Play it forward: March 1-7 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:



NBA: Clippers vs. Utah, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:

NBC Olympics, gone. Jay Leno, back. No more 10 p.m. hole. But something we feel comfortable in making a guarantee for tonight’s 11:35 p.m. return: At least one Clipper joke during his first opening monologue.


NBA: Lakers vs. Indiana, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

“Sometimes the best moves are no moves at all,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said after the trading deadline came and went without Indiana, or GM Larry Bird, making any moves. “If you’re looking at putting some free agents two years from now into this basketball team with Danny (Granger) two years out, Roy (Hibbert), Brandon (Rush), A.J. (Price), guys like that, then you have to be disciplined in what your doing. You have to make sure, if you make a move, that it’s best for the team.” What’s best for this team now is not to play the Lakers at this point in the season.

NHL: Kings at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:

Can the Kings (37-20), winners in 12 of their last 14, reclaim the momentum they had in the post-Olympic break? There are 20 games left in the regular season for them, starting against a Stars’ team currently ninth in the Western Conference.



NBA: Clippers vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:

Forget the fact that the Suns squashed the Kaman-ejected Clips the other night. Did you see this in the Wall Street Journal recently: A study designed for the business publication by, an Internet sports database, looked at NBA teams’ attendance for the past 10 seasons. It then weighed certain factors like city population, arena capacity, prior winning percentage and whether there are other competing teams in the same market. By those measures, Clippers fans are the most devoted. In the whole league. The Lakers fans came in sixth. WSJ also figured out: “One wild card that Lakers supporters can point to: Sometimes, Lakers fans buy Clippers tickets simply because they’re cheap by comparison.”


College basketball: USC at Arizona State, 5:30 p.m., FSW; UCLA at Arizona, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who had laser surgery to repair a slightly torn retina in his left eye, will try out some new James Worthy-type goggles upon his return. Enough time to break ’em in before March Madness kicks in?

NBA: Lakers at Miami, 5 p.m, TNT, Channel 9:

Your Miami Heat, a .500 team with an Olympian point guard who may or may not be around much longer.

NBA: Kings at Nashville, 5 p.m., FSW:

The Kings went 0-3-1 against the Predators last season, including 0-2 at Staples Center, and are already 0-1 against them this season.


Exhibition baseball: Angels vs. Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., 2 p.m., FSW (replayed at 7:30 p.m.):

We accept practice baseball games from Arizona, and perhaps the first televised sighting of Godzilla in a Halo uniform. After this, the Angels also play the Rockies on Friday (noon, FSW, replayed at 10 p.m.) and Oakland on Sunday (noon, FSW, replayed at 7:30 and 10 p.m.)


Golf: PGA Champions Tour: Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, first round, Golf Channel, 3:30 p.m.:

Older gentlemen going around the local golf course, with someone named Eduardo Romero as your defending champion. With a man-purse of $1.7 to split up. The field of 80 includes Tom Watson, Bernard Langer and Fred Couples. Got goosebumps yet?

NBA: Lakers at Charlotte, 4 p.m., Channel 9:

Perhaps by the time the Lakers get to the N.C., these Bobcats will officially be in Michael Jordan’s grubby little hands. Commissioner David Stern is supposed to approve the transfer of ownership by the end of this month. Can’t do it sooner? Last meeting: Feb. 3, Kobe was 2-for-12 shooting (5 total points) in a two-point victory, where Lamar Odom scored 19 off the bench.


NBA: Clippers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:

They’re referring to Kevin Durant as “Duranchela?” Scary.


Horse racing: $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap:

Among the 31 early entries (narrowed to 14): Dry Martini, Cigar Man, Mr. Big, Rendezvous, Hold Me Back and Delightful Kiss. Oh, and Tiger’s Rock. But we’re hoping a Baffert horse, Misremembered, gets in. Remember, Roger Clemens… The 4-year-old will be making his second start of the year and has three runner-up finishes in his last three starts, including the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita a couple of weeks ago, where he blew a clear victory. For those who don’t remember.

Exhibition baseball: Dodgers vs. Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., 1 p.m., Prime Ticket:

“Batting third, the designated hitter, No. 99, Manny ….” He’s in the shower.


