Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Golf: PGA Northern Trust Open, Riviera Country Club, Thursday through Sunday, Golf Channel and Channel 2:
So, who do you trust these days?
Fred Couples (top) has earned our trust. The two-time champ at Riviera (1990, 1992) and three-time runner-up (’93, ’94 and ’96) led this annual L.A. PGA Tour stop in Pacific Palisades a year ago after three rounds at 8-under, then fired three birdies to start the final round. Then things broke badly. Toward Aaron Baddeley, more specifically.
Couples’ double bogey at No. 7 left the door open for Baddeley (left), who, on that same hole made a 20-foot birdie. He finished with a 69 to win the tournament over Vijay Singh.The 52-year-old Couples, trying to be the oldest PGA Tour winner in the last 35 years, dropped into a tie for seventh, willing his way through the course with his recurring back problems. We’re not surprised he’ll be back for his 30th appearance in this event, tying him with Gene Littler, with a shot at joining Ben Hogan (3), Arnold Palmer (3), Lloyd Mangrum (4) and MacDonald Smith (4) as the only players to win this three or more times.
You’ve got to trust the abilities of world No. 1-ranked Luke Donald. The 2011 PGA Tour player of the year has three top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts at Riviera, and was runner-up in 2010. He’s back in the field.
So is two-time event winner Phil Mickelson. We trust he’s cleared a runway or two at Santa Monica Airport to make this thing work again in his favor. Although after his performance this weekend at Pebble Beach, he may be flying without the aid of a private plane.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we’ve come to trust Patrick Cantlay, the junior at UCLA and top-ranked amateur in the world who got a sponsor’s exemption to be here. This will be his Northern Trust Open debut.
Keegan Bradley missed the cut last year at Riviera. Then he went on to win the PGA Championship and was the first rookie to win twice on the PGA Tour since 2004. We trust he’ll make it to the final weekend this time.
Surely, we trust Jason Gore (right), another sponsor’s exemption after a Twitter campaign got him in. We trust his former Pepperdine teammate, Andy Walker, a 36-year-old who got in by writing a letter about how hard he’s been trying to promote diversity in golf, and now he’ll get to make his first PGA field.
Tiger Woods? We’ve got some trust issues with him now. Because he doesn’t trust himself here anymore. He decided to pass again on what used to be his backyard event — but then, he’s done that every year now since 2006. Probably because he’s failed to win this thing in eight tries as a pro (after getting two exemptions to play when he was 16 and 17 back in the early ’90s). “I’m shocked that he doesn’t play here, but I guess he doesn’t play well here,” Couples said during last year’s event about Woods. “If I can play well here, any human being in the world can play well here.” Trust us, if Tiger keeps turning down Jerry West’s invites, they’ll eventually stop coming.
NBA: Clippers at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., Prime:
With a chance to win five of six on their Grammy road trip, the Clippers (17-8) have kept their cushion ahead of the rest in the Pacific Division with the franchise’s best start since 1974. Dallas (17-10) has won three in a row, but lost to the Clippers, 91-89, back on Jan. 18 when Chauncey Billips hit a 3-pointer with one second left. The storyline in Dallas is how Dirk Nowitzki was picked for his 11th straight All-Star game, as the coaches who select the reserves simply overlooked the fact that last year’s NBA Finals MVP is averaging just 17.6 points a game, his worst production since his second season in the league.
NBA: Lakers vs. Atlanta, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Kiss-Cam alert: On Valentine’s Day, it’s important you’re seated next to someone you don’t want your better half to see you with somewhere else in the building. Or on TV. Or on YouTube. The Lakers hope that home is where the heart is after a break-even roadie. The Hawks have been making noise behind Joe Johnson (18.4 points a game) and Josh Smith (15.9), plus a bench that includes Tracy McGrady and former Laker Vlad Radmanovic and Jannero Pargo.
College basketball: USC vs. UCLA, L.A. Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
No one on the current Trojans’ roster remembers the bad old days of when they played at the musty old Sports Arena – it’s just that Trojan boosters thought they’d never have to go back to the place once the Galen Center opened in 2006. When UCLA has the place as its temporary home court, they’re 7-4. Back on Jan. 15, the Bruins had no trouble collecting a 66-47 win at Galen Center, having raced out to an 18-point halftime lead. The Bruins’ 19-point win marked the program’s largest margin of victory at USC’s home arena since an 82-52 win in 1974. At the Sports Arena, of course.
NBA: Clippers vs. Washington, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Gee, Wiz. Welcome home.
NBA: Clippers at Portland, 7:30 p.m., TNT:
Gerald Wallace scored 20 points, making a key 3-pointer with two minutes left, in the Blazers’ 105-97 win at Portland over the Clippers in on Jan. 10. Compare that to the fact he went scoreless in their previous meeting on New Year’s Day. Wallace may be averaging 13.5 a game this season, but he rarely hits that number — often going off for 23 one night and four the next.
