The role of a leader is important in any group of people. A good leader is key for the group to work at maximum capacity, yet a weak leader will lead his group into heavy underachievement. The role of a leader is almost always earned through amassing a body of work, not by chance or luck.
In basketball, a clear, distinguished leader (or a group of leaders) is very important. This player will often lead the charge in huddles, show everyone how to work in practice, give locker room speeches and also deliver on the court when it matters most. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were a great pair of leaders, capable of inspiring nearly any member of the Celtics during their tenure. Now, however, with the two gone – who will take over as the men who hold the reins?
The coach is always expected to guide the team, and this was a given with Rivers. He is the best at finding a way to motivate his players. Brad Stevens must also find a way to emerge as a leader for this team, simply because coaches are asked to by default. It will be an important task for him – to gain respect from an NBA squad. So far, various players have spoken good words of coach Stevens, but that still needs to be proven on the court. The big question for next season is – can he win the locker room over, can he be a leader at this young age for an even younger team?
On the court, however, the clear leader is Rajon Rondo. Previously, many players have gone on record saying that Rondo is the one running the show, that he is the leader. Yet somehow the locker room stories would always come back to Kevin and Paul. Now that Rondo is the lone veteran left from the 2008 title team, he has to fully lead the way. The only question here is if he can handle it, because he already has league-wide respect as a set-up artist and a great person to run the offense. Now, Rajon needs to also hold the locker room together, give some mentoring to the young guys and – most importantly – take charge on the court in decisive moments of the game. Sometimes, he would be chastised for becoming „passive Rondo”. Other times, he would take the game over. Now, inconsistency can’t be a thing – he HAS to establish the role of a leader on the new-look Celtics. That’s another thing to keep an eye on this season.
Another player that may become a leader on this team is Jeff Green. Right now, he isn’t as renowned for his play as Rondo, so in his case he would grow into that role if he upgraded his play. This is another big question for this season – can Jeff Green make the leap? It has already been discussed, but an important part of the leap is not only an increase in production, but also a certain ability to assert oneself that seperates the good from the great. In order to make that leap, Uncle Jeff needs to become a leader on this team. Without that, he will always play second fiddle. He’s capable of being the lead singer, he’s just gotta go out and do it.
To me, these three are the ones that need to win their own battles during the season and become leaders in their own right (ironically, all three are on the banner on the top of Truth on Causeway). If that happens, then a successful core will have been established and there will be a foundation to build on. There are also the glue guys that don’t play a whole lot but do wonders in the locker room (think of Keyon Dooling or Jason Collins). Maybe Keith Bogans can grab that role with all the young players on the Celtics roster. However, the success of our first rebuilding year lays on the shoulders of Rondo, Green and Stevens. If they can assume the roles of leaders, it will go a long way to developing a solid core for a good future team.