Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday at 4:30 p.m., TNT:
What in the name of Max von Sydow is the NBA thinking of putting its star power head-to-head as a TV event against the 84th Academy Awards (Channel 7, 5 p.m.)? A different viewer demographic helps, most likely those who prefer things extremely loud and incredibly close. Except that when you consider the host, Billy Crystal, is the most notable Clippers fan, and if Jack Nicholson is anywhere near the Kodak Theatre he’ll be trying to get updates on how Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum are getting along with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The delayed start of the lockout season pushed back this annual exhibition to a night that’s been reserved for Hollywood royalty, but maybe the real question should be: In a condensed 66-game schedule, why even have this event? Because, the NBA has always been about showing off its own version of “Moneyball.” And by staging this in Orlando, the topic of conversation will likely turn to the plight of Magic’s Dwight Howard, starting at center for the East. Will he stick around or pursue his own money dreams somewhere else in a couple of weeks? It may not have the ramifications of LeBron James’ “Decision,” but it’s going to tilt the balance of the league no matter what happens. Heck, he could be the starting center for the West next season. The other story creating buzz — anything related to New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin — has him included now in the “Rising Stars Challenge” on Friday (TNT, 6 p.m.), where “coach” Shaquille O’Neal added him to his team, along with second-year player Griffin, going against Charles Barkley’s hand-picked squad led by Kyrie Irving. Lin will also be somehow involved in the “Shooting Stars” competition on Saturday (TNT, 5:30 p.m.) and he could be included as some kind of Baron Davis-like prop for Knicks teammate Iman Shumpert during the dunk competition. It isn’t too late for someone at the Academy Awards to fly him out for Sunday’s ceremony to have him present the best animated feature Oscar.
NBA: Lakers vs. Portland, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT, FSW; Clippers at Golden State, 7:30 p.m. Prime:
L.A.’s version of the President’s Day doubleheader is a head-to-head, remote control challenged event. Kobe Bryant scored 30 against the Blazers in their only previous meeting back on Jan. 5, but Gerald Wallace had 31 in Portland’s 11-point home win. The Clippers face a Warriors team that’s lost three in a row, and this is Golden State’s only game in “the City” over a stretch of eight out of nine on the road between Feb. 17 and March 5. TNT has added the Boston-Dallas game (5 p.m.) to its doubleheader telecast.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick eyes the puck before stopping a shot on goal during the first period of Saturday’s game against Calgary — a 1-0 loss.
NHL: Kings at Phoenix, 6 p.m., FSW:
How many 1-0 losses in a row can the Kings absorb at this point in the season and still make the playoffs? Let’s not test that theory any longer, since they’re now 9th in the Western Conference in an offensive spiral, flying on a prayer and the lack of a wing who can score. “It’s been the same thing for this team all year — finding ways to score goals,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said after their loss to Calgary on Saturday. “It’s definitely frustrating, and it’s been frustrating all year. I don’t want to say we didn’t work hard — we did.” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith handed the Kings their previous 1-0 loss last week, allowing Phoenix to slide past them into the No. 7 spot in the West. This is the last Kings-Coyotes matchup in the regular season.
Series: “Real Sports,” HBO, 10 p.m.:
Whatever happened to Leigh Steinberg? One of most powerful sports agent in the world, he’s now 62, living with a roommate in an apartment in Southern California, fighting an addiction that he says cost him everything. See Armen Keteyian’s report on the former superagent’s fall from glory.
NBA: Lakers at Dallas, 6:30 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN:
Lamar Odom doesn’t need his wife, Khloe Kardashian, going on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to defend his honor. But she felt compelled to do so anyway the other night, saying he simply “wears his heart on his sleeve” as she promoted the new season of “Khloe and Lamar” on the E! Channel. This “Dallas”-style drama that former Laker is involved in how has him averaging just 21 minutes a game (eighth on the roster), enough to score 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game for the still-defending champs.
NBA: Clippers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Blake Griffin surely will remember how he got Mozgov’d on a dunk attempt when these two met last time at Staples Center — Timofey Mozgov’s hard foul changed Griffin’s demeanor in the Clippers’ 21-point loss on Feb. 2. Sure, it was payback. But Griffin couldn’t see that one coming?
NHL: Kings at Colorado, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Channel:
The network takes this one for national exposure, and J.S. Giguere, the Avs goalie who led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup title in 2007 and was the playoff MVP in 2003, could be ready to show up at full strength after having been day-to-day with a groin injury. Giguere was the goalie of record against the Kings in a 3-1 win back on Jan. 21 and his GGA (2.13) is getting into the neighborhood of Jonathan Quick’s 1.87.
