Play It Forward: April 1-7 on your sports calendar: The MLB launch, the Final Four, Lakers-Clippers, Kings-Ducks, Santa Anita Derby … need anything else?

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

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium:
Monday at 1 p.m., Prime, ESPN
Tuesday at 7 p.m. , Prime
Wednesday at 7 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN2:
They’ve carved a new “LA” logo into the center field grass, re calibrated the scoreboards, upgraded the concession stands, set up kid-friendly areas and . . . oh, right, spent a Ravine-load of cash on a roster upgrades. So now we’ve got this giddy Guggenheim ownership group committed to a giant $213 million payroll (compared to $95 mil and change a year ago), and they’ll happily roll it out against a Giant payroll of $137 million (a $20 million upgrade over a year ago) that supports a loose collection of players who just won their second World Series title in three years. The latest came, somehow, without Juan Uribe. San Francisco’s gamep lan has come with outstanding pitching (all throwing to defending NL MVP Buster Posey, who has a new nine-year contract). It starts with Matt Cain in the opener against Clayton Kershaw (making his third Day 1 start in a row), while Madison Bumgarner is up for Game 2 against Hyun-Jin Ryu and former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum takes his new short haircut against Josh Beckett in the finale. Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong are spared.

MLB: Angels at Texas:
Friday at 11 a.m., FSW
Saturday at 1 p.m., Channel 11
Sunday at 5 p.m., ESPN2:

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, left, and teammate first baseman Albert Pujols, right, joke around before an exhibition game in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

How can you not look ahead to Josh Hamilton’s return to Arlington, Tex., to face the team that gave up on him for giving up on them? So much intrigue already that the networks take over for the last two games of the series. This is also the Rangers’ home opening series after playing three in Houston. There’s even more drama for those wondering if Nolan Ryan will even show up by the Sunday finale, where Jered Weaver should circle back to pitch for the Angels after his Opening Day start.

BEST OF THE REST:

MONDAY

MLB: Angels at Cincinnati, 1 p.m, FSW:
We realize the significance of the Angels sacrificing themselves as the first AL team to go on the road for interleague play, and making it all the more tougher by being part of the now un-traditional opener against the Reds, with Jered Weaver taking the mound. It’s followed by a strange day off, then games Wednesday night (4 p.m., FSW) and Thursday morning (9:30 a.m., FSW).

MLB: Boston at N.Y. Yankees, 10 a.m., ESPN; Philadelphia at Atlanta, 4 p.m., ESPN2; St. Louis at Arizona, 7 p.m., ESPN2:
How could the baseball world actually start spinning without a Red Sox-Yankees matchup to lament over?

NBA: Clippers vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, Prime:
The Clippers handed the Pacers a rare home loss at the end of February, 99-91, but Indiana was without the suspended Roy Hibbert. The center had a season-best 28 points to go with 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in a win over Houston recently.

NHL: Ducks at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., FSW:
In what could be the most bizarre quirk related to the league’s shortened schedule, the Ducks go back home after this and play host to the Stars on Wednesday (7 p.m., KDOC) and Friday (7 p.m., FSW). Might as well be a first-round, best of three playoff series.

Series: “Feherty,” with Bob Knight, 7 p.m., Golf Channel:
Hate to think of what Robert Montgomery Knight would do with a niblick in his hands. David Feherty will withstand the temptation to anger him in a Q-and-A. “There’s actually a depth and genuine realness to the man though that I suspect many people, even those that know him best don’t often see,” Feherty says during the show’s intro.

TUESDAY

NBA: Lakers vs. Dallas, 7:30 p.m. Staples Center, TNT:
They’ll finally retire Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34. Kobe Bryant may even be credited with an assist in the ceremony.

NHL: Kings at Phoenix, 7 p.m., FSW:
Their five-game road trip finally comes to an end. No more lugging the luggage around for a while.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA Spring practice opener:
Brett Hundley, who led the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game as a freshman, just has to make sure he stays healthy during this annual drill, leading up to the spring game at the Rose Bowl on April 27.

WEDNESDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, Prime:
The Clippers handled the Suns easily during their first two meetings, but Phoenix, with then-new coach Lindsey Hunter, won by five in late January.

