Locker Room and Floor Leadership are Different
These past few games, with Deron playing and not playing, have perhaps shed or shined the light on the Jazz’s leadership problems. This team is desperately in need of a veteran leader’s presence, and it’s clear that Deron is the only Jazzman that fits the job description.
Deron is hardly the most veteran guy on the team, but this is absolutely, without a doubt his team. Fisher, Matty, and Collins are gone, and via the sltrib blog a few days ago, “neither [Memo], Carlos Boozer or Andrei Kirilenko is the answer in the leadership department.” [Memo, Boozer, and AK are not only the Jazz's three oldest and most veteran players, but also the three longest-tenured Jazzmen].
It’s often hypothesized that one of the reasons Deron hasn’t yet or isn’t stepping up to the plate of leadership is because he’s too close to some of the guys, i.e. Ronnie B, CJ, and Sap. The four of them basically came into the league together (Deron and CJ drafted in ’05; Sap and Brew drafted in ’06), but whereas the other three are still regarded as young, developing players, Deron is indisputably in a completely different league, and that’s why fans expect more from him.
That’s a legit argument. However, do we all remember that a pissed-off second-year Deron had no qualms calling out some of his teammates for having already made vacation plans after the Jazz were eliminated by the Spurs in the 2007 Playoffs? I had problems with what he said at the time because I felt that it wasn’t his place (as a second-year guy) to be saying that to the media, but we are living in a completely different world now, and that’s the kind of stuff he needs to be doing in the locker room every day.
On the flip side:
It’s been oft-mentioned that Stock wanted Jerry to call every single play up until the day he retired, whereas Deron has always wanted total freedom calling the shots (no pun intended) and that Jerry has no problem letting him do so. Watching the Jazz offense (or lack of) this season, I often find myself wondering if the suckitude level wouldn’t be so high if Deron took a backseat to Jerry when the occasion calls for it and let Jerry take charge when the offense is stalled, lacking, nonexistent, not working, ineffectual, useless, crap, etc. (Everyone from Barkley to Nissalke has commented in recent times that never has a Jazz team looked less like a Jerry Sloan team than this one.)
I’m guessing there are plenty of fans that would disagree with me, but hey, when Jerry took charge during a game last season in which–
The Jazz came out flatter than flat. As is now their MO, they jacked up shots, didn’t get into their offense, and turned the ball over…and near the end of the quarter NJ was up 27-5.
–sound familiar?–a totally different Jazz team (literally; Jerry benched the starters) took to the floor, played their asses off, and came away with the win.
(Don’t remember the game? How about if I put it into dramatic context and tell you that this is the game during which the infamous Boozer-Sheridan “I’m getting a raise, regardless” interview took place, and that Boozer’s statements were viewed as that much more egregious because the Jazz had been in a slump and they finally got a hard-fought win, but no one could focus on it because all the attention was on Boozer, aka the worst quote machine of all-time?)