Thanks for stopping by to pose for the 2015 NBA All-Star poster. Now, take a seat with the other injured L.A. stars.
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
64th NBA ALL-STAR GAME Details/TV: At Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday at 5:30 p.m., TNT: Start spreading the blues. The sights, sounds and smells of Christina Aguilera kickin’ it with the Rockettes aren’t that the genie-in-a-bottle moment we need to bring Kobe Bryant or Blake Griffin back into the starting lineup for the Western Conference in this annual exhibition. Last time we spotted the Black Lama, he popped up on “The Tonight Show” last week with his right arm in a sling, then reminisced with Jimmy Fallon about how back in the day they were sent on a late-night beer run together and had to bribe the guy inside a Pink Dot on Sunset Blvd. Griffin, meanwhile, has this crazy elbow thing come up at the wrong time and he could be slinging it as well for awhile. Substitute picks DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard directly benefit from the Bryant-Griffin excused absence. But that doesn’t excuse why DeAndre Jordan, the league leader in rebounds and second in blocked shots, still isn’t here. At the most very least, L.A. will be represented by the Clippers’ Chris Paul – unless he gets expelled for another rant about a rookie referee. What else could possibly draw you into this one? Try to spot Phil Jackson moping around in the stands. Maybe Pau and Marc Gasol exchange some short-pants tugging – two former Lakers, as they were. And if you happen to spot Luke Walton on the West bench, it isn’t a mirage – he’s Steve Kerr’s assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. Anyone else gets hurt, we’re counting on Kerr to have Walton suit up. Anyone else gets hurt, we’re counting on Kerr to have Walton suit up. So if you’re jonesing for some All-Star memorable moments, maybe check this out in the meantime.
Dunk contest (with Minnesota rookie and former UCLA player Zach LaVine competing against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee), 3-point contest (with the Clippers J.J. Reddick against a field that includes Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Steph Curry), skills challenge and shooting stars competition is at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, 5:30 p.m., TNT
Rising Stars Challenge in Brooklyn is Friday, 6 p.m., TNT
ALSO THIS WEEK:
The Clippers’ final stop on the eight-game Grammy road trip at Dallas (Monday, 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) will hit a huge sour note for if they can’t stop a four-game losing streak … The Kings also have one more roadie to play, in Columbus (Monday, 4:30 p.m.) before returning home Thursday to face Calgary (7:30 p.m., FSW) … UCLA lost by 18 last time in Oregon, but have a Valentine’s Day date prepared this time around at Pauley Pavilion (Saturday at noon, Channel 11) … Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine get one more shot at No. 2-ranked Gonzaga on Thursday and Saturday … The PGA Tour’s stop at Pebble Beach for the annual pro-am brings Bill Murray back into the mix … More at this link.
No official column online or in print this week, so just filter through these items of note:
== Count us as surprised by the CBS/Turner Sports had the onions to officially announce this week that Bill Raftery and Grant Hill would effectively replace Steve Kerr and Greg Anthony as Jim Nantz’s analysts on the NCAA Final Four and April 6 national title game.
Raftery has put 33 years into calling NCAA Tournament games and 23 years on radio during the Final Four. The 71-year-old is well deserving of the elevation to this perch after all these seasons. His long-time commitment to CBS, while also doing games for ESPN and, lately, Fox Sports 1, on the Big East is finally being rewarded.
“I’ve been there a long time,” he said of the Final Four in an interview with USA Today.
“Unfortunately when I coached (at Seton Hall, from 1970-81) I couldn’t get my team there so I’m making it up for it now.” Raftery would have been the likely choice to replace Kerr. But with Hill, however, he has only worked in the studio and still seems to be getting his broadcasting feet wet. The former Duke star parlayed a famous college career into 18 NBA seasons, his last with the Clippers in 2013. Raftery actually called some of Hill’s games at Duke, including the 1994 Final Four when Hill’s Duke team was in it.
You’re not asking us, but someone like Reggie Miller would have made a bit more sense than Hill for the third chair. Unless TNT saw too much of a conflict with him doing NBA games — which would not make sense because Kerr had the same issue a year ago.
Kerr since left the group to coach the Golden State Warriors to the best record in the Western Conference this season; Anthony was suspended by CBS after his arrest last month for prostitution solicitation and he entered a not guilty plea in the case this week.
The new Nantz-Raftery-Hill will appear for the first time on the Big Ten tournament semifinals and title game March 14-15, which does not give the trio much time to find its chemistry.
== Has anyone been able to explain yet how Sir Nick Faldo went bangers-and-mash on his Super Bowl pick — correct team and score — hours before the game was played, as it stood there in graphic form on the CBS’ PGA Tour telecast from Scottsdale that morning? Maybe he gets his rightful recognition when he joins Golf Channel on the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines on Thursday at noon.
(When I pointed this out to Jim Nantz earlier this week via email, he replied: “Just one of the many reasons why Her Majesty deemed him worthy of Knighthood.”)
FYI: A year earlier, David Feherty correctly predicted the Seahawks would win Super Bowl XLVIII — and even had the 43-8 win over Denver right.
== How did Al Michaels figure out off the top of his head that little-known New England rookie Malcolm Butler made the game-saving interception at the end of the game? He explains on an interview this week with the Mighty 1090 in San Diego. But Michaels won’t finish the conversation until he talks about minor-league hockey and how the NHL top affiliates are dotting Southern California cities.
