America's beloved Los Angeles Lakers are a major topic of discussion more often than not in the basketball universe. This year is no different as they try to regain their championship form.
A number of things have changed for the purple and gold in the last few months, and perhaps not for the best.
A lot could factor into the Lakers potentially having a rough season that could end up in flames.
Here are five of those possible factors.
There are many non-basketball issues and scenarios that are currently hanging over the heads of the Lakers. Throughout the past decade or so, they have handled distractions fairly well.
But who's to say they won't get in the way this time around?
The Lakers have been rumored to trade for Dwight Howard for months now, and the front office has actually been trying to acquire him. The team could potentially be wondering all season long whether or not he'll end up in L.A.—meaning some players could feel they might soon be on their way out. Having that mindset could easily cause lackluster effort in games.
The failed Chris Paul trade two weeks ago is also fresh in their minds. If things get a little rough on the court after the first leg of games, they might not be able to keep from thinking about how things might have been different if Paul was on the floor with them. As well, perhaps frustration will stay present, as they have to live with the fact that they lost him to the team that plays home games in the same building as they do.
One huge off-court issue is the divorce Kobe Bryant is currently going through. Say what you want about how well he can deal with playing basketball while his personal life is in a rut, but I would bet money that this affects his game in some way—and if not his game, then maybe the team in general.
This situation will most likely not be stress free, and the notably emotional Kobe could very well bring a bitter attitude around his teammates from time to time. It could be a non-factor, but it won't be a positive one.
That's a pretty hefty slate of distractions.
Much has been discussed about the Lakers hiring former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown.
After losing the greatest coach of all time in Phil Jackson to retirement, they could face some adjustment issues with Brown.
For starters, replacing the Zen Master with the 2009 Coach of the Year is a gigantic downgrade. Brown has been an overrated coach since he was elevated from an assistant position six years ago, in my opinion. He was able to win games in Cleveland because of the chemistry he had with the team. They liked playing for him and were successful because of their unity, not necessarily because of his pure coaching skills.
Now he joins a fresh group of faces and has to gain trust and familiarity all over again. He's in a city and environment that couldn't be more opposite from Cleveland around the Cavs organization, not to mention he's now in the tougher Western Conference.
It has been largely speculated that LeBron James often didn't listen to Brown and didn't see him as a higher authority during their five seasons together.
Kobe Bryant is cut from the same cloth of giant figures in basketball with a noticeable ego as LeBron.
I wouldn't bank on Kobe having 100 percent respect for Brown at all times. If they ever have a conflict of interest, I can't see him giving into his new coach's ways without unease.
It doesn't help that he did not initially agree with the hire, and it could be foretelling that he was in no rush to talk to him after the hire was made.
Brown's youth could be a disadvantage to him successfully gelling with Kobe. The two were born in the same decade.
This season's ultra-compact version of scheduling isn't doing any favors for teams all across the league. But the Lakers are near the top of the list of teams who could be struck hard by the schedule.
It's full of back-to-backs, a few back-to-back-to-backs and stretches to the tune of something like seven games in 12 nights.
The Lakers aren't exactly built for such a cluttered itinerary like this one.
Seven of their normal rotation guys are in their 30s (an age group where less time to rest is not a good thing).
The team is also not as deep as it was last year. As a result, a number of players could get overworked. This means some of the usual benchwarmers may see too much time on the court.
To bring Kobe Bryant back into the main focus, the hectic calendar is particularly troublesome for him. His knees haven't been the stablest over the last few seasons after racking up so many miles in his career. Now he'll have to play with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist.
He'll be using his hobbled body parts more often than normal over the next few months, as opposed to getting the same amount of rest he would usually get in a season.
All of this has a decent chance to generate the significant drop in production in Kobe's game that people have been trying to forecast for the last two years or so. A watered-down Kobe is the last thing this team needs right now.
The schedule just might be an all-around nightmare for the Lakers.
The lower-body health of Andrew Bynum is one of the most unsure things in basketball. It's right up there with the sanity of Metta World Peace.
So much so that I gave this topic its own slide instead to clumping it with the last one.
Since the 2007-08 campaign, he hasn't made it through a season without missing a chunk of playing time due to a knee injury of some sort. Now he'll have to try to stay on the floor with less rest.
This year's near-inevitable long absence would/will hurt the Lakers more than usual for two reasons:
One: Each game means a little more since there are not as many as normal. His lack of presence will be magnified because of this.
Two: the team doesn't have Lamar Odom anymore. Odom used to help make up for all the dirty work that was left on the table and get rebounds and putbacks while Bynum was away.
It's already pretty bad that Odom is gone, and not having Bynum would turn this frontcourt from frail to anorexic.
It would take next to a miracle to keep the unlucky center healthy this season—and this happens to be a time when his team desperately needs him.
Throughout the league, there are teams that have more depth and/or youth than the Lakers.
Those are integral traits to have in this crazy season that is about to tip off—and the Lakers don't really have either. On any given night, an opponent that has more stamina or more bodies to throw on the court could have a significant edge.
Lakers management failed to make significant noise in this mini offseason that took place, and it could come back to haunt them.
The perfect storm of disaster is forming in Los Angeles right now, and a lot of what is contributing to the storm is out of the Lakers' hands. Whatever happens, happens. Only the basketball gods can save them from a season chock-full of headaches at this point.
All Laker fans can do is pray.
You can follow/contact Nigel Broadnax on Twitter @BroadnaxWrites.