Will Matt Kemp be the leader the Dodgers need this season? (Gregory Bull / Associated…)
PHOENIX – The Dodgers don’t have a clear-cut leader, but Magic Johnson is certain one will emerge.
“That’s the last piece of this puzzle for us,” Johnson said. “Who’s going to be that leader?”
Matt Kemp, with his exuberance and all-out style of play, might be the closet thing the Dodgers have to a clubhouse leader.
Adrian Gonzalez has a low-key demeanor. Clayton Kershaw pitches only once every five days.
“Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] led by being quiet, by his performance on the court, by his approach to the game,” Johnson said. “That’s a leader. Adrian can lead as a quiet guy. We don’t want anybody to change. Be who you are. We need Matt to be the rah-rah guy. You need a guy picking guys up. Everybody has a role. Wes Matthews and some of the guys, they used to do that all the time and got us going.”
Johnson said leadership roles can be divided. As an example, he mentioned his former Lakers teammate Michael Cooper.
“When we weren’t playing defense, Coop used to get in all our faces,” Johnson said. “That was his thing. That was great.”
Johnson said he called all of the Dodgers’ key players before spring training to talk about this very subject. The first two players he spoke to were second baseman Mark Ellis and catcher A.J. Ellis.
“The intensity that they bring, they’re leaders,” Johnson said. “That would become infectious with the other guys.”
While Johnson’s Lakers teams might have had multiple leaders, Johnson was reminded that he was viewed as “the man.” He said he was confident someone would step into a similar role with the Dodgers.
“It will naturally happen,” he said. “You don’t come in and say, ‘This is the guy.’ This team hasn’t been together that long. One of these guys will emerge as the guy.”
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