Special: “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals,” HBO, 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.:

An hour-long documentary on the relationship between the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and the Celtics’ Larry Bird — starting with their meeting in the 1979 NCAA Finals and taking them through their NBA careers, launches on HBO. “Larry Bird and ‘Magic’ Johnson are basketball royalty,” says HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg. “Their accomplishments speak for themselves at every level, but their intersecting back stories are just as rich and compelling as their championship performances. We will tell their full life stories and provide an in-depth portrait of their complicated and historic bond.” Guests interviewed include Pat Riley, Kevin McHale, Michael Cooper, Bryant Gumbel and Arsenio Hall.

College basketball: USC at Arizona, 10:30 a.m.; UCLA at Arizona State, 1 p.m., Channel 2:

Just like that, the Trojans end their season. Today. No Pac-10 tournament. No NCAA shot. Just a long wave goodbye since the regular schedule is done. Meanwhile, the Bruins get some national attention before the Pac-10 tournament starts next week.

NHL: Kings vs. Montreal, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:

At the beginning of February, each Kings player decided to donate $200 per win to the American Red Cross relief operation in Haiti — up to $4,800 per win — with the Kings Care Foundation matching each contribution. With the four wins last month, the Kings will be making a $40,000 donation to the American Red Cross during today’s game.

NBA: Clippers at Utah, 6 p.m., Prime Ticket:

You’re only allowed to play the Jazz twice in one week.



NBA: Lakers at Orlando, 11:30 a.m., Channel 7:

Magic point guard Jameer Nelson has seen too much Lakers-Cavs NBA Finals talk. After all, who’s the defending Eastern Conference champion? “You look at the commercials now, and you’d think Cleveland and the Lakers already were in the championship [series]. I guess that’s what the fans want to see,” Nelson said last week after his Magic beat the Cavs, 101-95. “But I think we’re here to spoil it for the fans.” TNT got the first rematch of last year’s NBA Final. ABC has the second, and last, meeting before the Magic go poof into the night. Back on Jan. 18 at Staples Center, Shannon Brown scored 22 off the bench in 21 minutes (while Kobe added 11 in 41 minutes) during the Lakers’ six-point victory.

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More Q-and-A with Jerry West author Roland Lazenby


Continuing from today’s “Off the Wall” column, with Roland Lazenby, who has authored a biography of Jerry West (linked here):


Q: With Jerry West planning his own autobiography later this year, can see how that book and your book would complement each other rather than compete?
A: Jerry is a very smart man, and in talking to me and choosing to do it this way, I think it’s the best possible way for him to discuss his life in detail.

Q: Some of the pre-book release publicity centered on an excerpt taken from the last chapter, a part where Jerry, as the Lakers general manager, admits to protecting the image of the players in the 1980s and ’90s, revelations of players like Magic Johnson having sex with women in the Lakers’ locker room after games and before going out to talk to the media. Did that distract much from what this book is really about?

A: This book really is a serious effort, and those who have reviewed it have noted that. So I’m not too concerned. Like anyone else, I don’t want something things in a different direction from how I intended. For people who have read the book, they’ve said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what this book is about.’ Everyone in Los Angeles is fairly familiar with the painful events that happened in 1991, when Magic announced his was HIV positive. This book is really aimed at the playing career of Jerry West and his efforts to beat the Boston Celtics, which finally happened in 1985. (The publishers) asked me to add a chapter on Jerry’s afterlife as a general manager, so I did that, but I really had to summarize a lot of things. I did a book on the Lakers 17 years ago, so I took a lot of information from that. Then a columnist in Milwaukee seized on that information. And that’s fine to focus there, but really, it got weird when all these websites picked it up and hyped it in a strange and bizarre direction. I don’t think that serves anyone. There’s the adage that any publicity is good as long as you spell my name right, but I don’t think that applies here. I wrote about it more on my blog to give it some context. It’s a relatively minor thing in the course of things.


Q: When you speak of generations not having seen him play, many of today’s Lakers fans will naturally assume Kobe Bryant is the greatest player in franchise history, because he just passed West as the all-time leading scorer. Do too many not know that West could really be the best player in franchise history?