== NBC Sports’ own “Pro Football Talk” blog gives Super Bowl producer Fred Gaudelli another opportunity to dispute a Deadspin take on why the network decided to cut away from the touchdown celebration by Seattle’s Doug Baldwin. “In every telecast there are always decisions we would like to have back,” says Gaudelli. “This isn’t one of them.”
Our only issue with this decision is there was no verbal explanation by the broadcasters why the Seahawks were given a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration. It kind of glossed over that aspect.
Eight years ago, we recall having an intriguing hotel-room sit down with pro bull riding star Adriano Moraes. It sticks with us because of how deep this athlete got about his faith, his immortality and his pride in what he was accomplishing, considering his roots from poverty in Brazil.
Turns out, they’ve put up a statue of Moraes in front of the PBR headquarters in Colorado (above).
“That son of a gun did good…I am not scared of saying he is the greatest guy that ever rode bulls until somebody proves me wrong, but they haven’t done that yet,” says a beaming Moraes, who was world champion three times, during an episode of Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports” that airs tonight at 10 p.m.
This also comes up as the PBR Tour makes its annual visit to the Honda Center in Anaheim this weekend. Brazil’s Valdiron de Oliveira won last year’s Anaheim stop, with countrymen Emilio Resende and Claudio Crisostomo finishing second and third. Five of the top-10 riders last season on the PBR were from Brazil. Five of the last seven world champions have been Brazilian.
Americans may outnumber Brazilians on the PBR Tour, but as far as who is the toughest, U.S. rider JB Mauney says in the piece about the riders from Brazil: “They don’t give up. They don’t quit. They try hard every single time. And in my eyes, that’s what a cowboy is.”
Moraes, who first rode on the PBR tour more than 20 years ago, says in the story with reporter Bill Whitaker: “Most of us, like me, I was born on a shack of dirt floor, didn’t have running water, didn’t have electricity and I made it to this.”
DRAG RACING: NHRA WINTERNATIONALS Details/TV: At Pomona Fairgrounds, Thursday-Sunday: Never thought we’d admit it, but the most-missed reality show from our DRV stash is the one a few years back called “Driving Force.” It lasted just two seasons, but in the process, Funny Car legend John Force became the A&E Network’s funny man, appearing to be a flame out as the high-profile dad of a high-octane family. Maybe it didn’t look like he could handle being the father of four girls – especially three daughters who followed him into the sport – but that was the charm of it. Dude really tried. Somewhere in the mess was John’s wife, Laurie. She lived in the family house in Yorba Linda with the daughters, while John lived in a condo up the street because “he’s impossible to live with,” she said on the show. ESPN described the series as “Charlie’s Angels in fire suits going head-to-head with a dysfunctional dad who’s a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and A.J. Foyt.” Not to mention someone who looked as batty as Gary Busey constantly thrown under the family bus. If there were another Family Force reality show in the makings – and they’ve supposedly reconnected with some Hollywood types to look into that – this would have been a great way to reset it, in the 2015 NHRA season opener. Here’s the storyline: The 65-year-old Force, who is the all-time NHRA wins leader (141) and 16-time champion, was dethroned from the Funny Car division last year by Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan. But he ditches his former ride and comes in with supped-up Chevy Camaro, wanting to defend his Winternationals title and telling everyone: “There isn’t anyone who loves drag racing more than I do. I’m like a little kid. I feel like I’m 16 years old again. … I’m a bad hombre when you put me in a fire suit.” Now can you not be fired up? ESPN2 has the Sunday finals airing on tape at 4:30 p.m.
THE REST OF THE WEEK:
The latest list put out by Scout.com of its Top 25 signing day high school football classes has listed USC at No. 5 in the country, best in the Pac-12, and UCLA at No. 13, second in the conference. We’ll find out Wednesday … The Clippers are at Oklahoma City (10 a.m., Channel 7) and the Lakers are at Cleveland (12:30 p.m., Sunday) when the 57th Grammy Awards takes place at Staples Center … the Kings’ road trip includes a stop at the White House before visiting Washington’s Capitals (Tuesday, 4 p.m., FSW) … And if you’re apt to take the bull by the horns, then the Pro Bull Riding stop in Anaheim over the weekend is where to go. More at this link.
Already, some media TV types are expressing a disdain that deflated footballs are hijacking their Super Bowl conversations.
On Tuesday’s NFL Live ESPN studio show, Herm Edwards barked: “This is an embarrassment for the league. You’re talking 5,000 media members (the number of credentials issued by the NFL for this game). And we’re talking about a situation that happened about a football. We shouldn’t have to discuss this anymore.”
ESPN’s Tom Jackson added: “I am like the Patriots, I am tired of talking about it. I am through talking about it for the rest of the week.”
What if someone was putting money down that you would talk more about it all?
“There’s a proposition that asks how many times will Michaels and (Cris) Collinsworth say ‘deflated balls’,” Michaels mentioned. “The over and under is 2-and-a-half. Bet the over. We can control that.”
Or can he?
We’re going to look more into that proposition, and others, in this week’s column.
What else we wanted to get to:
== How about the odds that Michaels can make it to every media outlet in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl?
Before he paid his latest visit with the BS Report — taped last Friday, released this last Monday, appearing above — he logged in a piece with NRP’s “Fresh AIr” (Dave Davies in for Terry Gross) and endured Q-and-As with MMQB.com and Rich Eisen‘s smarm-cast.