What we surmised about the NBA grinds toward its All Star weekend — not the mid-season point, please — with more Kobe Bryant tributes with its new complicated reformat:
== TNT (Sunday, 6 p.m., in Chicago) again has Team LeBron facing Team Giannis again, which last year had the LeBrons posting a 178-164 win in Charlotte, N.C., and Kevin Durant was the MVP. This, after Team Giannis took at 53-37 lead in the first quarter.
This is the third time the league has diverted from an East-vs.-West format, yet Team James has a starting lineup of all West guys – including Lakers’ pal Anthony Davis, who he also picked first last year off the Pelicans roster, and Team Antetokounmpo is all East.
Why bother having a draft?
Team LeBron will all wear the No. 2 in honor of Gianna Bryant; Team Giannis will all wear No. 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant.
But seriously, this would be a more compelling watch if we had a Team USA against a World squad, especially in an Olympic year. It’s what they’re doing in the Friday Rising Stars Challenge.
Also: NBA Dunk Contest (Dwight Howard, Derrick Jones, Aaron Gordon and Pat Connaughton) and 3-point Shot Contest, Saturday, TNT, 5 p.m.; Rising Stars Challenge, Friday at 6 p.m., TNT
How the rest of the week unfolds for the Lakers (39-12, still No. 2 in Week 17 of the ESPN NBA Power Rankings)
= Vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, Monday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= At Denver, Wednesday at 7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
How the rest of the week unfolds for the Clippers (37-16, revived with Marcus Morris, but temporarily dropping to a new low of No. 6 in the ESPN NBA Power Rankings)
= At Philadelphia, Tuesday at 4 p.m., TNT, Prime Ticket
= At Boston, Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT, Prime Ticket
What we read about he PGA Tour’s one last loop of SoCal after checking in on Torrey Pines and Palm Desert:
== The new Tiger Woods-hosted event called the Genesis Invitational with a $9.3 million purse remains a tournament the host has never won.
It’s been suggested it would be appropriate if he did, for career Tour win No. 83, breaking the all-time record he shares currently with Sam Snead.
== J.B. Holmes won it last year at 14-under, one stroke better than Justin Thomas, with Rory McIlroy tied for fourth, Adam Scott dropping to a tie for seventh, Dustin Johnson tied for ninth and Tiger Woods falling to a tie for 15th after shooting 70-71-65-72.
== If form holds, Bubba Watson will win. He has captured this title in 2014 (269), 2016 (269) and 2018 (272).
== Those in the field include past champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory Sabbatini, Charles Howell III and James Hahn, plus new World Rankings No.1 Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia.
== This is also the last month before the Tour has four majors (and five big ones) in a five-month stretch – The Players Championship (March 12-15), The Masters (April 9-12), The PGA Championship (May 14-17), the U.S. Open (June 18-21 at Winged Foot) and The Open Championship (July 16-19 at Royal St. George GC in Sandwich, Kent, England).
The TV lineup:
Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or darkness)
Saturday: 11 a.m. Golf Channel, noon-to-3 p.m., Channel 2
Sunday: 11 a.m. Golf Channel, noon-to-3:30 p.m., Channel 2
The latest info we’re trying to gather about the college basketball season three weeks before March hits:
== Are we good with five teams from the Pac-12 and three from the West Coast Conference getting into the tournament? That’s the latest from the ESPN Joe Lunardi bracket: USC has dropped to a No. 9 in the South, with No. 1 Baylor for the second round, while Oregon (4 in the West), Arizona (5 in the East), Colorado (6 in the Midwest)and Stanford (10 in the South) give the Pac-12 some representation. The WCC has Gonzaga (1 in the East, with San Diego State a 1 in the West), Saint Mary’s (8 in the West) and BYU (7 in the Midwest).
== The latest AP Top 25 includes Baylor (21-1) pulling away from Gonzaga (25-1) and Kansas (20-3), with San Diego State (24-0) hanging in at No. 4. The Pac 12 saw Colorado (19-5) move eight spots up to No. 16, Oregon (18-6) drop three to No. 17 and Arizona (16-7) fall out after a preposterous loss to UCLA, 65-52. Also, preseason No. 1 Michigan State (16-8), down to a respectable No. 16 in Week 14, has completely fallen out of the poll in Week 15 with three losses in a row, to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan, plus No. 22 and No. 9 Maryland coming up this week.
How the week plays out for USC (17-7, 6-5 in the Pac 12 with three straight losses, 9-2 at home)
= Vs. Washington, Galen Center, Thursday at 6 p.m., ESPN2 (with Bill Walton)
= Vs. Washington State, Galen Center, Saturday at 5 p.m., Pac-12 Network
How the week plays out for UCLA (13-11, 6-5 in the Pac 12, 9-4 at home)
= Vs. Washington State, Pauley Pavilion, Thursday at 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network
= Vs. Washington, Pauley Pavilion, Saturday at 7 p.m., ESPN2 (with Bill Walton)
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (10-15, 5-4 in the Big West, 7-3 at home)
= Vs. Cal Poly, Matadome, Thursday at 7 p.m., ESPN3
= At UC Davis, Saturday at 5 p.m.
How the week plays out for Long Beach State (7-17, 2-6 in the Big West, 1-10 on the road)
= At Hawaii, Wednesday at 9 p.m.
