Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NBA regular season opening week: Lakers at Clippers, Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet, Prime, ESPN:
Opening night: Lakers vs. Dallas, Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., TNT; Clippers vs. Memphis, Staples Center, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Also: Lakers at Portland, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet; Lakers vs. Detroit, Staples Center, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet; Clippers vs. Golden State, Staples Center, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
You’ve got a decent idea by now on how these revised Lakers’ and Clippers’ rosters shape up. But what kind of shape will coaches Mike Brown and Vinny Del Negro by midseason? The USA Today’s NBA preview guide has Brown and Del Negro already among seven coaches who “have to get things going or they could be gone before the season ends.” Brown, the guide says, is “too nice,” which led to adding Eddie Jordan as an assistant to toughen up the defensive mind-set. “They are all-in on a title run, and if it seems Brown is not the guy to get them there, he could be gone by midseason.” TNT’s Charles Barkley added last week: “There’s a ton pressure on him, to be honest. The Lakers gotta win now. That’s just the way it is.”
Del Negro “isn’t in jeopardy as much as he isn’t secure. . . . . If things go badly – and there was times last year when it was clear Del Negro did not run the locker room – a midseason change could happen. There is no doubting expectations are high, so early struggles or an outright collapse could cost Del Negro.” TNT’s Reggie Miller adds: “Any time you’re in L.A. coaching marquee players, there’s pressure to perform, and the Clippers are still expected to win even if they are the Lakers’ little brothers. They’re expected now to fill the building. Is the same pressure that’s on Mike? Both have to win and keep the fan base solid.” Their first head-to-head strategy session comes a couple games into the regular season – the first of four meetings that set the tone for how long they both can expect to enjoy this 2012-13 ride.
BEST OF THE REST:
NFL Week 8: San Francisco at Arizona, Monday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
The Cardinals’ 4-0 start has almost disappeared after three straight losses. The 49ers kept the top spot in the NFC West with a 13-6 win over Seattle.
Series: “Bay City Blues,” 8 p.m., ESPN Classic:
We stumbled upon the reruns of this short-run (eight episodes made, only four aired on NBC in 1983) Steven Bochco drama about a minor-league baseball team, the Bay City Bluebirds, that had Dennis Franz, Ken Olin and Sharon Stone.
2012 World Series of Poker: Main event final table, 6 p.m., ESPN2:
The final nine that began on Monday (ESPN2, 5 p.m.) comes down to the final three, with the champion crowned on this night at the Penn & Teller Theater. Our favorite: 24-year-old Greg Merson of Laurel, Md., who could cap player of the year honors. His background includes a battle against drug addiction and a vow to use his celebrity to help others in their affliction.
Series: “Survivor: Philippines,” 8 p.m., Channel 2:
Go out trick or treating this year as Jeff Kent. Aaron Gleeman of NBCSports.com’s Hardball Talk finds glee in giving weekly updates of the former Dodgers second baseman’s performance on this pseudo-reality series. He’s far from being voted off if you haven’t been following (like us). But in Gleeman’s last past of the most reason show, he chronicled how tribal council host Jeff Probst asked Kent if he’s ever played any kind of game with this type of strategy before. Kent replied: “This game sucks, Jeff.” But according to a former “Survivor” contestant blogging for People magazine, Kent is the season’s mid-point MVP after six episodes: “I hope he smirks his way to victory.” Tonight, this goes up against “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Sorry, but we’ve got our priorities.
NFL Week 9: Kansas City at San Diego, Thursday at 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
If the Chargers don’t sell it out, do we still have to see it in L.A.?
MLS playoffs: Galaxy vs. Vancouver, Home Depot Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
This is a one-game showdown for the defending MLS champion Galaxy, with the winner facing Western Conference-leading and Supporters Shield-winning San Jose in a home-and-home series – which would start Sunday back at Home Depot Center. Vancouver is 3-10-3 on the road this season and has not won away from home since July 4. The Galaxy toppled the Whitecaps twice already in Carson, 3-0 back on June 23 and 2-0 on Sept. 1.
Horse racing: Breeders Cup at Santa Anita, 1 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
The $5 million 1 ¼-mile Classic (Saturday, 5:30 p.m. Channel 4) remains the highlight of the two-day event, with last year’s Classic runner up, 5-year-old Game On Dude, back on his home track. An automatic qualifier based on his victory this summer in the Hollywood Gold Cup with Chantal Sutherland aboard, Game On Dude was surprisingly caught from behind by Dullahan in the Aug. 26 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Those two should meet again in this field, but Sutherland isn’t around anymore. She abruptly announced her retirement at age 36 a week ago, after trainer Bob Baffert said Rafael Bejarano would be riding 2-1 early favorite Game On Dude, co-owned by Joe Torre. Another Horse of the Year candidate is Wise Dan, is a favorite in the $2 million Mile (Saturday, 4:40 p.m.), while And Pride, the daughter of A.P. Indy and winner of the recent Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, as one of the favorites in the Lady’s Classic (today, 4:30 p.m.)
College football: Washington at Cal, Friday at 6 p.m., ESPN:
Someday, the Huskies and Bears might be bowl eligible. San Diego State, San Jose State, Western Kentucky, Fresno State, Bowling Green, Toledo and Duke already are.
College football: USC vs. Oregon, Coliseum, 4 p.m., Channel 11:
Now what? The Trojans could play the spoiler again for the Ducks’ national championship chances. Or, wait until the Pac-12 conference championship. A year ago at Autzen Stadium – with LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony hanging out on the sidelines in all their Nike glory – Matt Barkley threw for 323 yards and four TDs as the Trojans pulled off a 38-35 win over the then No. 4 Ducks, spoiling their national title chances and snapping their 21-game home win streak. Back then, the Trojans were only playing for AP ranking pride.
College football: UCLA vs. Arizona, Rose Bowl, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
Arizona’s 48-12 trouncing of the Bruins a year ago in Tucson was the first game after Mike Stoops was fired. With Rich Rodriguez running the controls against Jim Mora, it takes on a whole new flavor.
College football: Alabama at LSU, 5 p.m., Channel 2; Arizona State at Oregon State, 7:30 p.m.; Stanford at Colorado, 11 a.m., FX; Air Force at Army, 9 a.m., Channel 2; Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4; Virginia Tech at Miami, Thursday at 4:30 p.m., ESPN:
LSU won 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa during the regular season last year, then lost 21-0 in the national title game in New Orleans. And this time: No Honey Badger. “We don’t even have to talk about it,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “You already know what is set for (this meeting) based off last year and based off the national championship.”
NFL Week 9: Dallas at Atlanta, Sunday at 5:20 p.m., Channel 4; Pittsburgh at N.Y. Giants, Sunday at 1:25 p.m., Channel 2:
What part of Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys came do you take away as viable information to predict how these two matchups will turnout?
Running: New York City Marathon, Sunday at 6 a.m., ESPN2:
The annual stroll through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan ends up in Central Park, unless Hurricane Sandy pushes everything around in an unruly manner.