As Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers near midseason, they find themselves continuing their up and down ways. They no longer exude that championship swagger.
Gone is the aura of invincibility. Now teams not only think they have a chance against the two-time defending title holders, but they actually do.
At least given the Lakers current track record, LA now appears beatable.
And the Lakers aren't even the top team, at least in the win-loss columns, in the Western Conference.
New pretenders or possibly even contenders to the Lakers throne have emerged. And that’s in the West.
If the Lakers right their ship, get on track and start rolling off victories (always a high probability—they began this season 8-0), there is no reason LA won’t return to the NBA Finals.
There they would meet one of the behemoths of the East.
Maybe there could be a rematch with the Boston Celtics to settle the one-to-one tie in NBA titles over the last three years. That would be the ultimate rubber match as the two most-storied NBA franchises go at it one last time.
Or the Miami Heat may cap their rock-and-roll dream season and get to the Finals.
So who are those individual players out there that really can hurt LA? Which players should the Lakers fear? Most importantly, which player could cause serious problems for LA come the playoffs.
Here are the most dangerous players that the Lakers could run into during a playoff run.