What we still believe we know about the NBA heading into the start of the launch of the beginning of the ramp-up to the season marketed as “We Finally Get This Started”:
== TNT can’t hardly wait to air a Thursday doubleheader – Lakers (24-3) at Milwaukee (24-3, without a loss since Nov. 8) at 5 p.m. with Kevin Harland and Reggie Miller, followed by Houston at Clippers at 7:30 p.m. with Marv Albert and Chris Webber – mostly because there is no more NFL to contend with, and it’s a national exclusive.
== As Lakers coach Frank Vogel worries about “stagnation” and LeBron James is just faking things between trips to Akron, the Lakers continue a string of playing eight of nine on the road. Why would a team that’s won 14 straight road games worry at this point?
== The Clippers, 13-1 at home, finally come back after their six-game road trip ends with the bitterness of the NBA scheduling to accommodate back-to-back TV times. And they’ve been playing lately without Lou Williams (sore calf) and Patrick Beverley (concussion).
* How the week unfolds for the Lakers (ranked No. 2 behind Milwaukee in the Week 9 ESPN power rankings):
= At Indiana, Tuesday at 4 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= At Milwaukee, Thursday at 5 p.m. TNT
= Vs. Denver, Staples Center, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* How the week unfolds for the Clippers (20-8, No. 3 in the NBA Power Rankings, up from No. 4)
= Vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Vs. Houston, Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT
= At San Antonio, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Oklahoma City, Sunday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
What we think we can explain about the importance of NFL Week 16:
== The official start of Winter – Is It a Proper Noun worthy of Capitalization? Others seem to have no problem capitalizing on it – doesn’t officially happen until 8:19 p.m. Saturday, making it the shortest day of the year.
Right about at that moment, the Rams’ season could be shortened to meaningless during their game at San Francisco (in Santa Clara, Saturday at 5:15 p.m., Channel 2 and NFL Network).
After the latest misery in Dallas, no matter how you call it in the air, the 8-6 Rams are in need of a win here against the NFC West leaders, and then another in the Week 17 finale at home against Arizona to finish up a respectable 10-6 (a record the Cowboys would love to have). The Rams then need to bank on U.S. Bank Stadium tenants Minnesota, with a 10-4 mark to date and undefeated at home, to lose a game they’re hosting Green Bay on the eve of Christmas Eve, then follow that with a botched finale against visiting Chicago, to also skid to 10-6, but lose the second NFC wildcard spot to the Rams, who would have the tiebreaker because a better record against NFC opponents.
== The 5-9 Chargers, no use to the Rams in their playoff puzzle as they gave a game away to Minnesota in Week 15, play what they assume will be their last game at the Dignity Sports Health Center in Carson against Oakland (Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Channel 2). Go ahead and trash the place when you’re done. You have no dignity to worry about at this juncture.
Finishing Week 15:
= Indianapolis at New Orleans, Monday at 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Moving into Week 16:
= Houston at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m., NFL Network
= Buffalo at New England, 1:30 p.m., NFL Network
= In the Fox 10 a.m. window to start the network doubleheader: N.Y. Giants at Washington (instead of Jacksonville at Atlanta, New Orleans at Tennessee or Carolina at Indianapolis).
= In the CBS 10 a.m. window (none available in L.A.): Baltimore at Cleveland, Cincinnati at Miami, Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets
= Also in the CBS 1:05 p.m. window (not in L.A.): Detroit at Denver
= Also in the Fox 1:25 p.m. window: Dallas at Philadelphia (instead of Arizona at Seattle)
= Kansas City at Chicago, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
Monday, Dec. 23:
= Green Bay at Minnesota, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
An educated guess at the college basketball season to date if we dare call Bill Walton to comment:
== Only San Diego State (10-0) and Auburn (9-0) have survived as unbeatens among those Top 25 teams to this point, after No. 1 Louisville, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Maryland dropped one. SDSU remains at No. 20 in the latest AP polls (up from No. 25). Auburn is flat at No. 9.
== 11-1 Gonzaga has shot up to No. 2 at the latest glamor team behind new No. 1 Kansas (9-1) after knocking off Arizona. Louisville (10-1) somehow drops to No. 3 after its first loss.
== The only Pac 12 teams in the current Top 25: No. 8 Oregon (8-2, up two spots), No. 16 Arizona (10-2, down from No. 15), and No. 22 Washington (7-2, up four spots). Colorado (8-2, losing two of their last three), fell out of the No. 24 spot.
