Dragic, Bledsoe Learning Ropes of Leadership

Barry Gossage/NBAE

When it comes to styles of play, there aren’t many NBA players louder than Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.

They are fast. Hectic. Unrelenting.

It’s a startling contrast to their vocal presence. Bledsoe is quiet, and when he does talk, he’s as economic with his words as possible.

Dragic is friendly, even exuberant at times. But he has never been – nor has he needed to be – an in-your-face, call-you-to-account teammate.

Yet as the Suns’ playmakers, captains and leaders, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek would like to see them vocally express what the role they’ve quietly accepted.

“Goran and Eric aren’t the most talkative guys in the world,” Hornacek said. “We kind of have P.J. [Tucker] and Channing [Frye] that lend that leadership voice. But those two guys do it on the court. They’re getting better. As long as we keep seeing the improvement.

“I always feel that the point guard really should be the leader. He’s the one with the ball. He’s the one directing the plays. They’ll get there and get to a point where we need them to be.”

The need exists simply because players respond to talent that talks. Tucker is by far the most willing motivator on the team, but he’s the most effective after making a big play.

It stands to reason, then, that Dragic and Bledsoe would be effective leaders, since they make the biggest plays the most often.

It’s worth remembering that neither of them have a ton of experience in this particular role. Bledsoe is being asked to go from backup to leader in less than a season’s span.

Dragic has slightly more experience as the captain and scoring leader for the Slovenian national team, which advanced to the quarterfinals of EuroBasket 2013. Hornacek and Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough witnessed his growth – particularly in the leadership department – in person.

“Goran, he was the guy in Slovenia,” Hornacek said. “They all kind of fed off him. I don’t understand the language, so I don’t know what he was telling them and saying out there on the court, if he was calling out plays or yelling at them or what.”

As a former player, Hornacek knows that yelling from a teammate – more specifically, a leader – is more effective than a coach doing the same thing from the sideline.

“When I played, I rarely heard the coach,” he said. “It’s kind of a wasted breath if you’re up there yelling and screaming. Through practice, we’ve really put emphasis on our point guards that ‘Hey, you guys are the coaches on the floor. If we want to be a fast-breaking team and run up and down, you’re not going to have time to look over at coach for the play. You guys are going to have to learn what to call.’”

Bledsoe has improved markedly in this regard since returning from knee surgery. He isn’t afraid to point out to teammates where they need to be, whether it’s during a dead ball or live play. He will huddle up players after a sequence works against their favor.

These steps are good signs of his growth. More importantly, they’re indications that the Suns are good hands both now and in the future.

“Eric’s more comfortable as the season’s going on with saying things to guys,” Hornacek said. “Again, they’re improving.”