SOCCER: CONCACAF Champions League: Galaxy vs. Monterrey, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Home Depot Center:
The two finish their home-and-home series next week. Can you handle the excitement?

THURSDAY

NHL: Kings vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, FSW:
No more shootouts, OK? Jonathan Quick can’t afford to snap his stick in two again after he’s beat on three straight Wild shots.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NIT Final in New York, 6 p.m., ESPN:
Baylor, which knocked out Long Beach State and Arizona State in the first two rounds, just has to get past BYU (Tuesday, 4 p.m., ESPN2) and it can play the winner of Maryland-Iowa (Tuesday, 6 p.m., ESPN2) for this one at Madison Square Garden. That’s Baylor’s men’s team right?

GOLF: LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championships at Rancho Mirage, first round, 3 p.m., Golf Channel (delayed):
Stacy Lewis, the 28-year-old who’s vaulted to the No. 1 rankings on the LPGA charts, has to be the odds-on favorite to win here, says Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, the lead analyst for Golf Channel’s LPGA Tour coverage and winner of this event in 1976. Lewis’ 3-stroke victory at the Mission Hills Country Club course in 2011 is “really what propelled her career and even started this No. 1 conversation which she has achieved. I think her game’s in very good shape.  I would have to believe that she will be just completely ready.”  Golf Channel has all four rounds, capped by the final at 2 p.m. Sunday.

GOLF: PGA Valero Texas Open, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Prelude to the Masters, this one in San Antonio has Rory McIlroy in the field. He also played in the week prior to Augusta in 2009 and ’10, at the Shell Houston Open as the defending champ. Tiger Woods has passed on this one.

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. Dodger Stadium, Prime:
Donald Zackary “Zack”  Greinke, fear not. The mound is yours. The series against Russel Martin’s Pirates continues Saturday (6 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.), both on Prime.

NBA: Lakers vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m. Staples Center, TWC SportsNet:
The Grizzlies have already squashed the Lakers by eight and seven points already this season.

SATURDAY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
NCAA MEN’S FINAL FOUR in Atlanta:  Wichita State vs. Louisville, 3 p.m.; Syracuse vs. Michigan, 5:30 p.m., Channel 2:
Nothing should shock and awe us as much as Wichita State’s ability to make it this deep into the tournament, a nine seed from the West coached by Gregg Marshall that lost its top five scorers from last season but is now 30-8. “If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing,” Marshall said. “I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I don’t think she found four.”  In other words, it’s not the same Shockers team that lost at home against Evansville in late February and twice to Creighton in early March.

HORSE RACING: Santa Anita Derby, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
Hear the Ghost, winner of the recent San Felipe Handicap, is not one of the three Bob Baffert-trained possible entries for the May 4 Kentucky Derby prep race. That would be Power Broker, Super Ninety Nine and Flashback, the favorite who finished second to Hear the Ghost in that March 9 race. Baffert horses have won the Santa Anita Derby six times. Nine Santa Anita Derby winners have won the Kentucky Derby, including last year’s I’ll Have Another.

NHL: Kings vs. Edmonton, 1 p.m. Staples Center, FSW:
They’ve split the previous two meetings. But neither was an afternoon early-riser.

SUNDAY

NBA:
Lakers at Clippers, 12:30 p.m. Staples Center, Channel 7:
Not a preview of a first-round Western Conference playoff matchup but an incredible stimulation for fans who still hold out some hope of a Hallway Series. Maybe, in a half-way house, but not this year. The Clippers have already won games against the Lakers in November (by 10), in January (by five) and in February (by 24). Why even bother further embarrassment by dragging out the national TV cameras, unless they’re hiring Metta World Peace as an analyst?

NHL: Kings at Ducks, 6 p.m., Honda Center, FSW,  Prime:
With the league’s trading deadline Tuesday, either roster could have a few nips and tucks by the time they face off for the third time this aborted season. The Kings’ 5-2 home win over the Ducks on Feb. 25 didn’t completely erase the sting of the 7-4 loss endured in Anaheim three weeks earlier.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR in New Orleans: games at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
A Stanford-Cal rematch in the Spokane Regional didn’t happen after the top-seeded Cardinal lost. If Cal gets past Georgia in that Elite Eight round (today, 6:40 p.m.), the Bears could have a decent shot in the Final Four against UConn or Kentucky.

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