A: Let’s not forget Magic Johnson. Greatness is measured in points, but it extends to so many things. When you see how Magic energized the city of L.A. and delivered championships and all the amazing things he did, it’s hard to beat him as the No. 1 player. It’s hard to also overlook Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). But looking at Jerry West when he came into the league in 1960, with this bankrupt franchise that just moved from Minnesota, joining up with the great Elgin Baylor to form a hyper competitive twosome. They faced Celtics teams with Bill Russell that could be the greatest teams of all time. You see what Jerry and Elgin meant to Los Angeles in terms of bringing the crowds alive and introducing pro basketball as a left-coast thing, then later with Jerry in his role as a coach and executive. It’s hard to say. It’s always subjective. My personal list would have Magic first, then Jerry, then probably Kareem and Baylor, too, before Kobe.

Q: As far as Jerry’s career as a Laker executive, there are quotes you have from him about his relationship with Phil Jackson, and now that we’re hearing Jerry’s side of things about why he left the franchise, do you believe his story to be accurate?

A: There’s no question that Phil forced him out. Tex explained all that to me. Phil just wanted to start over with that culture and he didn’t want to get into whether this was ‘Jerry’s team’ or his team. Phil did ask him to leave the locker room in 2000 during the playoffs against Portland, and Tex said Phil knew that would be a blow to Jerry’s ego. Del Harris later said that Phil was the only one who could have done something like that to Jerry.


Jerry has had a lot of conflict in his life. He had trouble with Bob Short, the first Lakers’ owner, and with Fred Schaus, his college coach who was then his pro coach, and then GM of the team. They were alienated for years. (Eventual Lakers owner) Jack Kent Cooke had a huge, bitter confrontation with him. So all this shows that it’s not just all on Jerry. He has a demand for the way a perfect world of basketball should be. It drives him crazy that it’s not perfect. He battled a lot with Pat Riley when he thought his ego overflowed. He had his moments with Jerry Buss. So he’s had this alienation from a variety of figures, back to his own father. I don’t think Jerry ever got the chance to reconcile with his father, but he learned that lesson and did, later in life, reconcile things with Schaus and Cook, and Riley eventually asked him to present him for his Hall of Fame induction.

Q: Ultimately, where do you think Jerry West’s contradictory nature comes from?

A: I’ve had a lot of talks with Tex Winter, and he says there are these types of people, who Phil Jackson calls the ‘Alpha males,’ who are perfectionists, like Oscar Robertson, or Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. They are complex and can be difficult to be around. That makes for a great way to play on the court, but you’re stunned about how hard they can be to live with that kind of nature day in and day out. Jerry has known that he’s horribly moody and could have taken steps to change it, but he knew he needed that anxiety and high pitch to be able to compete. That gave him his edge. He nurtured that over the years.

And there are all these stories out there about him. His legendary unhappiness was always there. I did a radio interview with someone recently in Memphis, and he asked me, ‘Do you like Jerry West?’ I said, ‘Well, I admire him tremendously and, yes, he was very gentlemanly in dealing with me, but he did have these outbursts and anger.’ So the host asked me again, ‘Do you like him?’ And I knew what he was talking about. Sometimes, he’s unlikable and truly difficult. But my answer to him was, ‘I think you’ve encapsulated everything in that question.’

Q: Do you look forward to Jerry West’s autobiography when it comes out later this year?

A: Oh, I sure do. I can’t wait. I’m curious to see how it comes out.

== More Lazenby books of interest:

== “The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers In The Words of Those Who Lived It” (2005) (linked here)

== “Mindgames: Phil Jackson’s Long Strange Journey” (2000) (linked here)


== “Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant” (1999) (linked here)

== “The Lakers: A Basketball Journey” (1995) (linked here)

== “The NBA Finals: The Official Illustrated History” (1990) (linked here)

== “They Call Me Coach” (with John Wooden and Jack Tobin) (1988) (linked here)

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Four more Dodger bobbleheads to add to the shelf

