As the 2014-15 season rolls on and we reach the holidays, there are a lot of interesting developments popping up around the league.
It’s been a very competitive season and there are several teams that have risen up this year that weren’t expected to be contenders. That’s something that has been happening on a yearly basis, and I think as we make progress here in Utah, we have the potential to be one of those teams down the road.
As long as we stay together as a team, as long as we continue to buy in to what Coach Snyder wants us to do and execute, I think we can be really good.
We’ve had our share of struggles, and as one of the leaders of the team, that has been challenging for me because I hate losing so much. That’s something I always battle with. But it’s something I’m learning to overcome. I’ve reached the point where, after a loss, I’m able to get outside myself, figure out what I can do better each game and what we can do better as a team.
I also talk to my teammates and make sure they stay positive. That’s one of my roles as a leader. It’s a matter of keeping spirits up, encouraging them when they make a good play, or even when they don’t, making sure they stay focused and bounce back.
Knowing how to lead in these situations takes work, but I’ve been lucky to play with some great teammates over my first several years in the league, and I’ve learned a lot about different leadership techniques by watching and listening to them.
Earl Watson is a guy I really looked up to because of how professional he was. He was really great with all of the young guys on the team. If we were going well and had won a couple games in a row, Earl would remind us that it was a long season and we had another tough game coming up, so we couldn’t get too pumped up on ourselves, and come out and lay an egg the next game.
If things were going poorly and we’d lost a few straight, he would remind us of the things that we do well, and of the stretches when we played well to show us our potential.
No matter what was going on, he kept us even keeled and in the moment
Raja Bell is another guy whose leadership really stuck out to me as a young player. He would always tell me, “Listen, this is a job. And even though things are going tough in your job you still have to treat it as a job. Every day you go to work, you have to turn the professional switch on, and make sure that you’re putting in all the time and the effort to try to get better.”
Whether things aren’t going well for the team, whether things aren’t going well for you individually, at the end of the day you still have to turn that professional switch on and try to do something to help your team and stay the course.
Coach Snyder has been helping me through a lot of these situations as well. Our relationship has been steadily growing since we first met. We’ve had a lot of good, ongoing dialogue about what he wants from us as a team, what he wants from me, and what I’m seeing and thinking out there on the court.
We recently had a long discussion after one of the games about what I can do better to help the team, and how I feel about our direction. Coach wanted to hear what I see out there on the court. I think that helped us both a lot, because at the end of the day, he can only coach us so much. He’s not out there. He can’t see everything.
It’s important to have a give and take between the coach and players in leadership roles. The head coach can’t necessarily have that type of relationship with everybody, but having that type of dialogue with a player like me connects him with all the players because I can bridge that gap.
So far, I think it’s been really good.
For us to take the next step as a team, we need to have individual players raise their games—and we’ve definitely had some of that this season.
One of the guys on our squad that’s really impressed me so far is Trevor Booker. He seems to come into each game and give us a huge lift. That’s what you want from somebody who comes off the bench. You want them to turn the energy and intensity up to another level.
He gives us another dimension, especially defensively. He’s able to get after it and create turnovers, and when he does that, our energy as a team picks up. He does an extremely good job of igniting the team on both sides of the floor. Offensively, we’ve asked him to do some things he’s never really done before. He’s been able to stretch his game out to the three-point line and make threes, and that’s been huge.
Rudy Gobert had an extremely good summer, and he just keeps improving as a player. The big key to me is that he wants to get better. If he wants it bad enough and has the desire, he’s just so gifted physically, the sky is the limit for him.
He’s already done extremely well for us this year, especially defensively. He’s a huge presence in the post, blocking and altering shots, and rebounding. There just aren’t many players in the league that have that type of presence, so having him down there makes us a lot better as a team.
I like what I’ve seen from Dante Exum as well. For being thrown into the fire a little bit at 19 years old, he has handled it pretty well. To be that age and a Western Conference point guard is pretty difficult. There are some pretty big names in the West at the point guard position, and he’s held his own and handled it really well.
His shooting has been a boost for us too. He’s hit some big-time threes, and he’s answered any questions about his ability to space the floor. He’s always in the gym working out and trying to do better each day. So I’ve been really impressed with the professionalism he has already at 19.
Personally, I’m very proud of the strides that I’ve made on the court this season myself, especially after the work I put in this offseason. My game has come a long way in what feels like a short time, and that just speaks to the fact that the time you put into something is exactly what you’ll get out of something.
I put a lot of time and effort into making progress this summer. I watched a lot of film, took a lot of jump shots and did a lot of different things to try to prepare myself for the season.
I go into each season trying to improve, and I think I’ve done that this season so far. I’ve shot the ball significantly better than I did last year. One of the reasons for that is just having a whole year of experience under my belt of being the go-to-guy. I know what to expect a little bit more from defenses. I know how they’re going to guard me, and I can read things better, so I know how to attack them. Having that experience last year really helped me out.
I still need to get better at making my presence felt in every game. A lot of teams game plan to take me out of plays and take me out a game, and sometimes, I let them do that. I can’t allow defenses to force me into doing things that I don’t want to do. I’ll get better at that as I continually watch film on what I can do to stay involved in plays, or at least get my teammates more open.
I still have a long way to go to reach what I feel is my potential, but it’s nice to know that I have the means to reach those goals, and get where I want to be.
ONE LAST THING
I wouldn’t be where I am without the support I’ve received throughout my career and I want to thank everybody who has been reading this blog for supporting me as well.
I hope you all have happy and safe holidays, and remember that there’s a lot of things in life that are more important than the game of basketball.
That’s something that I have to try and remember, too. At the end of the day, it’s a job and something I value extremely highly. But something about the holidays always reminds me to be thankful for all that I have, and hold close the people that helped me to get where I am.
I hope we can all remember to do that this holiday. Enjoy a happy holiday season.