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Five Reasons To Watch The Lakers (Not Named Kobe)

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Los Angeles seems to have a love/hate relationship with the Lakers right now. The games still sell out (and at the highest prices in the league) and there are more people walking around wearing Lakers gear than there are writers picketing out in front of Fox. But in every sports bar in the city there are loudmouths saying to nobody in particular, “Kobe is selfish and ruining this team.” The loudmouth sports columnists in town just want to play GM with Kobe trade scenarios. The loudmouths on sports talk radio… well this blogger isn’t sure what they are saying because he’s not listening.

But if Kobe’s “Summer of our Discontent” turned you off to the point you are not watching the Lakers through the first couple weeks of the season, you are missing some fun basketball. The Lakers are getting out and running, their young guys are starting to thrive, Kobe is blending in and the Lakers are winning some big games. Despite a brutal early schedule the Lakers are 3-2 (with wins against Phoenix and Utah). I know most sports fans only pay half-assed attention to the NBA before the Super Bowl, but here are five good reasons to watch the Lakers this week.

1) Ronny Turiaf. In a town built around the blockbuster, Turiaf is the cult movie that everybody would rather watch. He is part legend — he was back on the Lakers squad eight months after open-heart surgery — and is becoming a fan favorite around the league because he simply plays the game with passion and that big heart, something all too lacking in today’s NBA. Rather than try to pen my own ode to Turiaf, I’ll let the boys at the brilliant NBA blog Free Darko tell you why he is one of their favorites:

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Even in its darkest hours, this will always be a league of heroes, both big and small, worthy of celebration. In serious need of breaking into that canon is the mythical beast that is Ronny Turiaf. During his first year and a half in the league, he perfected the role of the bench cheerleader. Now, in just his second full season, this is the year he makes the leap from local fan favorite to league-wide cult hero while revolutionizing what a "hustle player" should be….. Perhaps unfairly based on the überwhiteness of dudes like David Lee, the prototypical energy guy has always been tied to Protestant work ethic, hustling on rebounding and defense, and above all else, selflessness. In essence, playing basketball "the way it was meant to be played" and giving the 11-foot-rim crowd boners. While Ronny undeniably incorporates all those features in his game, he has also injected equal parts swag and absurdity, escaping the banality of those that came before him.