Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Lakers coach Mike Brown, center, had to be retrained by his assistants after the Lakers’ Darius Morris was pushed by the Clippers’ Blake Griffin during their last meeting on Jan. 14.
NBA: Lakers vs. Clippers, Staples Center, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., FSW, Prime:
Are style points more important at this stage of the rivalry than actual victories? The Clippers can lose a game to a team like Minnesota, but still get a wack on the fanny for making it entertaining. The Lakers can grind down the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and win by scoring just 73 points, and get wacked in the media for how ugly it looked. But the Lakers, whose deceiving nine game home winning streak was crushed by Indiana on Sunday, are going to remember how the Clippers held onto an eight-point win recently after Chris Paul (33 points, six assists and three steals) ran circles around Derrick Fisher, then pulled his hamstring in the closing minutes. It’s been a little touch-and-go ever since. The Clippers also held a 50-42 rebounding edge, including six more on the offensive end, which seems almost impossible. And Lakers coach Mike Brown still is huffing and puffing that Blake Griffin should have been kicked out for the way he knocked down guard Darius Morris after the whistle blew. If anything, when these two now get together, it’s practically a Western Conference All-Star roster, as the latest voting has determined for the Feb. 26 game. Paul and Kobe Bryant are the leading vote-getters in the backcourt, Griffin is a starter at forward and Andrew Bynum leads at the center spot. The third and final encounter for these two won’t be until April 4, or about three weeks before the end of this abbreviated regular season with the playoff spots looming.
NHL: Kings vs. Ottawa, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
After this, it’s a bit of a vacation for the players for an extended All-Star break — they’re not back until Feb. 1. Seems as if they could use it. Since the hiring of Darryl Sutter before Christmas, they’ve piled up an 8-2-6 record — meaning they’ve picked up 22 out of a possible 32 points in the standings. It beats the direction they were headed, no matter how frustrating these 2-1 losses lately have felt. The Senators, who moved up to No. 8 in the latest NHL ESPN power rankings, come off a 2-1 loss in Anaheim. Still, Ottawa hasn’t allowed more than two goals in its last seven games, and have killed off all 21 opponents’ power plays during that stretch.
NHL: Ducks at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., Prime:
The Ducks’ latest five-game winning surge and 8-0-1 mark in their last nine has caught our attention. Funny thing, even after this run, they can’t get within sniffing distance of the last playoffs spot in the Western Conference.
Men’s college volleyball: Cal State Northridge at UCLA, Wooden Center, 7 p.m.:
Give your regards to 71-year-old Al Scates, winding down his 50th and final season as the Bruins’ coach. UCLA opened its season with a 3-1 win over CSUN in the UCSB Invitational, and has another one left after this against the Matadors, as well as two against USC.
Game show: “Baseball IQ,” 6 and 6:30 p.m., MLB Network:
Matt Vasgersian, who once hosted FSN’s “Sports Geniuses,” several blackjack and poker shows, and the 2004 International Championship of Rock Paper Scissors, is called on to officiate a new game show where two participants, each representing a team they work for, square off in a baseball trivia contest with a chance to win money for charity. The bracket-style tournament that runs 31 episodes through Feb. 23 started Tuesday. Today, the Dodgers will be represented by Senior Director of Ticket Operations Seth Bluman, a West Hills resident and UCLA alum who flew out to New York for the show’s taping, with a chance to win money for the Dodgers Dream Foundation and ThinkCure. He’ll be going against Greg Marinec, the manager of client relations for the rival San Francisco Giants (in the 6:30 p.m. slot). On Feb. 1, the Angels will be repped by Shane Demmitt, the team’s assistant equipment manager who lives in Northridge and has a degree from Loyola Law School, having been a member of the California State Bar since 2002. He’ll be laying down the law against someone from the rival Texas Rangers.