== Loyola Marymount has to move its home game on Thursday to USC’s Galen Center, because Gersten Pavilion has been promised for the Democratic National Committee’s latest president candidate debate.
So that’s where the school’s priorities lie.
How the week plays out for USC (9-2, winners of three in a row):
= Vs. 7-2 LSU in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center, Saturday at 6 p.m., FS1 (preceded by San Diego State vs. Utah at 3:30 p.m., Pac 12 Network). Note: The USC game at Staples Center comes one night after the Anita Baker Farewell Concert Series stops at the arena in her last West Coast show. Just thought that should be pointed out.
How the week plays out for UCLA (7-4, looking shabby after a loss at Notre Dame):
= Vs. 6-4 North Carolina at the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Saturday at noon, Channel 2 (followed by Kentucky vs. Ohio State at 2:15 p.m.)
How the week plays out for Long Beach State (3-8):
= Vs. Southern Utah, Walter Pyramid, Thursday at 7 p.m.
= Vs. Utah Valley, Walter Pyramid, Saturday at 4 p.m.
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (2-10):
= Vs. San Francisco State, at the Matadome, Sunday at 3 p.m.
How the week plays out for Pepperdine (5-6):
= Vs. Portland State, Firestone Fieldhouse, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
= Vs. Northern Arizona, Firestone Fieldhouse, Saturday at 1 p.m.
How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (5-5):
= At UC Davis, Monday at 7 p.m.
= Vs. Portland State, at Galen Center/USC, Thursday at 7 p.m.
= Vs. Cal State Fullerton, Gersten Pavilion, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Games of national interest this week include:
North Carolina at Gonzaga, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Utah vs. Kentucky in Las Vegas, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Maryland at Seton Hall, 4 p.m., FS1
North Carolina State at Auburn, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Kansas at Villanova, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Ohio State vs. Kentucky in Las Vegas, 2:15 p.m., Channel 2
Dayton vs. Colorado in Chicago, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN
St. John’s vs. Arizona in San Francisco, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Nevada vs. Saint Mary’s in San Francisco, 9 p.m., ESPNU
South Carolina at Virginia, noon, Channel 7
Washington vs. Ball State in Honolulu, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
The college football bowl season enters unofficially Week 16, knocking out nine bowl games and giving some a reason to take an early holiday vacation to the Bahamas, Boca Raton or Montgomery, Ala., brought to you by an array of bizarre sponsors and a home game for Florida Atlantic now that Lane Kiffin has left (for Mississippi) and Chris Petersen says he’s retiring from Washington after pulling in more than $4 million a season and building a 54-26 record from 2014-19, following his career boost of coaching Boise State to national prominence from ’06-‘13:
How it lines up:
= Bahamas Bowl at Nassau: Buffalo vs. Charlotte, 11 a.m., ESPN
= Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Tex.: Utah State vs. Kent State, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
= Celebration Bowl at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T, 9 a.m., Channel 7
= New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque, N.M.: San Diego State vs. Central Michigan, 11 a.m., ESPN
= Cure Bowl at Orlando, Fla.: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern, 11:30 a.m., CBSSN
= Boca Raton Bowl in FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.: Florida Atlantic vs. SMU, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
= Camelia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.: Florida International vs. Arkansas State, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
= Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium: No. 19 Boise State vs. Washington, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7
= New Orleans Bowl at Mercdes-Benz Superdome, No. 20 Appalachian State vs. UAB, 6 p.m., ESPN
What we agree is the NHL in Southern California just pushing through to 2020:
How this week shapes up for the Kings (14-18-3, 31 points, last in the Western Conference)
= At Boston, Tuesday at 4 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At Columbus, Thursday at 4 p.m,. Fox Sports West
= At Buffalo, Saturday at 10 a.m., Fox Sports West
How the week shapes up for the Ducks (14-15-4, 32 points, tied with Chicago for next-to-last in the Western Conference)
= At Philadelphia, Tuesday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At New Jersey, Wednesday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At N.Y. Islanders in Nassau Coliseum, Saturday at 10 a.m., Prime Ticket
= At N.Y. Rangers, Sunday at 9:30 a.m., Prime Ticket
== NCAA women’s volleyball Final Four in Pittsburgh:
= Semifinals: No. 1 seed Baylor vs. Wisconsin, Thursday at 4 p.m., Stanford vs. Minnesota, Thursday at 6:30 p.m., ESPN
= Final: Saturday at 5 p.m., ESPN2