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Thompson happy, busy in L.A.

Mychal Thompson is having a good time in Los Angeles, working the radio sports talk beat and serving as analyst for Lakers broadcasts alongside play-by-play voice Joel Meyers. Ratings for his afternoon show are up, and he is calling games for the team that could be the NBA champion.

'The Lakers have the best chance to win it, as long as (Shaquille O'Neal) stays healthy and Kobe (Bryant) gets back to being Kobe,' Thompson says. 'They are the favorites.'

And the Blazers?

'They will be in the second tier of contenders in the West Ñ on the bubble to make the playoffs,' he says. 'Seventh or eighth in the West, somewhere in there.'

Thompson is living in a downtown hotel not far from Staples Center, while his wife and three children remain in Lake Oswego.

'We are keeping the kids there for another school year to see how it goes, to give them a chance to get used to the idea of moving down here,' Thompson says. 'It's a sacrifice that is worth it, but it's no fun to be away from your family.'

• A new Portland-based monthly sports periodical, NW Sports Magazine, will hit the newsstands in January or February if advertising pre-sales go as planned.

Jim Breitbarth, a Portland native and Lewis & Clark College graduate, will serve as publisher of the enterprise he envisions serving as a 'Northwest Sports Illustrated.' The magazine, with an initial press run of 80,000, will cover sports in Oregon, Washington and Idaho and will focus heavily on college sports.

'We will feature our pro teams, too, but the college link is the one that will make this thing work,' Breitbarth says. 'That's why this is going to fly. We want a magazine that will address the interests of fans of the four Northwest Pac-10 schools first.'

Former Portland area media personality Ken Vance will serve as editor, and the Hutt Sports Group (run by former Blazer exec Harry Hutt) will be the advertising sales agency. Freelance writers and photographers will handle the magazine's content.

nThree former University of Portland players ÑNate Jaqua, Kelly Gray and Curtis Spiteri Ñare on the Chicago Fire team that will play for the championship of Major League Soccer.

The Fire will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the final on Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

• Neil Lomax is bringing in three national teams to participate in the annual 16-team Les Schwab High School Basketball Invitational, Dec. 18-21, at the Chiles Center. One of the teams will be Prentiss, Miss., which is led by 6-9, 265-pound Al Jefferson, ranked by at least one recruiting service as the No. 1 prep power forward in the country, and expected to declare for the NBA draft.

'An average athlete in terms of the NBA, but he has a very nice touch around the basket and is a solid rebounder with excellent hands,' says one NBA scout who has watched Jefferson play.

Georgetown Prep, out of North Bethesda, Md., features 7-1 Roy Hibbert and 6-10 Davis Nwankwo. Hillcrest High of Tuscaloosa, Ala., has 6-8 Indiana-bound D.J. White, ranked by one scouting service as one of the top 10 prep players in the country.

Among the state teams participating is defending Class 4A champion Redmond, led by 6-9 Oregon-bound forward Maarty Leunen.

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