There is an unseen enemy in the locker room and on the Kings court that is no fault of the fans, players, coaches or management. It is a challenge that everyone talks about, yet no one fully addresses because they don’t see it through the right lens. It is a problem of “Leadership,” and it has worked against the Kings ever since Vlade Divac hung up his beloved Sacramento Kings jersey.
True leaders are a rare commodity that is a blend of timing, talent, experience and perhaps something of the mystic. Everyone knows the effects of true leadership when they see it in basketball; something seemingly magical happens, time stops and we experience the amazing more often than the mundane.
Believe it or not our Kings could be on the verge of brilliance. They have the right talent, they have the right coaches. They have the right fans and moment in time. What the Kings need to adjust right now is how to define “Leadership.”
Where things generally go bad in Sacramento is a player is either labeled or self-proclaims himself as the “leader” of the team. Yet in all truth he would most likely be a third, fourth or so option on a more elite team. Let us learn from Kevin Martin, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest. It seems the moment these players became the so called “leader” of the team was the beginning of their end as a Sacramento King.
Luckily Sacramento has not fallen in the same exact trap, but the dialogue is happening now. This discussion is what will make, break or hopefully unleash the potential of this team. Most of our newly ordained leaders have not yet earned his stripes as a true leader and takes on a role that is not truthful to himself or the team. Our more veteran players that have played alongside true leaders know the difference, but may lack the raw talent of our up and coming players. However, they know what it takes to win, but are often are unheard because of younger, stronger raw egos with deaf ears. More problems happen when a younger talent joins the team and soon challenges the unsure leadership. In all truth that player may become a dominant leader in the league, but the timing and stripes have not been earned. Due to the nature of a small market team our players rarely get to grow up alongside a developed leader like a Kobe Bryant or a Kevin Garnett, which would make it so much easier to unlock the talent of our team.
So what we have now are unnecessary yet inevitable leaks in team energy as they battle amongst themselves and within themselves. What we need right now is to let go of the idea of an established leader and to tap into the combined leadership and talents of the team as the whole. Coach Smart gets this and has the right attitude for the job. What he needs is for the players to follow his lead fully. Leadership on the floor can change from game to game or from moment to moment. To follow the hot hand, to lead and to follow, to truly let the game come to you, let the leadership come to you. Coach Smart can orchestrate this if the players get out of their own way.
Leadership is an elusive concept, yet if we as a team can allow the experience of Chuck Hayes and John Salmons to lead in their own way, the talent of DeMarcus and Tyreke to dominate in ways unique to them, for Isaiah and Brooks to dazzle, for Thornton and Jimmer to torch, for JT to continue to rack it up, for Robinson to grow into his role, for Jones, Outlaw, Honeycutt and Cisco to feature their unique talents when called on. All of these players have something to contribute to the whole.
If the players can let the “leadership” label take a back seat to brilliance and just show up, the fans, coaches and town can get ready for some Showtime!