NBA Turkey Talk: Top 10 Things LA Laker Fans Can Be Thankful For

Pat Mixon@patmixonSenior Analyst INovember 24, 2010

NBA Turkey Talk: Top 10 Things LA Laker Fans Can Be Thankful For

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    It’s common in my family, and I’m sure others, to tell each other what you’re thankful for at Thanksgiving.

    Well, I thought it’d be nice to do the same thing as Los Angeles Lakers fans. Not only is the team the two-time defending champs, but the way this new 2010-2011 campaign has started, there is a lot to choose from.

    So here are the 10 things that Lakers fans can be thankful for this 2010 Thanksgiving.

Mitch Kupchak Picks Devin Ebanks & Derrick Caracter

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    Ebanks (3) soars from rebound even over Caracter (45)
    Ebanks (3) soars from rebound even over Caracter (45)

    Mitch Kupchak's draft savvy.

    Can you say quality draft picks in the second round? Did I even write that? But it’s true. Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers robbed the bank not once, but twice, with Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. These two rookies are getting playing time from the head coach who normally doesn’t play rookies. And I believe it isn’t entirely a result of Phil having a short bench. These two rookies can play. And it will only get better as the season progresses. 

Mitch Kupchak. Again. Free Agent Savvy

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    Mitch Kupchak. Again.

    The free agents. He pulls off one of the best Lakers summer of free-agent signings in recent memory. I mean, getting Steve Blake alone would be something to be thankful for: great shooter, amazing backup to D-Fish and high triangle-offense IQ.

    But then the Lakers’ GM, Kupchak, gets Matt Barnes. Add in this former foe of Kobe Bryant’s to now go to war with Kobe and the Lakers get another great perimeter defender. Barnes and Ron Artest are nearly interchangeable at times (except against the really big guards like Paul Pierce and LeBron James, who Artest is better suited for).

    Lastly, Kupchak signs Theo Ratliff as a backup center. And, although Theo is injured with a knee issue, don’t worry, his value will be felt during a playoff run.

Shannon Brown, Shooter Not Just Dunker

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    Shannon Brown.

    Can you say outside jumper?

    The player-to-almost-be-named-later in the Adam Morrison trade with Charlotte has turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to the Lakers bench (well, not the best thing ever, but you get the point).

    And don’t doubt for a second that the other person to thank for Shannon’s improved game besides the player himself is none other than Mr. Gladiator, Kobe Bryant. Can you say work ethic rubbing off?

    And watch carefully when Shannon comes back to the bench after draining another three. See who congratulates him like a proud older bro. Kobe.

Phil Jackson

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    Phil with girlfriend Jeanie Buss. No riding off into the sunset just yet for PJ.
    Phil with girlfriend Jeanie Buss. No riding off into the sunset just yet for PJ.

    Phil Jackson.

    Can we all shout out a collective thank you for coming back this season? Was there any doubt?

    Yeah, at least I had some and I can admit it. He might have rode off with the title last June. That's because there are no guarantees that he would win the 12th coaching ring (unbelievable) and fourth (did I even write that?) three-peat of his career next June.

    I’m really glad that he is healthy and still into the marathon, as he calls it, of the hoops season.

    But, really, we all have to be thankful that he came back. I love Brian Shaw but, right now, this is Phil’s destiny to coach out the team, especially with Kobe still going strong.

Pau Gasol & a Summer Of Rest

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    Pau Gasol in India during summer of 2010
    Pau Gasol in India during summer of 2010

    Pau Gasol.

    Can you say thanks for not playing this summer? Can I get a “si”?

    The best thing that happened for the Lakers was Pau doing anything but playing basketball this summer. He was a world traveler, but who cares?

    He showed up here at the start of the new season and he’s playing at another level, if that is even possible. And it coincides with Kobe not being ready (always willing) to carry the load with his recovering knee. What a great start to be thankful for from the Spaniard.

Lamar Odom & a Summer Of No Rest

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    Lamar Odom.

    Can you say thanks for playing all summer, Lamar? Can I get an amen?

    I mean, has he not made the case, and then some, for the All-Star team?

    Forget sixth man of the year. I’m talking the main event.

    That’s all because he played this summer for Team USA and won the gold in Turkey. While not the normal formula to wish our players to play all summer, in Lamar’s case, that was the best ever. 

The Miami Heat

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    The Miami Heat.

    The best thing that happened to both the NBA, and the Lakers in particular, this summer, is the circus called the Miami Heat.

    With the Lakers entering this season looking to defend their title and seeking a three-peat, before The Decision, the concern wasn’t whether the Lakers would be capable of repeating, but if they would be interested. Well, the Heat ended those worries.

    Don’t be fooled by all the comments blowing off the impact. The Heat have the Lakers' attention. And that is such a great thing. I’m not even sure if LA will see Miami come next June (my pick is a Boston rubber match) but, wow, can you not wait for Christmas Day at Staples? 

Dr. Jerry Buss & Family

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    Dr. Jerry Buss & Family.

    We have to thank him each and every year because he owns the Lakers. He gives us all this team to share with him and his family.

    We can thank Jeanie Buss, who runs the best franchise in sports, and Jim Buss, who, along with Mitch Kupchak, is making great picks on the team side of things. We are all thankful that the best owner in sports owns our favorite team.

The Fans

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    The Fans.

    From Laker Fan No. 1 Jack Nicholson, to the unknown fan in the stands, to everyone who follows what I do here at the Bleacher Report, damn it is good to be us.

    We are blessed to be Lakers fans and have this great team.

    And this fun season has only begun. Here’s to being thankful now and next June, when Kobe, Phil, the team and the Buss family tie the Celtics organization in rings. Now that will be something to be thankful for.

Kobe Bryant’s Healthy Return from Knee Surgery

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    A healthy Kobe goes a long way to make it 6 rings next June.
    A healthy Kobe goes a long way to make it 6 rings next June.

    Kobe Bryant’s healthy return from knee surgery.

    This is my No. 1 reason to be thankful for because everything starts and stops with Kobe. He is the difference between the Lakers being really good and great.

    And Kobe healthy and at the top of the best player list is also the difference come playoff time. A full strength Kobe puts the Lakers over the top against any opponent. An injured Kobe might still be an All-Star but, come playoffs, not so good.

    Any diehard Lakers fan can tell you they felt a pulse of relief as this November has ticked by. Each game meant Kobe becoming healthier and healthier. We should all exhale in unison on him returning to top form.

    Actually, he will return to be better than last year because he played most of last season, especially the playoffs, with the bad knee and still won the title.

    But he’s a gladiator and pushed through. However, I’d rather have him healthy and on top of his game, than bring that warrior mentality to each regular season game. And forget all the "old" talk. He's far from that and far from done. Keep underestimating him. I don't, but he loves it when everyone else doubts him.

    Welcome back, Mr. 81. We've all got a lot to be thankful for.

    Want to learn more about Kobe Bryant's gladiator mentality & what really drives him to be the best? Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success- An Insider's Look into Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at www.PatMixon.com to buy or sample.

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