Pacers at Celtics
True, he is a beloved Beantown sports legend, but Larry Bird has always seemed more like fellow Hoosier Woody Boyd than Hub hero Sam Malone. Today, for the first time since being named coach of the Indiana Pacers, Bird will return to cheers in Boston, where everybody knows his name. Bird is making quite a name for himself on the bench; at week's end his Pacers were 23-11. With 16 wins, the Celtics have already surpassed last season's victory mark (15) behind their new coach, Rick Pitino, and second-year forward Antoine Walker. On Jan. 7 against the Washington Wizards, Walker (22.6 points per game) became the first Celtic to score 49 points in a game since...guess who.
15th Annual All-Madden Team
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott (left) is a lock. During the NFC playoff game on Dec. 28 between Tampa Bay and the Detroit Lions, Fox analyst John Madden noted that Alstott kept his eyes open while a Lions defender ripped his helmet off his head. "That's why he's going to be on my All-Madden Team," declared Madden, broadcasting's round mound of profound. "Most guys close their eyes, 'cause they're afraid to get hit." The player we'd most like to see make Madden's cut: the Bills' aptly named special teams ace Steve Tasker, who was ejected 1:37 into the last game (at Green Bay) of his distinguished 13-season career for inadvertently bumping a ref.
FOX, 3 PM
NHL All-Star Game
The 48th edition of the league's holiday on ice breaks with the tradition of interconference play. Instead, to whet appetites for next month's Olympics, which will for the first time include NHL skaters, the All-Star matchup will be the World (meaning Europe) against North America. In other words, those guys who've seen Slap Shot with subtitles against those who've seen it without. The New World will be led by Flyers center Eric Lindros and winger John LeClair, while the Old boasts a front line of Avalanche center Peter Forsberg and wings Jaromir Jagr of the Penguins and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks.
FOX, 4 PM
For Aussies suffering the ills of going 23 years without one of their own winning their men's singles title (John Newcombe was the last to do so), Rafter is the best medicine. In the tournament that starts today (and will be telecast on tapedelay Monday through Friday in late night on ESPN and ESPN2), Queensland hunk Patrick Rafter (left), ranked No. 2, is the homeland favorite. Among the women, defending champion Martina Hingis must contend with upstart Venus Williams—whom she beat in the U.S. Open final in September—and Venus's younger sister, Serena, who upset Mary Pierce and Monica Seles in November.
ESPN2,12:30 OR 1:30 AM
Old Dominion at Connecticut
Memo to NBC Entertainment prez Warren Littlefield: Check out our Must-She Monday lineup. Fired It Up features Ticha Penicheiro (left) of the No. 2 Lady Monarchs (13-0 at week's end) as a spunky Portuguese point guard trying to lead her squad back to the national championship game. Suddenly Svetlana stars Russian newcomer Svetlana Abrosimova, 17, a freshman who in her second start for the third-ranked Huskies (15-1) scored 17 points and had 16 rebounds in a 126-48 win against Providence on Jan. 6. Today the casts of both shows tangle at the Hartford Civic Center in a game that puts UConn's 40-game home winning streak on the line. Wackiness ensues.
ESPN. 2:30 PM
All times Eastern. Schedules are subject to change.