After back-to-back losses, we’ve been trying to figure out just what’s wrong with this Kentucky squad. Not even a serving of cupcake could fully heal the Cats, who let little ole Samford run all over them in the second half of last night’s game. While WebMD thinks Kentucky’s problems (sluggish, low energy, no joy) are symptoms of bi-polar disorder or depression, Willie Cauley-Stein thinks the Cats just aren’t having any fun out there:
“If you look at clips of last year’s team, they’ve got smiles on their faces, they’re getting super hyped after a dunk. We don’t do that. If somebody gets on the floor, two people help him up instead of the (other) four players helping one guy up. It’s just little stuff like that. When someone dives on the floor, just little tic-tac plays, people are getting stupid hyped over it. We’re not doing that yet, and that’s what we need to do.”
Willie’s right: one of the trademarks of Cal’s most successful teams is joy. When the Cats are playing their best on the court, you can tell–not just from the score, but from the smiles on their faces. Just thinking of the past three teams conjures memories of John Wall tackling DeMarcus Cousins into the sideline at the SEC Tournament, Jorts’ primal roar against Ohio State, and every single MKG smile, salute and Terrence Jones mini-flex. This team doesn’t have that…yet.
Why? Cauley-Stein says Cal thinks the team is “too cool,” but Willie thinks it’s because the players are too unsure of themselves to tell each other what to do:
“He keeps on telling us: Are you too cool? Are you not going to do this because you’re too cool to do it? It’s not even like that. It’s like, well, I can’t tell someone else what to do when I can’t even do it right.“
What can shake the Cats out of their ennui? The first thing they need is a leader. Last year, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took charge, creating the Breakfast Club and inspiring his teammates through his tough and unrelenting play on the court. While Julius Mays has shown leadership qualities so far this season, Cauley-Stein says Archie Goodwin has been stepping up in practice this week too: “In the past week, Archie has done a really good job of talking on the floor in the huddles, telling people (what to do).”
Camp Cal won’t hurt either. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through bootcamp (and movies like “Remember the Titans”), nothing bonds people together like blood, sweat, tears, and maybe a little bit of puke.