Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports)
THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
65th NBA ALL-STAR GAME
Details/TV: At Toronto, Sunday at 5 p.m., TNT
For Kobe Bryant’s 18th and final All-Star appearance, we can see a best-case scenario — the players yield as he goes off 20-plus points and wins his fifth game MVP recognition.
The not-so-best scenario: He throws up a few airballs early, turnovers, frustration kicks in, and those in Toronto began to jeer him in English and French.
We asked the TNT studio analysts which one they anticipated.
“There’s no best-case, worst-case, we’re just going to celebrate him and just have some fun,” said Charles Barkley, who retired in 1997, the year before Bryant played in his first All-Star game at Madison Square Garden.
“I would just like to see him big in a big moment,” added Kenny Smith. “If the game is close, I think he can get the basketball and create an opportunity for himself. He doesn’t have to have a big game, just make some big shots.”
Former Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who played with Bryant on the West All-Star team five times and against him three other times with the East, gave this opinion: “When it comes to All-Star games, you don’t have to play all 48 minutes. Remember when Magic (Johnson) came back (in 1992) and he call out Mike (Jordan) to play (one-on-one) and the crowd went crazy, he called out Isiah (Thomas) … It would be exciting if (Bryant) called out LeBron (James) or D-Wade (Dwayne Wade) … If you get a couple of instances where you hit a couple big shots, the crowd goes crazy ….”
Co-winners of the MVP award Phoenix Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal and Lakers’ Kobe Bryant hold up their trophy after the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
O’Neal, who shared a game MVP award with Bryant in 2009 at Phoenix, added: “If his legs are good, he’s feeling good and his stroke is going, knowing Kobe, he will go for the MVP… It’s all about certain storylines, and the first part of the storyline is the Kobe tour. If he can get MVP that would be the second part of the storyline. The last part of the storyline is we would like to get a championship or make the playoffs, but that’s definitely not going to happen.”
So Shaq is on the record with that prediction now.
So here’s another crazy suggestion: Why doesn’t Bryant use this as a walk-off moment? The rest of the Lakers’ season can’t be anything to really go back for. Hit a game-winning jumper here, take off the jersey, throw it to the crowd, and it’s all done. On Valentine’s Day, let’s just kiss and say goodbye.
Also this weekend: “All Star Saturday Night” skills challenge/dunk contest, Saturday at 5 p.m., TNT; NBA D-League All-Star game, Saturday at 11 a.m., NBA TV; Rising Stars Challenge game, Friday at 6 p.m., TNT; All-Star Celebrity Game, Friday at 4 p.m., ESPN.
Also Friday: NBA TV has the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 finalists announced (10:30 a.m.). Shaquille O’Neal is among those eligible with Yao Ming and Allen Iverson.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
U.S. OLYMPIC MARATHON TRIALS
Details/TV: At L.A. Live, Saturday at 10 a.m., Channel 4
31st LOS ANGELES MARATHON
Details/TV: Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica pier, Sunday at 6 a.m., Channel 5
Meb Keflezighi wins the 118th Boston Marathonin April, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The weekend where the Fitbit gets a real workout. A day before the annual L.A. race, those who aim to be one of the three men and three women who are part of Team USA for the Summer Games in Rio need to step up here. Former UCLA and Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, 40, is a crowd favorite on the men’s side, and former Agoura High runner Deena Kastor, 42, is looking for a way to get in on the women’s team. The Trials course starts at L.A. Live with a 2.2 mile loop around downtown, heading back to Staples Center and the Convention Center before a trip around the USC campus, Exposition Park and the Coliseum, then heading back north on Figueroa to the finish. Opening ceremonies are at 9:15 a.m.; the men start at 10:06 a.m. and the women at 10:22 a.m.
The next day, the traditional run from downtown to the ocean commences with a pair of Kenyan runners (Daniel Limo and Olga Kimaiyo) trying to defend their men’s and women’s titles. The elite women begin at 6:45 a.m., with the elite men and the rest of the full field at 6:55 a.m. The wheelchair race begins at 6:30 p.m., with handcycles at 6:32 a.m.
FINISHING THE WEEK:
The 56th NHRA Winternationals are a go at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona (Thursday-Sunday) … UCLA and USC basketball go to play the Arizona schools on a Friday-Sunday tour … The Clippers are at Philadelphia (Monday) and Boston (Wednesday) while the Lakers are at Indiana (Monday) and Cleveland (Wednesday) before the All-Star break … The Kings, also booted out of Staples Center because of prep work before the Feb. 15 Grammy Awards, spend the week in Boston (Tuesday), Brooklyn (N.Y. Islanders, Thursday), New York City (N.Y. Rangers, Friday) and New Jersey (Sunday) … More at this link.