D-Will is leading this Utah Jazz ensemble

Published: Saturday, Oct. 23 2010 8:19 p.m. MDT

That's why Williams has reached out to newcomers in practices this preseason and why he's spreading an optimistic message to the media and why he plays so hard.

Williams doesn't just want to lead.

He wants to win.

Badly.

Even so, Williams has to walk a fine line between being a fierce competitor who expects and demands the best out of himself and teammates and being a team leader who inspires guys instead of alienating them by harping too much or by fuming, visibly or verbally, when things go wrong.

"Just like a coach, you've got to find that balance," former Jazz standout and current special assistant Jeff Hornacek said. "If you're yelling and screaming at guys all of the time, guys aren't going to respond to that. But if you're leading by example and then all of a sudden you get on somebody, they'll probably respond.

"I think Deron's done a good job of figuring out that balance, and not going overboard. ... Teammates are always supposed to push each other and try to make them do their best, and Deron will do that."

Though Williams isn't one to constantly bite his tongue, it isn't his gift of gab that has helped him vault into a position of power. It's the combination of his relentless inner-drive, his ever-improving skill set as arguably the best point guard in the game, his knowledge of basketball and his Sloan-approved work ethic.

"He's capable of being a great leader because he's got a lot of different things that he can do," the coach said. "I think that leadership kind of comes with experience."

Williams' track record has helped him earn something vital along with that seasoning. Hayward noticed it right from the get-go.

Williams has bona fide credibility as a big-time player.

"It's a respect level. Everyone respects him," Hayward said. "And when you have that higher respect, you just naturally follow them."

Sloan is more impressed by leaders who lead by action, rather than by words.

Consider that Reason No. 1,235,930 why he loves the guy with whom he entered the Basketball Hall of Fame last year.

"The word 'leadership' was hardly mentioned by John Stockton when he was here. He just played basketball," Sloan said of a guy he thought highly of both as a player and leader. "It wasn't a matter of (Stockton saying), 'Hey, I'm leading the team.' He went out to play every day, and that's what anybody has to do. They have to do their job well and when they do people pick up on that."

Sloan would prefer if his leaders left the ranting and raving and gum-flapping to sports-talk media types.

"Being vocal doesn't mean that you lead," the Jazz coach said. "A lot of guys talk, but that doesn't mean you get anything done when you get out on the floor."

Speaking of Williams, Sloan added: "He's got to play, that's what leaders do. You've got to do your job every day. And when you do that, players fall in line with it."

Rank and file. Like good soldiers following Gen. Williams.

Like players did when Stockton was around. Even though Karl Malone was more willing to vocalize his leadership — ask Greg Ostertag how Malone responds to players coming to camp overweight — Hornacek said The Mailman did most of his leading by example as well.

"Guys are going to look at him and watch how he plays and see how hard he plays night in and night out," Hornacek said. "Deron wants to win, and you need a leader who wants to win and will do anything to win — if that means diving for a ball or getting after somebody or taking the guy who has the hot hand (on defense)."

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