Fri., Dec. 14 on ESPN: Lakers at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET

Eight Reasons Why the Los Angles Lakers
Can Exceed Expectations This Season

1) A Season of Health
Last year, especially, the Lakers did not have any kind of luck with their health. Most teams at some point suffer from the injury bug, but the Lakers were really hit last season with their core players sustaining injuries. Kwame Brown missed half the season. Chris Mihm, projected as a starter, missed the whole season. Lamar Odom missed 26 games. Vladimir Radmanovic, for numerous reasons, missed 27 games. And Luke Walton missed 22 games. So luck is something they need this year regarding their health, especially to their main two, Kobe and Lamar.

2) Growth by the Youngsters
As the second youngest team in the league at 25 years and 158 days, the Lakers young kids have to continue to grow as players. Andrew Bynum has shown some real good growth from the beginning of the season to date (see his 20 point, 11 rebound, 5 block performance vs. Golden State). Jordan Farmar has given them energy and three-point shooting off the bench. And they recently traded for 22-year-old Trevor Ariza. All of them have to continue to display the growth that they have thus far if this team is going to get to where it wants to go.

3) Consistency from the Bench
Much like any NBA team, the bench has to play well, and that includes Radmanovic, Jordan, Trevor and Luke. The key is getting that bench to be consistent on a night in, night out basis. When Kobe and Lamar take a breather, the Lakers canít afford to fall apart.

4) Passion
Passion is something that this team has shown and needs to continue to play with. Theyíve lost a couple of games this season where they didnít play with the same kind of energy and passion that they had in previous games and it cost them. But by and large this year, theyíve really been a passionate group. If they donít approach the game that way, itís going to be very difficult for them to succeed because they donít have as big a margin of error as some of the higher echelon teams.

5) Homecourt advantage
Take a look around the league at some of the top teams and for the most part, they all have very good records at home. The Lakers have already lost four games at Staples Center. If youíre going to be one of the elite teams, you have to take care of business in front of your fans. That is the No. 1 priority. Then you just hope to play even on the road and youíve got yourself a pretty good record.

6) The Five
To be successful, you have to have five players total out of your roster play well every night, whether itís three of your starters and two of your bench, or two of your starters and three of your bench. Whatever combination it is, five players have to play well every night for the Lakers to have the type of season they would like to have.

7) The Phil Jackson Factor
This team is the right team for Phil Jackson. The personnel that he has for the offense and the system that he runs is pretty good. He has a back to the basket center, the Michael/Scottie combo in Kobe and Lamar. I think Phil Jackson is tailor made for this team. And he also likes this team because he wants to prove to people that he can take a young team and have some success with them and that he doesnít need a championship veteran team that many people feel was the reason for his success in the past.

8) Continued Leadership From Kobe
When you talk about Kobe, you do talk about a real leader with this team. This team really follows his lead. When he comes out and plays hard, they play hard. Iím not saying that he doesnít play hard every night, because he does, but heís the type of competitor that regardless of whatís going on around him, once he steps between the lines, he has a way of putting it out of his mind and focusing on the job at hand. Witness a few years ago when he had his Colorado problems and how he would fly back and forth. When he got back to Los Angeles, he would put up numbers for this team. The same thing happened at the beginning of the year with all of the trade speculation. He would come out on the court and do his job. This team really needs the focus and the leadership that he provides. All of the guys, almost to a fault, look up to him and defer to him all the time. If you didnít realize it, this is Kobeís team.

While entering his 21st season broadcasting Lakers games, this will be Stu Lantzís fourth season working television exclusively as color commentator. With the end of the Lakers simulcast era prior to the 2003-04 season, Lantz now teams with play-by-play man Joel Meyers and broadcasts every Lakers game televised on KCAL-TV and FSN West. Providing each broadcast with his expert analysis and unique insight garnered through his 30-plus years associated with the NBA as both a player and color commentator, Lantz has received numerous awards over the years. Chosen Southern California's best radio color commentator six times by the Southern California Sports Broadcaster's Association and best television color commentator on four occasions, Lantz has also won four local EMMY Awards for his work in the Best Live Sports Telecast category.