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KING FOR A DAY FINDS THE LAKERS, WELL, POSITIVELY NORMAL.

Byline: BRUCE BOCKMAN

Queen for a day.

No, I'm not having a Brokeback Mountain moment, thank you. More the old TV show, where a woman was given everything of her dreams, complete with crown, robe, and scepter. In deference to gender I suppose I should say king for a day - like if Elvis were the host.

Now the Daily News didn't pop for the royal accouterments - not even a tiara. Clearly they have no idea how good I look in a tiara.

But they did provide a Lakers fan's dream, a for-real press pass for the Lakers-Celtics game, an all-access pass to everything Lakers: locker room access, Phil Jackson press conferences - the whole enchilada.

The locker room - oh baby. I entered like a jelly fish washed up on the beach. You get the picture: a spineless puddle of gelatinous goo. How would these superstars treat a neophyte trespassing on their inner sanctum? I imagine the press to be adversaries and to be treated as such; indifference at best, open hostility at worst.

Boy was I ever wrong.

The atmosphere before the game: downright casual. Lamar Odom, under the daily intense scrutiny that comes with the megabucks contract and lofty expectations, hung out like just another day at the office, laughing and joking and looking very relaxed. He dealt with everyone politely and with great courtesy, even humoring Regis Philbin who asked him on camera if he missed playing with Shaq (when everyone knows that Lamar was traded for Shaq).

Ronny Turiaf was just as convivial and enthusiastic as he is on the bench, even if he was only razzing locker neighbor Sasha Vujacic over Slovenia's poor showing at the Winter Olympics.

But the biggest shocker had to be Kobe Bryant. How many times have you heard about Kobe being so closed, so cold, so barricaded within his own fiefdom? Yet there he was, sans entourage - and sans attitude. He too treated all respectfully, dealing with all questions professionally and graciously.

Next up: a chat with Phil. Now I don't know about you, but when I watch Phil speaking with the press it looks as though he's passing a kidney stone. He mumbles out answers that seem condescending and intentionally obfuscated.

Wrong again. Up close and personal, his softness of tone comes off as thoughtful and caring. A notorious deep-thinker, his clearly sincere effort to give a meaningful answer simply doesn't translate to television.

It's almost disappointing. Where are the temper tantrums, the prima donna attitudes, the outrageous demands? This can't really be the Lakers - they're - they're - they're positively normal. Ah, but surely that would change post-game. After all, the Lakers had just lost another tough one, one they could so easily have won. One they should have won.

Frankly I'm tired of being wrong, but what can I say? Once again Lamar, who had every reason to be prickly, stood with patience as reporters ambushed him in the hallway. Answering the unanswerable, Lamar remained forever the gentlemen, even providing a few nice quotes along the way (``This team needs to learn how to win ugly'').

But all good things must end. And so I must leave to ponder the complete reversal of my opinions about the Lakers, a very gratifying, if shocking, conclusion to my reign.

The next sound you hear will be the pushing of the ``send'' key, sending these words to wherever they go to be turned into newsprint -

<click> Bockman has left the building.

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photo

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(color) Bruce Bockman, winner of the Daily News' Lakers columnist search, covers the Lakers-Celtics game at Staples Center

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 27, 2006
Words:603
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