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L.A. Lakers: Fans May Need a Reality Check Concerning Kobe Bryant and the Team

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IOctober 6, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Ron Artest #37, Jordan Farmar #1, Pau Gasol #16 and Lamar Odom #7 huddle in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

It's very easy to run off all of the reasons the Los Angeles Lakers have a decent chance at winning their third consecutive NBA championship, but there is danger in failing to acknowledge the Lakers issues.

Lakers' fans are fiercely loyal and protective of their team, and they manage to remain optimistic even when there are legitimate reasons for concern.

Readers have accused me of approaching Lakers' stories with a negative attitude, and for those who agree with that assessment, this article may seem like a confirmation of your beliefs.

I believe that the Lakers have just as good a shot as any other contender in the NBA to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy in June, but several issues have surfaced that can't just be swept under the rug.

The first is Kobe Bryant's knee and whether or not fans should place to much stock in the fact that he pronounced himself 60 percent healed, less than three weeks from the season opener.

Most fans think that Bryant is playing a pyschological game or that it is simply a ploy to keep people's interests peaked, but what if Bryant's words are true?

If so, is it reasonable to expect Bryant to be 100 percent in the space of three weeks?

That's highly doubtful, and even if Bryant is close to 90 percent when the Lakers open against Houston, his injury opens the door to a darker path that few Lakers' fans are willing to travel.

Knee troubles have already robbed Bryant of some of his previous explosiveness and lift, and this most recent issue has the appearance of something that could be a chronic problem.

I understand Bryant's passion for the game, belief in hard work, and his insane conditioning, but none of those things matter when a player is caught in the grip of a knee injury.

All the killer instinct and dedication in the world can't return an injured knee to its former state, and Bryant also has to deal with a slower recovery time that comes with age.

The best case scenario for Bryant would be a reduction in minutes at least until his knee is stronger, but the Lakers potentially open another can of worms with that move.

Are Shannon Brown and Steve Blake capable of providing the Lakers with perimeter fire-power if Bryant's minutes are limited due to injury?

Brown performed admirably during a two week stretch last season while Bryant rested the same knee, but I'm not sure if he is ready to handle that responsibility in an increased role.

Blake should provide some scoring from the perimeter, but he excels more in the art of jump shooting as opposed to penetrating the lane.

The Lakers would be forced to rely on Ron Artest and Lamar Odom as the only players capable of breaking down the defense with their dribble, and that's not a comforting image.

Of course, the strength of the Lakers team is in the interior, but the absence of Andrew Bynum also throws that situation into flux.

What's worse with Bynum is that no one is even exactly sure when he may make his season debut, because his target date seems to differ from that of the franchise.

The most recent announcement from the team placed Bynum's return around the middle of November, but he recently said that December was a more realistic date.

Which basically means that no one is sure when Bynum may possibly play next season, although there is no question that the Lakers title hopes largely depend on a healthy Bynum.

Bynum's defensive presence and toughness in the interior was a major factor in the Lakers capturing last season's championship, and although Gasol and Odom are a formidable duo, they lack the edge that Bynum brings.

This may seem like overkill considering the Lakers have only played a single preseason game, but any Laker fan not worried about Bynum's status right now are deceiving themselves.

Bynum's history of injury alone should be reason enough to pause, and the fact that there is no solid timetable for his return is something every Lakers' fan has heard before.

Lakers' fans are also quick to point out how the team performed last season in the playoffs, which should serve as proof that any worries right now are premature.

The Lakers are known for their ability to turn it on and off during critical times, and there is truth in that logic, but we also must not forget how the chips fell for the Lakers last postseason.

Los Angeles was able to avoid Dallas, Denver, and San Antonio in the playoffs, and instead drew more favorable matchups in Oklahoma City, Utah, and Phoenix.

To be fair, it's not the Lakers fault that all of the top seeded teams were upset in earlier rounds, but you have to admit that Los Angeles found themselves in a very desirable situation.

Who's to say they will be as lucky this season?

None of this means that I have lost faith in the ability of the Lakers to three-peat, since they are extremely resilient, but these are serious issues that could come back to haunt the team.

In order for the Lakers to reach their goals it will take a total team effort, and although I am encouraged by their past success, the immediate future contains a degree of uncertainty.

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