The LA Lakers have more problems

Mike Brown must absolutely love challenges.

The Los Angeles Lakers have more problems — and potential problems — than the Kardashian marriage did. Whereas Kim was able to divorce Kris Humphries, the Lakers marriage to Brown hasn’t even truly begun yet.

Whenever the work stoppage finally ends and LeBron James’ ex-coach finally gets to run a practice in Los Angeles, the Lakers will have to deal with the fact that — coming off back-to-back titles — they were humiliated in last year’s playoffs by the world champion Dallas Mavericks. They’ll also have to find ways to deal with age, injuries, perceptions and a brand new coaching staff.

Then there’s the publicity hog formerly known as Ron Artest. While he’s currently keeping everyone entertained with his Tweet-splosions, the freshly named Metta World Peace has the potential to be the biggest disruptive force the Lakers have seen since J.R. Rider was on the roster — or Dennis “I only brought two left shoes to practice, coach Rambis” Rodman.

World Peace is definitely an impact player, one of the best man-up defenders in the league and an offensive force, when he decides he wants to be. He can also be carping behind people’s backs about a lack of respect shown toward him, or demanding trades in the middle of his team’s three-peat attempt.

The latest Tweet from MWP was a one-on-one challenge to Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, with the winner’s side winning the collective bargaining agreement. Then he had a swipe at NBA commissioner David Stern: “The NBA logo should be a picture of David Stern. Our bathrobes should have his signature on it. The league is better off communist,” he wrote.

“All hail David. We serve David in the morning. Imagine LeBron James making David breakfast in bed.”

He went on.

“I miss my tight shorts. I miss Ron Artest. I hope Blake Griff dunks on me and makes a kid coloring book with a popout poster with the dunk. I want to play instead of cooking. I feel like a Atlanta housewife.”

Mike Brown must absolutely love challenges.

Kobe Bryant will be entering his 16th NBA season, and even though he’s just 33 years old, his legs are considerably older. And following another knee surgery performed in Germany and shrouded in mystery, it’s conceivable the future Hall of Famer is on a rapid decline physically. He’s missed dozens and dozens of practices over the past two seasons dealing with his injuries, and it’s crucial Brown finds a way to get him on the floor as often as necessary. An entirely new system of offense and defense will be installed, and the leader of it all watching from the sidelines day after day will make the transition from the triangle offense virtually impossible.

On the positive side of things, if Kobe’s close to 100 percent physically, a less restrictive offensive game plan could make it easier to score, and running the floor would lessen the beating Bryant takes in a set offense.

Perception-wise, the Lakers have always had to deal with the “they’re soft” issue. They now have a seven-foot poster child for that insult named Pau Gasol.

A magnificent player, Gasol’s 2011 summer vacation began while the Lakers were still playing. He went from averaging around 19 points and 10 rebounds per game during the back-to-back title wins, to 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds a contest. He was invisible defensively throughout the 10 postseason games he played, yet said he was physically fine, even though he was seen on more than one occasion removing a back brace before meeting with the media after practices.

Then certain media outlets said Gasol and his girlfriend were having problems that were messing with his psyche and ruining his game. He denied it, and his girlfriend continued to come to games at Staples Center. So what was the problem(s)? Doesn’t really matter. The Lakers just need for the Spaniard to return to the form that made him the NBA’s most versatile big man.

Point guard Derek Fisher has been running the offense for the NBA Players Association all summer, and it’s more than fair to ask how much the 15-year veteran will have left to give to the Lakers when play resumes.

He had already slowed down noticeably as last season unwound, and wasn’t nearly the threat he had been throughout his career. While never the fastest or quickest, he could always be counted on to make a huge defensive stop when it was most needed. Not last year, though, when he was torched on a regular basis. Fisher had been one of the great clutch shooters of his era. That also disappeared. There’s a very good chance he’ll end up coming off the bench this season, replaced by Steve Blake as the starter.

Blake had an impressive start to his Lakers career, scoring in double-figures three of his first six games. Then he hit double-digits just ONCE more in the other 73 he played. He shot an abysmal 36 percent from the field. Unfortunately, Fisher wasn’t much better last season. Needless to say, the point guard position is a weakness. A steady performance from Blake is crucial for the Lakers’ success.

However, the biggest question mark — literally — is center Andrew Bynum.

When healthy, he’s one of the top five centers in the game. But he’s shown a tendency to be immature and may have worn out his welcome with his antics in the Dallas series. Smashing guys to the court and ripping off your jersey is no way to earn respect in the NBA — or with your hometown fans, many of whom took to the airwaves to express displeasure with Bynum and demand his trade. That, of course, will never happen as long as Bynum’s benefactor, Jimmy Buss, is in charge of basketball operations. Buss drafted Bynum and is loathe to even hearing Drew’s name brought up in trade talks.

The bench situation is a tricky one, with the first reserves likely to be the enigmatic Lamar Odom, either Fisher or Blake, and the talented — but oft-injured — Matt Barnes. After that, it’s grab-bag city. General manager Mitch Kupchak would like to count on Luke Walton, but like his father Bill, back and leg injuries have derailed his career. So, once the new CBA is executed, Kupchak’s first order of business will be adding a half-dozen reserves to round out the roster.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to make even the strongest personality run for cover, Brown is portrayed in Shaquille O’Neal’s new book as somewhat wimpy when dealing with James in Cleveland. In “Shaq on Shaq: Uncut,” The Diesel claims that Brown would avoid the slightest criticizing of James, afraid of offending his superstar. If that’s true, it’s going to be very interesting to see Brown and Bryant interact, Kobe having a much more intense personality than LeBron.

Brown must absolutely love a challenge.

He’s got the biggest one in the NBA: Resurrect the Lakers for one more run before Kobe retires.

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