THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
THE GRAMMY ROAD TRIPS BEGIN:
LAKERS at PHOENIX, Wednesday at 6 p.m., TWC SportsNet
KINGS at ST. LOUIS, Thursday at 5 p.m., NBC Sports Net
CLIPPERS at NEW YORK, Friday at 4 p.m., Prime:
Wanna get away? Again?
It’s really sounding like a broken record — those who run Staples Center have blurred lines when it comes to deciding what takes precedent in its building. So what if the Lakers, Clippers and Kings fill all the dates between October and May. When Grammy season arrives, the sound you hear are from the planes taking all those teams as far away as possible. Even though the awards ceremony/circus isn’t until Sunday, Jan. 26, the place needs to be cleared out for dress-up rehearsals and possibly installing new hydraulic equipment for a special Justin Timberlake entrance.
This is the time when Katie Perry’s Roar drowns out Mike D’Antoni’s list of excuses about the latest injuries. When Eminem can be more Berzerk than Clipper Darrell after another Blake Griffin dunk. When Kendrick Lamar has more cred entering the building than Lamar Odom (is he retired yet?)
All this means is that while the Kings have a home game Monday, they’re gone for eight games through Jan. 30. They are 12-8-2 away from home this season so far.
The Lakers are at home Tuesday, then they’re out the door for seven in a row away, until Jan. 28. They’re 6-13 on the road.
The Clippers are home Wednesday, then they beat it for seven in a row on the road, until Jan. 29. They’re 9-10 away from home.
And all the while, Rhianna remains Unapologetic. Ask Matt Kemp about that one.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
NHL: KINGS vs. VANCOUVER, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Kings have played the Canucks three times already. And won all three. All of them against Roberto Luongo. After this, no more meetings for the Kings’ last 35 games. Unfortunately. It’s also Dodger Appreciation Night. Or something like that, where members of the baseball team show up to drop the puck, mingle, ask questions and then remind people their stadium will soon become an outdoor rink.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN, first-round matches, 6 p.m. ESPN2:
Even though this major event has already commenced – if it’s Monday in Melbourne, it’s Sunday in So Cal – the event down under may draw frigid U.S. viewers if only to see what summer looks like on the bottom part of the globe. The answer: Hot. Where the Extreme Heat Policy is often invoked and matches are suspended or moved inside. Retractable roofs are nearly on every major court now simply for shade. Ironically, there’s no roof yet for the Margret Court court yet. Serena Williams, by the way, is very hot. She knocked off two-time defending Aussie champ Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane a week ago and brings a 34-match winning streak into this event, seeking her 18th Grand Slam title. She had a 78-4 record in 2013 – with one of those losses to Sloane Stephens in this event. Novak Djokovic, a 17-time major winner, didn’t get to a Grand Slam final at all last year but the four-time Aussie winner has a 21-match win streak and is the heavy favorite. Every day, from the 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. window, ESPN2 has the coverage up until the men’s and women’s finals on Jan. 26.
NBA: LAKERS vs. CLEVELAND, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Dang, if the Cavs just want to leave Luol Deng behind after they leave, since he’s going to be a free agent anyway, by all means, work out a deal now.
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. DALLAS, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
In a 119-112 win at Dallas just two weeks ago, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin scored 25 apiece to make up for losing Chris Paul to injury.
UCLA at COLORADO, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
USC at UTAH, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
The 14-3 Buffaloes’ bold move up the Top 15 rankings took a hit with a 16-point loss at Washington in their last conference game, which also saw star junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie (Woodland Hills Taft High) go down with a knee problem. Askia Booker (L.A. Price High), twice a Pac-12 Player of the Week winner this season, went scoreless in that loss to the Huskies. The two had combined to average more than 29 points a game going into that contest. Dinwiddie had 23 points in the Buffs’ three-point loss to UCLA in their only matchup last season.
PGA TOUR HUMANA CHALLENGE, PGA West at La Quinta, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Yes, this counts as the ninth event for the new 2013-14 PGA Tour season. And neither Tiger Woods (no shock) nor Phil Mickelson (after finishing in a tie for 37th last year, he’s going to the Dubai instead) will be present, having skipped this one as well as the two previously in Hawaii to get ready for San Diego. That seems to leave Greg Norman, who didn’t play in any PGA Tour or Champions Tour events during the 2013 season, as the headliner, saying he’s up for playing again with tournament host Bill Clinton.
Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Rickie Fowler are other headliners to be seen out at PGA West Palmer (6,950 yards) and Nicklaus (6,924) courses, plus the La Quinta Country Club (7,060). Brian Gay (above) outlasted Charles Howell III in a playoff to win it last year. Golf Channel has all four rounds, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday at noon.
NBA: LAKERS at BOSTON, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Remember when this mattered? The Celtics have lost eight in a row coming into this week. The Lakers lost four in a row coming into this week. See you at the draft lottery.
NHL: KINGS at DETROIT, 4 p.m., FSW:
This one is in Joe Louis Arena, not at the Big House outside on the University of Michigan campus. Darn. The Kings have another shot at trying to get rid of the taste of the Red Wings’ 3-1 win last week.
USC at COLORADO, 11 a.m., Fox Sports 1
UCLA at UTAH, 1 p.m., Fox Sports 1:
In rolling to a 13-3 mark, the Utes have a nation-best 52.4 percent field-goal shooting mark. And they’re seventh in team assists at 17.7 a contest. Their only conference losses are by two in OT vs. No 10 Oregon and by two at Washington. Their only non-conference loss was also by two, at Boise State.
EAST WEST SHRINE GAME, St. Petersburg, Fla., 1 p.m., NFL Network:
The best of the West team at Tropicana Field includes USC offensive lineman Kevin Graf, UCLA defensive lineman Cassius Marsh, plus linebackers Jordan Zumwalt of UCLA and Devon Kennard of USC. Quarterback participants include Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (for the East) and Washington’s Keith Price and Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees (for the West). Let’s be careful out there.
AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:
NEW ENGLAND at DENVER, noon, Channel 2:
Better go fetch Peyton Manning. He’s somewhere back in 1984 with that pizza guy trying to drum up more business for Papa John’s. Peyton may want to do a discount double check before he returns.
NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:
SAN FRANCISCO at SEATTLE, 3:30 p.m., Channel 11:
The third installment of this season’s Seahawks-49ers rivalry will decide whether there’s a repeat NFC champion or Pete Carroll can march back to New York with a Super Bowl in his redemptive cross hairs. Have you seen the headphone commercial where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick exits the team bus and makes his way through the gauntlet of agitated Seahawks’ fans in Seattle, but is able to tune them all out with some high-tech “adaptive noise cancelling?” There’s no fact-cancelling software that can erase San Francisco’s 29-3 loss in Seattle back in a wet-and-sloppy Week 2, where Kaepernick was sacked three times, threw for only 127 yards and ran for another 87. It’s also been pointed out that the Seahawks have outscored the 49ers, 71-16, in their last two Seattle meetings. San Francisco was able to extract a 19-17 win in Week 14 at Candlestick Park, thanks to four Phil Dawson field goals. Seattle last reached the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs, so it’s been a long-time coming for the Seahawks fans, who can apparently set off earthquake-like conditions for their opponents no matter how poorly Russell Wilson is playing.
NBA: LAKERS at TORONTO, 10 a.m., TWC SportsNet:
With a record hovering around .500, the Raptors are actually right around the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference at this point. Mediocrity apparently pays for these guys with very little arms.