Los Angeles Lakers: Who Are Lakers' Biggest Hurdles to a Title?

Michael RiosCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers: Who Are Lakers' Biggest Hurdles to a Title?

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    Expectations will be higher than usual this upcoming season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not in recent memory has a team possessed this kind of star power with this much potential.

    Still, as high as the expectations are, it's impossible to crown the Lakers just yet. The team will have to go through turmoil first and foremost. Each player, coach and manager working for the Lakers brings some unwanted distraction that could hurt the team's chances of winning its 17th NBA title. 

10. Steve Blake

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    Blake never lived up to the expectations Mitch Kupchak had for him when he acquired him a few summers ago. As a Clipper, Blake averaged a solid 6.8 PPG and 6.1 APG while shooting over 43 percent from the three-point line.

    Many even expected him to be the leader off the bench next to Lamar Odom.

    That never came to fruition. In fact, Blake's lack of confidence on the court along with his unimpressive 5.3 PPG and 3.3 APG has made him one of the least liked Lakers at the moment.

    If Blake's inconsistency continues, it could spell the doom for the Lakers' bench. Never fret, Laker fans. Mike Brown still has a few other reserve guards at his disposal just in case Blake decides to pull a Blake again this year. 

9. Antawn Jamison

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    He's one of the oldest players on the roster right now. Sure, he averaged 17.2 points per game last season, but his team heavily depended on him to do the lifting.

    The good news is that Jamison will have a similar role on the Lakers' bench. He will be utilized as much as possible. The only downside is that he'll be playing with some of the Lakers' youngest, quickest, and most athletic reserves. There's no telling if his age will make him the right fit for that lineup. 

    Jamison has been as productive as any other forward in the league, but he's never had to do it as the fifth or sixth option for a team. If Jamison is unable to show up for the Lakers, LA's bench productivity will likely falter once more come playoff time.

8. Pau Gasol

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    Pau Gasol has been branded a soft player ever since his days in Memphis. Sure, two championship runs later, Gasol was able to dismiss most of those criticisms with ease.

    But as soon as the Lakers started struggling again, the finger pointing began and Pau's physical weakness was on full display once more.

    If the Lakers are to have any chance of winning the title, Gasol will have to be at his best and be as dominant as he was in the Spanish national team. Of course, it will be harder now that he will be playing with Kobe and Howard, but Gasol is aware of his own skill. 

    The man can still give his team 18 points and 10 boards per game. How many third of fourth options in the NBA can say that?

7. Dwight Howard

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    He's a likable personality, but he's not the most focused player in the league.

    Former Laker greats have criticized his immaturity and have accused him of never taking things seriously. James Worthy even recently said he wasn't a big fan of Dwight Howard

    Listen to Howard's press conference interview the day after he was traded to the Lakers. In it, Howard mentioned the word "fun" a lot more than the word "championship."

    That's not the kind of language that will be tolerated by most Laker fans. LA cares more about rings than fun. 

    Still, Howard has shown some signs of maturity. He did, after all, meet with Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and hinted that he would be playing in LA for the long run. Those are good signs of maturity coming from a guy who was spoiled heavily in his former city. 

    Howard's personal growth will be evaluated fully during this year's championship run. 

6. Vanessa Bryant

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    It's not her fault. She just happens to be in a situation that demands attention, whether she wants it or not. 

    But it's the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about it, but the situation is so obvious. Her relationship with Kobe has become so publicized that it could actually shift focus away from the team and Kobe himself.

    Don't forget—distractions were aplenty in the 2004 season when those Lakers were "supposed" to win the championship and ended up falling in the final series of the season.

    Don't expect off-the-court drama to slow down this team too much, however. These Lakers are older and more mature. They have quality guys with character and maturity. If any team in the NBA knows how to handle that kind of drama, it's the Lakers.

    Still, the harder you want to ignore the situation the more you end up thinking about it. 

5. Jim Buss

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    Jim Buss has demanded more and more control over the Lakers in the past few seasons. Many of his choices are questionable to many and his overshadowing presence in the front office has turned a lot of fans off.

    His questionable trades have even made him unpopular to some on the Lakers' roster as a few of them (including Bryant) have sounded off after trading players like Odom. 

    Still, Mitch Kupchak had publicly defended Buss, saying that the criticism he receives is a bit unfair. 

    Buss should get more credit then he is given. After all, his choice to trade the beloved Fisher for an unknown Jordan Hill has actually paid off. Not to mention the giant summer he and the Lakers had with all the names they were able to aquire.

    Buss has made some great choices, but he has also had his share of controversial ones. The Lakers' chemistry will be so fragile this upcoming season and the last thing they need is for a front office executive to make drastic changes the players may not need. 

4. Steve Nash

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    As great of a player as Nash is, his productivity will likely diminish as Father Time catches up to him. The man is almost 40 and even he can't run a team's offense forever. 

    His scoring will likely go down, but his assists will remain as high as ever. Like Kobe, Nash can also decide to take a step back and let other players around him carry the load offensively. 

    It's a shame, really. Laker fans would have loved seeing a bit of the run-and-gun offense Nash was known for in his younger days. It would have brought back a little "Show Time" to the Lakers. 

    Regardless, the sensible thing to do is to let Nash have as much rest as possible. If his age is ignored and not handled properly, the Lakers may not have enough left in Nash's tank to make a strong playoff run. 

3. Metta World Peace

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    It was a surprise seeing World Peace involved in another controversial incident a year after winning J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

    But it happened.

    World Peace's elbow to Harden's head last season forced him to miss a few games going into the playoffs just when he was starting to find his rhythm offensively. 

    The Lakers cannot afford to let that happen this year. His defense will come in handy when LA will need a player to guard tough forwards like Durant and James. As great as Kobe's defense is, he can't do it on his own.

    The Artest formerly known as Ron will be needed. 

    World Peace will need to grow up a little bit if the Lakers are to win their 17th title. 

2. Kobe Bryant

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    He has been the most criticized player in the league for the past 10 years. Unfortunately for the Lakers' star, things may not change this upcoming season. 

    His long list of criticisms include selfishness, having a huge ego, being uncoachable, and having an arrogant persona. Most of those faults have faded away as the seasons have come and gone, but some still linger in the minds of many. 

    Kobe will still be the unquestionable leader of this team. However, for the team to succeed the man should consider taking a step back and letting his other teammates do some of the heavy lifting. Howard can score, Nash can pass and World Peace can defend. Kobe doesn't have to do it all even though he still can.

    If he allows other players around him to do what they do best, the Lakers' players should be in a rhythm the entire season. 

    Things will all depend on Kobe's willingness to hand over the keys to Howard as his career's end comes closer and closer. 

1. Mike Brown

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    Last year Brown had gigantic shoes to fill after Phil Jackson, the most accomplished NBA coach of all time, decided to retire. He couldn't do it.

    This season, Brown will have all the help he could possibly ask for. His roster is now filled with some of the greatest talent the NBA has ever seen and his coaching staff is now among the most experienced.

    He will be leading things for the Lakers again. 

    Brown will no longer be running his stagnant offense this year as the Princeton Offense will replace his former system. He will also have a full training camp and a month-long preseason to prepare his team. In addition to that, the Lakers will have a full 82-game season to prepare for the playoffs.

    That means there are no more excuses for Mike Brown.

    If the Lakers fail to win a title with all this talent, skill and experience, the finger pointing will start. Since Brown is the captain of this vessel, he'll be the first person critics point to. 

    Brown can potentially lose his job or win his second Coach of the Year Award after the season is over. For his sake and the sake of the Lakers and their fans, Brown must get the latter.