Eric Gagne — the Dodgers offer these in the 2010 season:
May 18: Andre Ethier
June 8: Jonathan Broxton
July 20: James Loney
Aug. 17: Another Matt Kemp (he was also featured last year).
Some, we’ve passed on. Our shelf doesn’t include Fred McGriff, or a couple of other outfielders of the past who’ve been given out at previous promotions.
That’s our fault. We’ve been lax in trying to collect them all. We only have the second version of the Ramirez bobblehead, given out the night he hit the pinch-hit grand slam, and not the second one.
Now we have a quest to make, to fill out the roster.
Our favorite: Babe Ruth, which is in the middle. Also the Steve Garvey and Ron Cey versions, both large and small, that bookened the shelf.
We’re also partial to the Asian Dodger mascot bobblehead that popped up along the time when the team brought in Hideo Nomo.
Three Lasordas, and one Torre.
Fernando, Gibson and LoDuca.
Drysdale and Newcomb are cool.


But the one date we always look forward to during the Dodgers’ release of promotions are which bobbleheads will be featured.
Oh, we are still looking for the Joe Beimel. Anyone got one to spare?

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The Media Learning Curve: Feb. 12-26


Why has NBC been so defensive about how it covers the Olympics? It’s the same story every two years, winter and summer, like death and taxes.

You know we’re going to get hosed if we want to watch live stuff. You know they’re going to do whatever it takes to maximize viewership in prime time.

End this vicious cycle now.

USA Today’s Mike Heistand had a great piece earlier in the games suggesting ways to fix this cruddy system — like allowing more different networks to own pieces of things. An ESPN could do live events all day long for those who treat the Olympics as a sporting event. NBC or someone else could have their prime-time wrapup shows and Mary Carillo features, for those used to seeing it that way.

Why must NBC hoard it all? Because it’s the American way.


Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch (linked here) tried to peel back more of the NBC onion this week, and succeeded in just making us painfully aware that as long as Dick Ebersol calls the shots and is paid by the rating point, nothing will change.

Deitsch asked executive producer David Neal if the criticism of NBC delaying tape-delaying events was fair or unfair.

“I don’t even worry about giving it a rating in my head,” Neal said. “We believe in what we are doing here. The amount of time and effort that we put into preparing for the Olympic Games surpasses anything that I’ve been around. We have the strength in our convictions. We believe in what we are doing. We believe in the way that we present the Olympic Games. And I think the ratings back us up.”

And we have the angry viewers emails and Twitters that prove otherwise.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir gives us hope (linked here)

Olympic fans who crave the chance to see everything live may find an ally in ESPN, which would discontinue the tape-delay template if it wins the U.S. media rights to the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.


ESPN executive VP of content John Skipper said: “I don’t think nonlive is sports fan-friendly. … It’s hard for me to imagine, in our culture, not showing events live … (but NBC execs indicated that they) believe that its broadcast-focused model works and they do not envision a radical shift in 2012.”

Skipper said he does not see any negative effect of running all events live: “If you had a sports-fan presentation for downhill skiing, I don’t think you’d have less viewers.”

Skipper adds on NBC’s Olympics coverage, “I believe the restrictive manner in which they treat all aspects of the Olympics is very old school and I think, ultimately, not fan friendly. I think ultimately you could generate more interest in the Olympics and Olympic sports if we, for instance, had the opportunity to basically report on it, show videos, get people excited. At this point, what we have access to is very limited and it’s a very old-fashioned idea. … We believe in live. We just think at this point with technology and people’s expectations and the ability to get instant information, we believe in live.”

Sadly, NBC is averaging a 14.2 final Nielsen rating (25.2 million viewers) for its primetime coverage of the Vancouver Games through Tuesday night (12 telecasts), up 14 percent from the ’06 Turin Games and exceeding what they promised advertisers.

NBC’s Olympic coverage is also seeing double-digit increases among young viewers, according to a memo NBC Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol sent to the net’s Olympic workers on Sunday, the Sports Business Daily reports.

“Many of you know how much I cherish the fact that our Olympic broadcasts bring families together but nothing pleases me more than introducing young children to the ideals of the Olympics,” Ebersol wrote. … “Our audience polling tells us that 77 percent of parents say that the Olympics provides them a valuable opportunity to talk to their kids about positive values.”