Golf: PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Home-town favorite Phil Mickelson, who rallied with a 66 to make the cut for the final day at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, returns to Torrey Pines always as the one to watch, especially after losing by just one stroke to Bubba Watson a year ago. About a million miles away, Tiger Woods will tee as well to start his season, over at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates (Golf Channel also has this, at 1 a.m. live). CBS has the last two rounds from San Diego on Saturday and Sunday.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Utah, Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m., Prime; USC vs. Colorado, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m.:
Colorado (13-6, 5-2) has quickly established itself as a force in the new Pac-12, coming off a sweep of the Arizona schools and having won eight of their last 10. The only real blemish in that run — a 20-point loss at Stanford. So why isn’t the Trojans’ game on local TV? FSW has the Washington State-Arizona game instead.
Winter X Games, 6 p.m., ESPN:
The annual snowstorm of extremism begins in Aspen, Colorado and runs all weekend. No doubt, the memory of freestyle halfpipe skier Sarah Burke, the sport’s favorite competitor who died at age 29 last week during a training run in Utah, will weigh heavily on some athletes. That’s her, above, competing in 2010. at Buttermilk Mountain.
NBA: Clippers vs. Memphis, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:
Jarrett Jack and Rudy Gay have picked up the scoring slack from the injured Zach Randolph and pushed the Grizzles to a six-game winning streak to start this week. The network doubleheader leads in with Boston at Orlando at 4 p.m.
Tennis: Australian Open women’s final, midnight (12 a.m. Saturday, replayed at 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday), ESPN2:
Of the 64 players who made it into the second round of this event, their first names included: Ursulza, Iveta, Lesia, Anabel, Olga, Alberta, Francesca, Romina, Eleni, Galina, Tsvetana, Agnieszka, Ekaterina, Kaia, Greta, Barbora, Angelique, Marion, Anastasia, Vania, Michaella, Aleksandra, Sabine, Shahar, Shuai, Sorana, Sloane and Svetlana. Yet, if the No. 1 seed prevails — a Caroline — we’ll still wonder whatever happened to Serena, the 12th seed who won this thing five times, including back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. She didn’t get to defend her title last year due to injury, and her ankle was giving her trouble coming in here before she finally lost here. With Serena Williams’ ouster, the last American hope is gone Down Under. So is it time for Caroline Wozniacki, who somehow has stayed No. 1 without winning a major, to finally capture one? The semifinals are Wednesday (6:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Series: “Jim Rome Is Burning,” 1:30 p.m., ESPN:
The series comes to an end. After the show, he is out.
Figure skating: U.S. Championships in San Jose, women’s free skate, 9 p.m., Channel 4:
Defending champion Alissa Czisny (above), healing from an injury, may still be the one to get past in a field that includes 2008 U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu and 2010 champion Rachael Flatt. Then there’s 20-year-old Ashley Wagner, who moved to Southern California from Maryland so she could train with coach John Nicks and choreographer Phillip Mills at the Aliso Viejo Ice Palace. On the men’s side, defending champion Ryan Bradley turned pro, reigning Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek won’t compete yet, and Johnny Weir has got back to training but hasn’t set a return date yet. Instead, two-time U.S. men’s champ Jeremy Abbott will try to reclaim the title he lost in 2011.
NBA: Lakers at Milwaukee, 5:30 p.m., Channel 9:
A road trip to Milwaukee isn’t the same as one to Miami or Orlando. But it counts the same in the standings. So this one counts, considering what happened last week in, say, Miami or Orlando. The Lakers are only 1-6 on the road so far. And that’s being generous.
Documentary: “Namath,” HBO, 9 p.m.:
Remember how much Bobby Brady wanted to meet his hero, Joe Namath? If faking sickness was the way to do it, we’d already considered it. He was no Wes Parker, but … “In the mythology of pro football, Joe Namath is Arthur,” says Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films, who helps produce this 90-minute piece on how the former New York Jets (and one L.A. Rams) quarterback made his legendary mark on the game. “He pulled the proverbial sword from the stone and the NFL became the Camelot of American sports.”
