The Archwizard is an irregular segment I'll throw out from time to time focusing on player leadership, and today it's about road mentality. More importantly, why is London Fletcher gracing the title picture of a Wizards blog? I'm glad you asked.
I see player leadership as a three-headed beast. You've got your offensive leader, defensive leader, and locker room leader. Ofttimes one player will wear two of those hats, like London Fletcher does for the Redskins. In the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks defensive leader is Tyson Chandler, offensive leader is Dirk Nowitzki, and locker room leader is Jason Kidd, for example. Sharing leadership hats in the NBA is possible but difficult...just ask Lebron James. The Archwizard will look at who's doing what in each respect as time goes on.
Before we get into the meat of this thing, it's important to set the stage for today's topic. Since it's a time we'd all rather forget that seemed as if it would never end, I'll set it quickly. The Wizards were historically bad on the road last season. Fingers never quite pointed, and with the ongoing rebuild, the memory has faded like a dark dream. As Egg Shen and MLK might say, only a dream can kill a dream, and I have a dream; that dream is a new road approach that's going to take the effort only an Archwizard can put out.
Last season saw more cleaning up of the cobwebs leftover from the previous core, and the cohesion we were hoping to see from our young talent didn't really start presenting itself until the Jordan Crawford/Chris Singleton trade (that still feels amazingly awesome). This season (should it occur) promises the first chance for a fresh identity in recent memory, and guys are taking charge (with varying results).
I'll be getting into that with later editions, for now I want to take a look at doing the road in a new way. Better than half the team gathered in LA, a quarter's trained in DC, with the rest scattered overseas. But it's hard to hold a group like that together during the offseason, yet the offseason's not where I'm looking.
Everyone seems to more-or-less be on their own in each city the Wiz visit on the road. Maybe the guys will hang out with their best buds, but I'm ready to see the "Family!" the team used to break huddles with. Maybe unfriendly crowds are getting into their heads, I don't know. But if it's psychological pressure they're feeling (and really, what else could it be? Jet lag?), then it seems best to counter with a psychological gambit.
I want to see our titular Archwizard spearhead an effort to establishing some solidarity on the road. Whether it's team meals together, team film sessions, I don't much care. At home, is one thing, but when our guys are on the road together I want them thinking they're in hostile territory. That the guy next to them is the only familiar thing.
This takes away some of the pressure of the road. If they're already on unfriendly ground from the moment the game gets started and it's reinforced by staying close to their teammates before they even step on the hardwood, they're going to be able to lean on each other when things start getting loud. That lends itself directly to mental toughness, the kind of grit you need to stay competitive through four quarters away from the VC.
Maybe once the team identity starts to condense from the ether, road mentality comes with the package. But team-centric activities on the road aimed at establishing some solidarity would sure be a good sign for the future, and since my fingers are already crossed for the lockout to end, I'll just have to cross my toes.