In the memo, Ebersol quoted notes he has received praising NBC’s coverage from a first-grade class in New Jersey and a viewer from California.

Not the California viewers that we’ve talked to.

Ebersol then gloated this morning when news came out that the Olympics on NBC topped ratings for Fox’s “American Idol” for the second time in two weeks. “Idol” had been undefeated in six years (dating back to May 2004). When going head-to-head against “Idol” the Olympics had 19.2 million viewers against “Idol’s” 17.8 million.

“I never thought we would have the good fortune to beat the incredibly well-produced and enduring phenomenon of ‘American Idol’ even once. But twice?” Ebolsol said in a statement released by NBC today. “At best, I deeply believed we might come a little closer than we did four years ago because the show is such a powerhouse. We are happy to rent ‘Idol’s’ space for a few nights. All the thanks goes to the athletes of the world who give us these great stories to tell. Their stories are the stars of our show — and led to these two ‘miracles’ — just as the young entertainers are the stars of ‘Idol.'”


What else is out there to glean some knowledge from:

== Beware of the “ESPN Bandit” in Chi-town (linked here)

== You think you can be a sideline reporter:

== Tony Kornheiser’s remarks about Hannah Storm are just part of the biz in N.Y. TV (linked here). “That’s the nature of the beast, no matter how long or how much time women are in the field,” said WPIX/Channel 11’s Lolita Lopez.

== So Scott Van Pelt got punk’d … and managed to take it as a badge of honor because it’s happened to him before (linked here). That just kind of proves he’s not too bright. Nor does the fact he doesn’t even know when his mike is on … (linked here)

== ESPN wasn’t happy with Peter Pascarelli taking a swipe at Bud Selig, but in 21st Century Journalism, who hasn’t? (linked here).

== The MLB Net is, as expected, going spring training crazy (linked here). And the Dodgers’ 2010 TV schedule has no curveballs (linked here).

== Order your 3D TV now… from Sears (linked here).

== Did Aaron Boone major in communications at USC? (linked here)

== Johnny, are you Weir? Don’t ask the French (linked here).


== NBC produced some numbers to make you forget it’s still getting smacked by Fox’s “American Idol” during its Winter Olympics coverage.

Such as:


46% of Olympic viewers changed their typical routine to watch the Olympics.
34% delayed doing laundry or other household chores – including paying bills – in order to watch the Olympics.
59% said they didn’t watch some of their “regular shows” in order to watch the Olympics
35% of viewers cried or became teary-eyed while watching (25% among men)
66% of viewers cheered aloud while watching the Olympics
63% stayed up longer than usual to watch, resulting in 42% being “more tired than normal.”
42% of viewers said the Olympic sport they would most like to try is bobsled
(Source: Research Results)

In my house, 100 percent of the viewers cried while watching. My wife was upset that laundry hadn’t been done. I was upset that most of the stuff wasn’t on live. And our dog got sprayed in the face by a snunk. That adds up to a perfect score, including a point point in artistry.

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Them Canadian lumberjack gals know how to party, eh?


(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Scott Gardner)
Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin, left to right, Kim St-Pierre and Charline Labonte drink beer on the ice with their gold medals …

They’re swiggin’ beer, smokin’ cigars, sharing some great Great White North champaign . . . so what’s the problem with the way them Canadian women were out there on the ice upholding the values of the Olympic ideals in toasting their victory over the Americans for the women’s hockey gold medal on Thursday?
What other way do you expect the future lumberjacks of Vancouver to party hearty, especially with a national Canadian drinking age of just 19?
Is there more concern that some of the girls were drinking Coors Lights instead of Molson?
Why wouldn’t this be some kind of template now for the way the U.S. could celebrate their gold medal over Canada when the men’s hockey final takes place Sunday?
They’ve apologized (linked here) … but do they need to?
Let’s be careful out there gals….


(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)


Canada’s Meghan Agosta (2) and Jayna Hefford (16) share a light for their cigars, which then gives Agosta the opportunity below to take a long, hard drag … you enjoying that?


Haley Irwin, left, and Tessa Bonhomme have their own celebration routine above …


Irwin and Agosta then do it their way, above and below …


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