffs.

TIMES CHANGE: Remember when Lakers fans disliked Dwight Howard? What a difference a second chance makes.

Howard was traded to the Lakers before the 2012-13 season by the Orlando Magic in hopes of teaming with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to bring the Lakers another title.  But Nash was hurt and Howard and Bryant didn’t mesh very well.

Howard went from averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds a game with the Magic to 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds with the Lakers and when the season ended he signed a three-year free agent contract with the Houston Rockets, spurning the Lakers and angering fans.

After three-years with the Rockets he went to Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington, before resigning with the Lakers last fall.

Playing with James and coming off the bench behind Javale McGee, Howard was averaging 19 minutes a game, scoring 7.5 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds a game. He showed signs of being the NBA Defensive Player of the Year that he used to be and was a key part of the Lakers rotation.

There were rumors that, like Avery Bradley, Howard was going to skip the rest of the season, but he announced this week he would play when basketball resumes at the end of the month.

The Lakers will need him if they are to continue their quest for the franchise’s 17th NBA title.

SAD NOTE: The sports journalism community of Los Angeles lost one of its pillars this week when Brad Pye died July 5 at his home. He was 89.

Pye served as the sports director for four Black radio stations — KGFJ, KJLH, KACE and KDAY — for 21 years. He was the sports editor at the Los Angeles Sentinel for 30 years.

He used his platform to promote both Black athletes and Black sports writers. He helped integrate the press box at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

He worked in the public relations department of the Los Angeles Angels in 1961, becoming the first Black to work in that capacity for a Major League team. He later worked for the Raiders.

In 2015, the city of Los Angeles named the gymnasium at Saint Andrews Recreation Center the Brad Pye Jr. Athletic Center.

Pye is survived by four daughters, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.