= Vs. UC Riverside, Walter Pyramid, Saturday at 4 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN3
How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (8-16, 2-8 in the WCC, 0-8 on the road)
= Vs. BYU, Gersten Pavilion, Thursday at 8 p.m., ESPNU
= At Santa Clara, Saturday at 2 p.m.
How the week plays out for Pepperdine (13-12, 6-5 in the WCC, 8-3 at home)
= Vs. San Diego, Firestone Fieldhouse, Thursday at 8 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= Vs. Gonzaga, Firestone Fieldhouse, Saturday at 7 p.m., ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU
Games of national interest this week include:
Florida State at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN
Baylor at Texas, 6 p.m.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m., ESPN
Rhode Island at Dayton, 4:30 p.m., CBSSN
Michigan State at Illinois, 6 p.m.
New Mexico at San Diego State, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Creighton at Seton Hall, 3:30 p.m., FS1
Xavier at Butler, 3:30 p.m. CBSSN
Alabama at Auburn, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Marquette at Villanova, 5:30 p.m., FS1
Colorado at Oregon, 6 p.m., ESPN
Utah at Oregon State, 6 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Arizona at Cal, 7:30 p.m., FS1
Arizona State at Stanford, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Oklahoma at Kansas, 9 a.m., ESPN
Syracuse at Florida State, 9 a.m., ESPN2
Dayton at UMass, 9:30 a.m., CBSSN
Georgetown at Butler, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11
West Virginia at Baylor, 1 p.m., ESPN+
Louisville at Clemson, 1 p.m., ACC Network
Notre Dame at Duke, 1 p.m., ESPN
Maryland at Michigan State, 3 p.m., ESPN
Seton Hall at Providence, 5 p.m., CBSSN
Colorado at Oregon State, 7 p.m., FS1
Arizona at Stanford, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Net
UC Irvine at Hawaii, 9 p.m., ESPN2
Villanova at Temple, 10 a.m., ESPN
Indiana at Michigan, 10 a.m., Channel 2
San Diego State at Boise State, 1 p.m., CBSSN
Arizona State at Cal, 3 p.m., ESPNU
Utah at Oregon, 6 p.m., FS1
The Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers are to report to Arizona spring training on Friday — David Price, it’s in Glendale, Ariz., not the Red Sox camp in Florida. The Angels’ pitcher and catchers are in Tempe, Ariz., a couple days earlier.
But Friday there’s some better action: College baseball begins.
In various preseason polls, UCLA is challenging Arizona State for Top 10 status, with defending champion Vanderbilt still the one to beat.
How the opening weekend plays out for UCLA:
= Vs. UC Riverside, at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for USC:
= Vs. Western Michigan, Dedeaux Field, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for Long Beach State:
= Vs. Cal at Blair Field, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for Cal State Northridge:
= Vs. San Francisco, at Matador Field, Friday at 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for Cal State Fullerton:
= At Stanford, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for UC Irvine:
= At Fresno State, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for Loyola Marymount:
= Vs. Washington State, at Page Stadium, Friday at 5 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the opening weekend plays out for Pepperdine:
At the Angels College Classic in Phoenix:
= Vs. San Diego, Friday at 2:30 p.m.
= Vs. Minnesota, Saturday at 1 p.m.
= Vs. Oregon, Sunday at 11 a.m.
Why we know we need a jacket to go watch the NHL this week:
== The Kings go outdoors to break up the monotony. Saturday’s contest against Colorado has been sidetracked to Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, a 5 p.m. start with the NHL Stadium Series, taken by Channel 4.
This is a Kings roster that last week had to adjust the trade that sent away fan favorites Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell.
== With Alex Ovechkin two goals shy of 700, NBCSN has picked up Monday’s 4 p.m. Washington-N.Y. Islanders game. Ovechkin got to this point scoring a hat trick in the span of only four minutes and 24 seconds in Tuesday’s victory over the Kings last week.
Also this week for the Kings (19-33-5, 43 points, last in the Western Conference)
= Vs. Calgary, Staples Center, Wednesday at 7 p.m., NBCSN
Also this week for the Ducks (23-26-7, 53 points third from the bottom in the Western Conference)
= Vs. St. Louis, Honda Center, Tuesday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
= Vs. Calgary, Honda Center, Thursday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At Vancouver, Sunday at 2 p.m., Prime Ticket
== Can you handle a second week of the XFL? Your 0-1 Wildcats have their first home game in the 10-week season against the Dallas Renegades, Sunday at noon, Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Channel 7.
The rest of the league schedule:
New York at D.C., Saturday at 11 a.m., Channel 7
Tampa Bay at Seattle, Saturday at 2 p.m., Channel 11
St. Louis at Houston, Sunday at 3 p.m., FS1
More info: www.xfl.com
== The Super Bowl of NASCAR goes again at Daytona Beach, Fla., with the 62nd Daytona 500 (Sunday, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. starts on the poll next to Alex Bowman after last weekend’s trials. Also: The Can-Am Duel races are Thursday and the Xfinity series 300 is Saturday.
== Is the Westminster Kennel Club a sporting event? The 144th edition began Saturday and wraps up with Tuesday’s Best in Show (FS1, 4 p.m.)