Carmelo Anthony and 7 Players Who Must Become Leaders in 2012-2013 Season
Talent is essential in order for a team to succeed in the NBA, but it is only one ingredient of the winning formula. Qualities such as chemistry, determination, discipline and commitment also make the difference between winning and losing.
A coach can set the tone for some of the mental aspects of the game through force of personality, but even the best motivators only resonate with their players to a point. They're not in the trenches with the men. Ultimately, every coach needs one of his players to lead his teammates into battle.
Leaders come in many forms. Some are quiet and lead by example. Others are more vocal, both on and off the court. Certain leaders take on a supportive role, while others tend to be confrontational.
The style of leadership isn't as important as the substance and every great leader possesses some of the same qualities. He must be completely committed to the team goal, disciplined and determined in pursuit of that goal and willing to sacrifice personal glory for the success of the team.
Here are seven players who must become better leaders in the 2012-2013 season in order for their teams to succeed.
7. Stephen Curry
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The Golden State point guard has been outstanding during his three seasons with the Warriors, averaging 17.5 points per game and connecting on 44 percent of his three-point attempts, but a chronic right ankle injury has kept him out of the lineup for extended periods of time.
He's joined by a formidable frontcourt, led by David Lee and Andrew Bogut, and the Warriors added talented perimeter scorers in the last two drafts in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
In order for Golden State to compete for a playoff spot, Coach Mark Jackson needs Curry to not only score, but also set an example for the younger players. Lee and Bogut may have more experience, but as the point guard and best player on the team, Curry will set the tone.
6. Eric Gordon
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Eric Gordon stated that he didn't want the Hornets to match the four-year, $58 million offer sheet he signed with the Phoenix Suns in July. He said of the Suns, "I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me. Phoenix is just where my heart is now" (via ESPN.)
Despite Gordon's wishes, New Orleans matched the offer sheet and retained their star shooting guard, who played just nine games last season before being sidelined with a knee injury.
The Indiana University product is just 23-years-old, but that makes him an elder statesman on a team that has eight players with two years or less NBA experience. Gordon needs to put this summer behind him and become the leader of a New Orleans team that has a great deal of long-term potential.
It sounds as if he has changed his tune since returning to New Orleans. According to Yahoo.com, Gordon said "I’m here with an open mind and here to help the young guys."
5. Al Horford
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Danny Ferry wasted no time in revamping the Hawks roster after being named the team's general manager in June. He shipped Atlanta's leading scorer, Joe Johnson, to the Nets and sent starting small forward Marvin Williams packing for Utah.
Johnson wasn't just the team's leading scorer; he was the leader of a team that had earned a playoff spot in each of the past five seasons.
Josh Smith, the longest tenured Hawk would appear to be the logical choice to fill that void, but, J-Smoove has asked to be traded on numerous occasions and will likely depart via free agency next summer if his wish is not granted.
That leaves Al Horford to take on the leadership duties in Atlanta. The soft-spoken center/power forward is well-respected by his teammates and needs to keep the team focused on returning to the post-season while speculation swirls around where Smith will end up next season.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge
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LaMarcus Aldridge has been a co-captain of the Portland Trail Blazers for a few years, but up until this past season, the Blazers took their cues from the calm leadership of shooting guard Brandon Roy.
After Roy retired abruptly in December, Portland fell into disarray. The team appeared to quit on Coach Nate McMillan, who was fired in March, and management traded veterans Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace
The Blazers will have many news faces in training camp this fall, including two rookies who are projected to be in the starting lineup, point guard Damian Lillard and center Meyers Leonard.
Aldridge, who made his first All-Star team last season, needs to right the ship in Portland during this transitional period and teach the rookies how to endure the grind of an NBA season with commitment and class.
3. John Wall
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The Wizards have struggled mightily since Wall joined the team, though he was hardly to blame. The first pick in the 2010 draft was surrounded by immature underachievers during his first two seasons in the league.
Over the past few months, Wizards' General Manager Ernie Grunfeld finally shipped the knuckleheads out of town and provided the former Kentucky Wildcat with some talented professionals to work with.
Grunfeld traded for Nene in March and acquired forwards Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor in June. Then he selected the sharp-shooter out of the University of Florida, Bradley Beal, with the third pick in June's draft.
Wall is still just 21 years old, but the Wizards will only go as far as he carries them. Now that he has some quality professionals to work with, it's time for the young point guard to begin to lead.
2. Joakim Noah
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The prognosis for Derrick Rose's recovery from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on May 13th was eight to 12 months of rehab. That means the 2011 MVP will be sidelined until at least mid-January and could miss the entire regular season.
No player on the Bulls roster is capable of replacing Rose's production, but Joakim Noah can match his energy. The fiery power forward plays the game with unbridled passion and is the sparkplug which has ignited the Bulls' suffocating defense for the past few seasons.
Without Rose to lead the Bulls' charge, it is incumbent upon Noah to ensure that the team maintains the same level of intensity from quarter to quarter and game to game. In addition to leading by example, he will have to become more of a vocal leader on the court and in the locker room this coming season.
1. Carmelo Anthony
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There's no doubting Anthony's talent, but the Knicks' small forward has been labeled selfish, lazy and immature. If the Knicks are going to make a run deep into the playoffs, their best player must lead the way.
That means Anthony needs to show up at training camp in top physical shape, share the basketball, improve his body language on the court, pick up his teammates when they're down and consistently play with reckless abandon on the defensive end of the floor.