Still, all “Broadway Joe” did was guarantee his team would win Super Bowl III. He lasted 13 years in the league, made the Hall of Fame, and, at 68, has a Twitter account (@realjoenamath) and a website (www.broadwayjoe.tv). Those who talk about his life and times in the piece range from ESPN’s Suzy Kolber to former players Ben Davidson and Fred Dryer, to actress Ann-Margret. Says Dryer: “That guy was very important to the game of football as a cultural icon, and how he brought professional football into the television era and with it a whole degree of excitement … The likes of him will never ever, ever pass this way again.” He hasn’t been watching Tebow?
Tennis: Australian Open men’s final, midnight (12 a.m., Sunday, replayed at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Sunday), ESPN2:
Roger Federer won the fan vote on the Aussie Open official site: He is officially the “biggest heartthrob on the men’s tour,” taking 36 percent of the poll. His rival, Rafael Nadal, was second with 33.7 percent. Imagine how many hearts would be thumping if these two, seeded third and second respectively, met in the semifinals (which air early Thursday, 12:30 a.m., ESPN2, replayed at 9 a.m. and early Friday, 12:30 a.m., ESPN2). That would leave the victor to likely face — who else — Novak Djokovic.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Colorado, Sports Arena, 1 p.m., Prime; USC vs. Utah, Galen Center, 8 p.m., Prime:
How ugly have the Utes (5-14) done it so far? Of the 344 teams ranked, they’re 336th in the country in points per game (56.4) and 338th in rebounds a game (29.3) as a team. Anyone doing worse? The Trojans. They’re 341st in points (54.0) and 342nd in boards (28.6).
College football: Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., 1 p.m., NFL Network:
Ten players from the Pac-12 will be there, but none from USC or UCLA. Watch for Washington running back Chris Polk and Arizona quarterback Nick Foles.
NHL All-Star game, Ottawa, 1 p.m., NBC Sports Channel:
They’re going with that “fantasy draft” format again, as the home-town Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson and the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara pick their squads during a show on Thursday. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and the Ducks’ Corey Parry are the only two local reps. You just hope that Quick doesn’t get some strange vertigo injury like the one that affected the Ducks’ Jonas Hiller for the entire second half of last season after he took a couple pucks to the mask in last year’s annual exhibition.
NFL Pro Bowl, Honolulu, 4 p.m., Channel 4:
Here’s another annual exhibition where the fans don’t get a vote in who plays. Why not? Of all the changes that could be made for this, that’s one we’d endorse. Otherwise, it’s s $45,000 to each player on the winning side, and $22,500 to the losers. Everyone seems to win. And what would prevent the AFC from adding Tim Tebow to the roster, just for the sake of ratings? Just have him hold on the PATs.
NBA: Lakers at Minnesota, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
You’re not going to allow Kevin Love to pop open for a 3-pointer at the top of the key with the game on the line, now are you? Free up Darko instead. The other weird thing about the Timberwolves — despite a losing record, they have a winning point differential.
NBA: Clippers at Denver, 5 p.m., Prime:
The Nuggets are second in the league averaging better than 104 points a game, and first in team assists. The guy to watch out for: Al Harrington, off the bench. He had 29 in a win over Washington last week, and has scored at least 25 points as a sub almost 20 times in the last three years.
Series premiere: “Luck,” HBO, 9 p.m.:
The first of nine episodes in the David Milch-Michael Mann produced series that stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte in the setting of some crazy horse racing and gambling storylines, filmed at Santa Anita Park. Hoffman plays Chester “Ace” Bernstein, released from three years in federal prison and plots revenge. He’s met by his driver and bodyguard, Gus Demitriou (Dennis Farina), who fronts as the owner of the $2 million Irish horse that Ace just bought. Nolte plays a trainer-turned-owner Walter Smith, Jill Hennessey is there as a track vet, Gary Stevens is veteran alcoholic jockey Ronnie Jenkins … scandal ensues.