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Marcos Breton: Wells quickly becoming a leader with the Kings

And after the story broke in The Bee, there were the typical denials and non-denial denials endemic to sports franchises in cases such as these.

Whatever. After spending the evening at Arco Arena on Friday, I'd bet money that Wells let Stojakovic have an earful for sitting with a hurt pinky while the Kings struggle to find a new identity.

That's fine as far as it goes, but there is a larger point that is far more important to the future of the Kings:

If Wells wants to be a tough guy by checking teammates who need it and then backs his words on the court the way he did Friday, he's bound to find a career renewal in Sacramento the way Chris Webber did before him.

He just needs to know that he's done nothing wrong.

In fact, he's doing everything right so far. After getting upset at The Bee's story, Wells went out Friday night and saved the Kings the humiliation of a home loss to a 1-11 team.

He was poised, tough, and cooly effective with the game on the line, while Stojakovic sat courtside in a suit, chewing gum, resting his pinky.

The juxtaposition between the two players speaks volumes about them as individuals and the Kings as a team right now.

It speaks to what this team really needs: players who bring it, both on and off the court.

For too long, Kings fans have asked, Where is Peja at crunch time?

Such questions have, for a long time, remained beneath the surface in Sacramento, secondary to love and hostility directed at the now-departed Webber.

Let's say it the way it was: Webber was on the receiving end of a lot of fair criticism in Sacramento but some unfair criticism as well. It went with the territory of being the highest-paid King and a veteran.

Bobby Jackson also took heat two seasons ago, for sitting out the playoffs with an injured abdominal wall. OK. The Kings had lost in the playoffs again, and people were frustrated. Jackson, to his credit, understood why he was taking the heat and survived just fine.

Will Stojakovic? It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure: As the senior member of the Kings in terms of years with the team, his absence from the starting lineup is more than fair game.

Why shouldn't Stojakovic - upon whose shoulders rests so much unmet potential - be subject to the same scrutiny as Webber or Jackson?

He feels that with his shooting hand disabled, he can't help his team. OK. Others ask: What about driving to the basket? Defending? Legitimate questions all.

So when unnamed Kings players tell The Bee that Wells was asking a similar question, it's not a revelation that reflects badly on Wells.

To the contrary, it makes him look good. And then when he plays the way he did Friday - saving the Kings from a demoralizing loss when they were still teetering - it makes him look golden.
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His rebounds say he is the toughest, grittiest guy on the roster. It's good to have a tough guy as a leader.
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