Golf: WGC Accenture Match Play, opening round, 9 a.m.:
From the Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona, Luke Donald returns to defend his title after he defeated Martin Kaymer 3-and-2 in last year’s final that was interrupted a bit by some rare snow and sleet. Donald never played the 18th hole all week, wrapping up all his wins early. “I’ve always thrived at match play,” said Donald, who posted a nasty 78 in his last round at Riviera on Sunday and fell far in the final leaderboard. “It’s a bit of a different strategy to it that makes for very interesting TV. I enjoy the challenge of one-on-one. It’s a tough challenge. It’s a tough format, because you can have days that you play well and go home. … Every match you feel like it’s do or die.” Late last week, Rory McIlroy announced he will make his PGA Tour debut at this event. Golf Channel has Day Two on Thursday (11 a.m.) and Day Three on Friday (11 a.m.) before it goes to NBC and Channel 4 for Saturday (11 a.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m.).
College basketball: UCLA at Arizona State, 5:30 p.m., FSArizona.net; USC at Arizona, 6 p.m., FSArizona:
There’s a scenario of seedings for the upcoming Pac-12 tournament that could pit the Bruins against the Sun Devils in a 7-10 matchup and 12th-seeded Trojans against the Wildcats in Thursday’s first-round action. The Sun Devils’ 7-foot Russian, Ruslan Pateev (right), and 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski gave the Bruins’ front line some problems in their last meeting, until Pateev fouled out and UCLA came back for a 17-point win in early January.
NBA: Lakers at Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m., TNT:
No surprise the Western Conference front-running Thunder is 12-1 at home this season. There’s a lot of energy in the arena called the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Don’t worry: If Durant goes off for 51, Westbrook adds 40 and someone named Ibaka goes off for a triple-double in this game, it’s already been done before.
WWE Raw Tour, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.:
It’s not the Grammys, but an incredibly similiar scripted simulation. The promoters insist that R Truth will battle The Miz, John Cena will face off against Kane, Dolph Ziggler will challenge CM Punk, and there’ll be a “special appearance” by Chris Jericho. Whatever that entails.
College basketball: Santa Clara at Loyola Marymount, 8 p.m., FSW; Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
St. Mary’s and Gonzaga have stayed ranked in the Top 25. BYU is next in the WCC standings. Does that mean LMU, which stunned the Gaels and knocked off Valpariso in a “bracket buster” last week, has enough to navigate its way to an NCAA Tournament bid? The Lions already have 10 conference wins, the most since the 1989-90 Bo Kimble-led team made it to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament. This is the final game of the regular season before the conference tournament in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the Matators wind down their Big West schedule (with one more next week). CSUN ranks in the bottom 15 of the 334 Division I teams in field goal percentage (38.8 percent).
College basketball: UCLA at Arizona, 11 a.m., Channel 2; USC at Arizona State, 5 p.m., Prime:
Travis Wear scored a career-high 20 points and twin brother David Wear added 14 points when the Bruins won their first Pac-12 game, 65-58, against the Wildcats at the Honda Center back on Jan. 5.
NHL: Kings vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 5 p.m., FSW:
The Blackhawks have pulled out of a nasty skid, winning three in a row coming into the week after a nine-game losing streak. It got to ugly that Jeremy Roenick, the former Kings and Chicago star, suggested that team could trade All-Star Patrick Kane to get a reliable goalie before the Feb. 27 deadline. Anyone up for Kane to L.A. for Jonathan Bernier? At least this isn’t an afternoon game.
(AP Photo/John Moore)
Paul Menard (27), David Ragan (34) and Michael Waltrip (55) wreck coming out of Turn 1 during the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last Saturday.
NASCAR: Daytona 500, Channel 11, 9 a.m.:
New Fox race analyst Michael Waltrip (right) was asked what driver he expected big things from as the 2012 Sprint Cup season opens. “The most popular answer will be Kasey Kahne,” he said. “Kasey won late in the season at Phoenix and now he is joining Hendrick, the team that has won five out of the last six championships. People will have their money on him. Another guy you better watch out for is Denny Hamlin. Denny raced for a championship in 2010 but struggled in 2011. However, he has a new crew chief this season in Darian Grubb who is coming off a championship season with Tony Stewart. I think Denny and Darian will be a potent combination.” Why wouldn’t Waltrip mention himself? The two-time winner of “The Great American Race” will drive the No. 40 Toyota for newly-formed Hillman Racing. If he makes the field, it’ll be his 27th start in the 500 and 75th start at Daytona International Speedway between the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series. No other driver has more starts. And we can’t remember the last driver who started the day in the broadcast booth and ended it as a driver in the Daytona 500, as Waltrip hopes to do after he finished last in Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout, completing just eight laps before he was taken out in a crash (above). Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle put Roush Fenway Racing on the front row during pole qualifying, with the rest of the field to be determined with the two 150-mile races on Thursday.