Toronto Raptors' Media Day 2010 - Scout Leader

Maurizio Gherardini thinks Linas Kleiza has a lot of potential to be tapped as a leader this year... Maybe even filling in for the hole that Jorge Garbajosa left.

Vicious D takes a good look at what it takes to be a leader with a couple special interviews.  First up is newly promoted Alvin Williams and to finish, is Raptors Assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini.  Exclusive video interviews inside

The theme for me going into this Media Day was pretty simple. 

No, it wasn't to sample the food.  Although this year, they came out and had some lovely ladies bring us some bite sized snacks such as chicken wings, sliders, and loaded nacho chips.  And Franchise, seen here, just finds their pull irresistible.

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And no, it wasn't going to be to get the spin message or give everyone the same info from the media scrums that always take place every year.  Even though we're a part of those scrums, there's no point in repeating a message that you'll already hear eight or nine times.

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No, my goal was to talk to some people who have always given me some extremely thoughtful answers about the direction of this team.  To be specific, I wanted to ask some special people about the theme of leadership.  And while just about every reporter had a pretty generic leadership question posed to either Jay Triano or Brian Colangelo, I'm pretty pleased with the answers we got from two very special people.

First off was Alvin Williams.  While we can say that Alvin was a leader in his own right towards the end of his career, I would say that under the tutelage of people like Antonio Davis, Muggsy Bogues, and Kevin Willis, Alvin Williams had a lot of opportunities to blossom and lots of examples to draw from.  He learned from his peers about how to lead a team and how to conduct himself professionally.  It's this aspect that I wanted Alvin to elaborate on and how he sees a person growing into the leadership role.

It was very interesting to listen to Alvin talk about how accountability meant more when there were team leaders on the floor with him and that this team will only go far if they both allow a leader to emerge and also allow themselves to be led by the leader.  It's here where I start to think about last year's team; about how players like Jarrett Jack and Antoine Wright attempted to step up and be vocal.  Both players seemed to try to create an identity with the team and both lamented the fact that a defensive identity was nowhere to be found.  I wonder how much their leadership might have fallen on deaf ears of people like Hedo Turkoglu, but I guess we'll never really know.  On this year's team, those voices will be essential to making sure our youthful core stay on track and mature.

Maurizio Gherardini also has had a wealth of experience seeing great leaders come and go.  Having been an influential force in the European basketball league for so many years, Maurizio also helped bring over two of the Raptors strongest leaders in the past few years in Anthony Parker and Jorge Garbajosa.  It was a real pleasure talking to him about where we could find leadership on this Raptors team.  He talked at length about the leadership qualities he has seen in players past and how Linas Kleiza and Jarrett Jack may very well become the leaders of this year's Raptors team.

As you can see, Maurizio saw a lot of leadership qualities in Linas Kleiza during the worlds this summer.  On a team like the Raptors, having a veteran who can step up and be a rallying force is going to be very essential.  I've always thought that the loss of Jorge Garbajosa was something of the beginning of the Raptors downfall from that magical season in 2006-2007 and the difficulties in replacing him cannot be understated.   Here's hoping the Raptors may have found someone who can be at least a little bit of the same. 

With reports the other day that Reggie Evans has also stepped up to try and insert himself as a defacto leader, it seems like there's an underlying attempt by some Raptors to step forward and lead this team.  And while it's still early, it's really encouraging to see that in the absence of a superstar, some of the other older and more seasoned players have taken it upon themselves to lead in other ways.   It's going to be story lines like these that really determine whether this year's Raptors team can overachieve and do better than everyone has so far predicted.

And at least this early in the season, there are some embers of hope.

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