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On "leadership"

Game thread will be up at 5.  Until then, this can tide you over.  In case you missed it, Darius was suspended for tonight's game for his slap to LeBron's face.

Much has been made about Caron Butler's play in Game 5, and frankly, it's all deserved.  In our most important game of the season, Caron finally discovered that the team needed him to be The Man.  We needed him to take all the big shots, even if some of them were forced, and he came through.  We've been talking about that aspect of his game since way back in December,

But what I find more fascinating about the ebb and flow of Caron's series, and really, his season as a whole, can be encapsulated by his comments before the game

Don't judge this team by comments, LeBron made a statement: 'these guys are talkers' but unless you hear something from the captains, which would be myself and Antawn, don't label that as the team. I'm the voice of this team and Antawn is the spiritual and emotional leader so unless you hear it from one of us, keep it moving.

Now, I'm consistent on my opinion that the "comments" by DeShawn and even Gilbert didn't do much to affect the outcome of this series.  I don't think they motivated LeBron any more than playing the Wizards would have motivated LeBron anyway, and I'm not so keen on the significance of the mind games that have been played.  DeShawn's demeanor before the series bothered me only because he made himself, and by extension the team, look like idiots. 

Still, there's a lot of significance to Caron's words.  For the last few years, Gilbert has been the best player, while Antawn has been the locker room leader.  It's a role Antawn was slow to grow into, but we saw it a lot even last season.  There was that anecdote, for example, that Ivan Carter shared about Jamison's discussion with Andray Blatche, about Blatche's work habits (I can't find a link right now).

Amid all of that, Caron settled into a third fiddle role, known only for his quiet demeanor.  Proponents would say he was "leading by example," and that he was a "no-nonsense professional."  It was a nice way of saying that he wasn't vocal enough, for whatever reason.  Even last year, I think the team respected him enough where if he had spoken up, they would have listened.

That's why I'm so encouraged by Caron's statement.  The fact that he followed it with an absolute take-charge game is no coincidence, methinks.  He has finally realized that the team needs more from him than just being a second banana, both on and off the court.  Like it or not, he's an authority figure, and he needs to start acting the part.  Speaking out like this is exactly what he should be doing.

So while I do share a bit of jvflail's skepticism about the hollowness of the words, I don't think that's important in and of itself.  The more important thing is that Caron is speaking out like that, realizing that the team needs him to be a spokesperson for them.  If, as this team really needs, Caron emerges as the "leader" while Gilbert Arenas continues to be the "best player," then these comments are the important first step.

At the very least, this means we should not re-sign Antawn just because Antawn's an off-court leader.  We should re-sign him only for his on-court production.  Because we have an off-court leader locked up for four more years, and that's become clear in this series.