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Thursday, May 15, 2008
REPORTING FROM... LAKERS VS. JAZZ GAME FIVE


"If there's a Spider Man 4, can I be Hydro-Man?"
There's one thing wrong with Staples Center that Utah Jazz player Kyrylo Fesenko has noticed. "You don't have mascot!" Actually Fesenko, L.A. has many mascots - and they're called celebrities.

Returning home to Tinsel Town for Game 5 after two road losses in Salt Lake, couldn't have been brighter for the Lakers who were warmly welcomed by plenty of familiar famous faces at Staples Center.

Wednesday's game included Tobey Maguire, Denzel Washington, David Beckham, David Arquette, Harvey Weinstein, Jack Nicholson, Heather Locklear, Jack Wagner, Lou Adler, Jon Favreau, Brian Grazer, Chris Tucker, Andy Garcia and Dyan Cannon.

And the star-struck Jazz took notice.

"When I saw Denzel Washington that was pretty cool because I'm a big fan," Ronnie Price says. "I watch all of his movies and seeing him at the basketball game was kind of crazy."

While the Jazz may have been focused on the game, it can be hard for even the un-fazed not to stare. "I know just without even trying you can spot celebrities," Price says. "I just notice that people look difference in person. Sometimes movies make people look different. They all are shorter in person."

Not that you can blame the Jazz. You don't exactly see too many celebrities in Utah - unless of course, you count the High School Musical teen stars Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale that made a cameo appearance at Game 4 in Salt Lake.

The celebrity-effect is an unexplainable one. Even the Lakers admit that L.A. isn't the most hostile stadium in the league. "People are sitting down most of the game until something happens and you get cheered by them," Jordan Farmar says. "You go on the road and it's loud from beginning to end."

The Jazz agree. "You see more signs and more obnoxious things in other places," Matt Harping says.

But L.A. still remains one of the most difficult cities to play at.

"If the crowd sees those celebrities involved in the game and cheering it gives extra energy," Jazz player Andrei Kirilenko says. "I would say it's one of the toughest buildings to play in especially for the Utah Jazz for some reason."

While L.A.'s posh crowd may not be as loud as say, San Antonio's, there's something to be said about seeing an A-Lister on the edge of their seats cheering. Whether the celebrity distraction is conscious or not, even NBA stars get star-struck.

"I'm still hoping that someday I will see here my favorite actor Brad Pitt," Fesenko says. "The movie Fight Club. I love it. This is my favorite movie."

It can't be too hard for celebs to wrangle up all of their celeb buddies for a b-ball game downtown if it means better homecourt advantage.

"You know what's going to make me really, really nervous," Fesenko says. "If he came with Jennifer Aniston because this is my favorite actress."

Um, they broke up.

"I know," he says with a sigh. "That was a terrible day for me."

While a Pitt-Aniston reunion is highly unlikely, one person who is here is Spider Man himself, Maguire, who has a fan in Kirilenko. "It's more for my kids, they like him," Kirilenko explains when asked about his Spider Man affection.

"Oh yeah?" says Maguire surprised when told that Kirilenko's a big fan. "I haven't talked to any of the Jazz guys."

How about showing-off the Spidie suit at a game for extra distraction?

"I'd do anything for my Lakers," Maguire says smiling.

Oh, the devotion of a true celebrity fan.

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Before the game even starts the crowd is chanting "Utah sucks!"

Sasha Vujacic waves at the crowd while yelling "Come on!" in front of Maguire, who is in a green hoodie sitting courtside with his wife, Jennifer Meyer. Other celebs have dressed a bit more festive for the game. Nicholson is wearing a dark purple colored shirt and Becks is wearing a vintage-looking purple Lakers tee. Locklear walks into the game late and takes a seat twelve rows up with boyfriend Jack Wagner; both dressed in black and both with shaggy blond shoulder length locks.

"It's a little different but it gives us an extra push," Farmar says. "Just knowing you have 20,000 people behind you all wanting the same goal is big."

"It's always a great game with the Lakers," Arquette says. "It always goes down to the wire and they're always—knock on wood—victorious."