NHL: Kings vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
If it turns out that the Kings aren’t adept at catching San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division, then it’s clear that they’ll be fighting it out with the Coyotes (and and a couple of others) for the seventh and/or eight spot in the conference standings. And going into this week, they’re about as even as you can get. The Kings have had three days off at home since their six-game Grammy trip ended. Jonathan Quick registered his league-leading sixth shutout last time the Coyotes were in L.A., a 1-0 overtime win on Drew Doughty’s goal. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Kings lead the NHL in one-goal games, and 10 of their last 12 losses have been by a single goal. The Kings’ 9-3-4 record against Pacific Division foes is by far the best record any team in the division has against each other. This game is also “Dodgers Pride Night With The Kings,” meaning Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will drop the puck.
NBA: Lakers vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW, ESPN:
Steve Nash was named to the Western Conference All-Star team? Over Ricky Rubio?
Well, the 38-year-old, two-time league MVP and now eight-time All-Star is the only one in the league averaging double-digit assists.
College basketball: Loyola Marymount vs. Valpariaso, Gersten Pavilion, 6 p.m., ESPNU:
Here’s one of the ESPN BracketBuster games, giving teams on the bubble as the NCAA tournament nears another shot at improving things like their RPI rating. Valpo (18-9), coached by former star player Bryce Drew, is No. 86 and shooting up according to RealTimeRPI.com. The Lions (16-10) are at 107.
College basketball: UCLA at St. John’s, 10 a.m., Channel 2:
What about the rumor floating around that Steve Lavin would leave St. John’s at the end of this season, move back to L.A. and apply for the USC job if it opened up? Lavin said the other day he’ll be back on the bench — somewhere — next season, even if the 47-year-old hasn’t been able to guide the Red Storm since November when he had a setback in his prostate cancer recovery. The former UCLA coach was with St. John’s when they came to play at Pauley Pavilion against the Bruins a year ago, winning 66-59. Mike Dunlop, the former guard from Loyola Marymount, has guided St. John’s to a 10-15 record this season in Lavin’s absence.
College basketball: Long Beach State at Creighton, 7 p.m., ESPN2:
Another BracketBuster: The Big West’s 49ers (19-6), on a 12-game win streak, haven’t faced a Top 25 team since a win over Xavier in late December. The 15th-ranked Bluejays (21-5) lost their last home game to Wichita State by 21 points. RealTimeRPI.com has Long Beach State at No. 34 and moving up, with Creighton at No. 25 but dropping.
NBA: Clippers vs. San Antonio, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Prime:
Blake Griffin had 28 points, but Chris Paul was just 3-of-10 shooting in the Clippers’ 115-90 loss at San Antonio in their previous meeting on Dec. 28.
NHL: Kings vs. Calgary, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:
Since the Flames got Miikka Kiprusoff in a trade with San Jose in 2003, he’s played more games than any other NHL goaltender, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He recently passed Mike Vernon as the franchise leader in games played by a goalie as well. Kiprusoff was in the nets to endure a 4-1 loss to the Kings on Jan. 14, but he beat them five days later, 2-1, in a shootout at Staples Center. That’s nothing to spit at.
NBA: Lakers at Phoenix, 5 p.m., Channel 9:
Two days after their last encounter, they meet again.
Women’s college basketball: UCLA at USC, Galen Center, noon, FSW:
Ashley Corral, who passed up Cheryl Miller in career assists for the Trojans, had eight of them (with 10 points and eight rebounds) in a 47-43 win at Westwood in the previous matchup on Jan. 14.
Series: “Eastbound & Down,” season three premiere, 10 p.m., HBO:
Baseball’s top relief pitcher of 2002 hasn’t given up on his comeback 10 years later. Back from Mexico, Kenny Powers is now with the Myrtle Beach Mermen. At least, for the moment. This is supposed to be the final season of the series, so you better freakin’ enjoy it for what it’s worth. That’s eight episodes, with Jason Sudeikis, Will Ferrell and Matthew McConaughey joining the cast. You can prep yourself for this year’s episodes by buying a Mermen powder-blue T-shirt (linked here). With Powers’ No. 55 on the back, of course. The Mermen also have their own Facebook page (linked here).
Exhibition: Harlem Globetrotters, Staples Center, noon and 5 p.m.:
They’re based in Phoenix. They’re owned by Burbank-based Shamrock Capital Grown Fund, which is the Roy Disney family fund that is run by Stanley Gold — one of the groups bidding on ownership of the Dodgers. They’ve actually got a couple of squads, one of which is on the East Coast right now. And their current 29-person roster includes 7-foot-4, 270-pound rookie center Jermaine “Stretch” Middleton (left), who calls L.A. his home, and 6-foot-5 forward Wun “The Shot” Versher, a Compton native out of Dominguez High who played at Arizona State nine years ago. They’re also playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday (1 and 7 p.m.) at in Ontario on Monday (2 p.m.).
Running: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Rose Bowl, 7:30 a.m.:
Miles 2 and 3 hit the Rose Parade route on Orange Grove and Colorado Blvd. Miles 11, 12 and 13 are a tour around the north end of the Brookside Golf Course. Otherwise, you’re on your own.