Last season, Arron Afflalo led the Bruins averaging 16.9 points a game on the offensive end and played the role of lockdown defender on the defensive end. Scorers and athletes can and have replaced that on this season's team, however the Bruins miss Afflalo for the role he played and one that has yet to be replaced on this season's team. That is the role of leader. When a play had to be made, something had to be said or someone had to be followed, it was Afflalo who stpped forward, but who is that man this season?
While we do have Howland, he can't play. He's relegated to his suit and coach's box and the Bruins need a leader on the court. It should be Josh Shipp or Darren Collison, the #1 scorer and floor leader, but Shipp hasn't taken the leadership role and Collison has enough problems right now trying to get healthy and confidence back in his knee. Lorenzo Mata is the team's sole senior, but it's tough to be a team leader when you spend half the game on the bench and are on the floor to make a difference when the ball isn't in your hands. Westbrook, Luc and Love are very good players, but they haven't shown the leadership ability that the team is lacking. Who is our team's leader? We don't know, they don't know and I don't think Howland knows.
On Saturday when Michigan went ahead in the 1st half, everyone took a seat and Howland went over and talked with his assistants like always. While Howland and his assistants talked, the players got some water, a towel and waited for Howland. This would not have happened last year because Afflalo would have said something to the players, spurring on a team meeting before Howland adressed the troops. That isn't happening this season. There isn't the communication on the court that there was last season, when Afflalo was there to tell a teammate where he has to be on offense, where he has to watch for the screen on defense. There were in-game adjustment last season that didn't take place after halftime or a timeout because the players were pointing things out to eachother. Anyone can point things out when the whole team is talking, but it takes a leader to be the first voice and break the silence.
This season, it has been on Howland to make every adjustment and while we've been OK thus far, it won't be OK when we play a team who's talent matches ours and the difference between a 6 and 8 point lead means something. There are 19 games before the Pac 10 tournament and it's still not 2008 yet so there is no need to panic, but the primary question for our Ben Ball Warriors is not whether Roll will get his jump shot going, whether Collison will show us the All-American form of last season or whether Love will develop on the defensive end, but who will be the leader.