Ratcheting up the anxiety level among Lakers fans is the realization that, as was the case last June, the Boston Celtics are a better team. . . .
Kevin Garnett's ferocity has spread to his teammates. . . .
Adding to the consternation of Lakers fans: Kobe Bryant & Co. have failed to cover the betting line in each of their last seven games. . . .
High-scoring Danny Granger, whose Indiana Pacers have defeated the Lakers and Celtics, was the 17th pick in the 2005 NBA draft. . . .
The Lakers, with the 10th pick that year, took Andrew Bynum and the Clippers, with the 12th, took Russian bust Yaroslav Korolev. . . .
Nearly one in five Heisman Trophy voters did not believe Florida's Tim Tebow was worthy of a first-, second- or third-place vote, which leads one to ask, incredulously, "What were they watching?" . . .
The importance of Sunday night's game against the Carolina Panthers, which will determine home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, might be lost on the New York Giants. . . .
Eli Manning & Co. know from experience that the Super Bowl can be won without playing even a single home playoff game. . . .
The playoffs will be more fun if Brett Favre is involved. . . .
Donovan McNabb's benching last month was a kick in the pants for the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who bounced back stronger than ever. . . .
Introducing Ohio State's James Laurinaitis on Sunday in Newport Beach as winner of the Lott Trophy, named for Ronnie Lott, Howie Long said, "All you need to know about James is that Ronnie and I would have been honored to play with him." . . .
Ben Woodside, who leads North Dakota State against USC on Saturday at the Galen Center, made 30 free throws while scoring 60 points last Friday in a triple-overtime loss against Stephen F. Austin. . . .
Nothing against Toyota and Audi, which have taken over from General Motors as auto sponsors of the New York Yankees, but wouldn't Rolls-Royce be a more appropriate choice for baseball's freest-spending team? . . .
The Dodgers need to do more than sign Rafael Furcal, but it's a start. . . .
Seeing the headline, "Kings Need Someone to Mind the Net," Kings fans probably wondered, Haven't we been saying that for 40 years? . . .
Lance Armstrong's return to cycling is the best thing that ever happened to the Amgen Tour of California, which should shower the Texan with flowers and chocolates when its nine-day run kicks off on Valentine's Day. . . .
After the Clippers on Tuesday night beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is on pace to lose a record 75 games, Clippers rookie Eric Gordon told broadcaster Mike Smith, "It looks like we're going to have a big winning streak." . . .
Or not. . . .
Zach Randolph has stepped easily into Elton Brand's shoes. . . .
Bobby Gross, a former Long Beach State standout from San Pedro, averaged fewer than nine points in his NBA career but had his No. 30 retired Thursday night by the Portland Trail Blazers, who have retired the numbers of seven players who helped the franchise win its only NBA title in 1977. . . .
The Lakers have retired seven numbers -- total. . . .
In the same way that nobody regards Don MacLean as the greatest scorer in UCLA basketball history, nobody will ever call Tyler Hansbrough the greatest scorer in North Carolina history. . . .
Can you say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan? . . .
The Lakers, who saw Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Kevin Love for the first time Sunday at Staples Center, get their first look at O.J. Mayo on Monday at Memphis. . . .
Noting that soccer player Gaston Aguirre hit and killed a pigeon with a kicked ball in an Argentine league playoff game, reader Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., e-mails to ask, "Is he a midfielder or a Winfielder?" . . .
The latest example that verbal commitments from high school athletes are not worth the breath needed to make them: Tight end prospect Morrell Presley from Carson High, who committed to USC, is enrolled at UCLA. . . .
Golf is better off when Tiger Woods is focused more on reestablishing his dominance and less on defending a loose-lipped, smack-talking caddie. . . .
A Sports Illustrated ode to the most consistently engaging performer in Dodgers history: "The honey-voiced, ever-restrained, deftly insightful [Vin] Scully is your uncle unfurling a bedtime story that you never want to end." . . .