Even more than new Suns center Tyson Chandler's productivity in the pivot, the Suns locker room needs a leader that the rest of the team will heed.
Luis Scola watched the Suns' Titanic hit the iceberg in 2012-13, while Channing Frye helped guide the Goodship Lollipop into a playoff run in 2013-14.
Which impact with Chandler's most closely resemble in 2015-16?
"This year we added five or six veteran guys," said Hornacek. "We got veteran guys who can balance what's going on out there with the young guys."
This offseason, without making the playing rotation demonstrably older, the Suns replaced last year's veterans with new veterans. Now Tyson Chandler (33), Mirza Teletovic (30) and Sonny Weems (29), along with P.J. Tucker (30), are expected to be the rotation players that bring professionalism and maturity to the young rotation of Eric Bledsoe (26), Markieff Morris (26), Brandon Knight (23), T.J. Warren (22), Alex Len (22), Archie Goodwin (21) and Devin Booker (18).
Teletovic and Weems (and Ronnie Price/30) most likely won't start many games this year and aren't even guaranteed regular rotation spots, reducing their chance to get other players to take their lead.
"Let's face it," Hornacek said to Bright Side this summer. "You can't have a 10th or 11th man be your leader. It's gotta be your main guys."
P.J. Tucker already proved last year he's the team's hustle leader but he's not a locker room leader.
So that leaves Tyson Chandler to do the heavy lifting. For his part, he's saying the right things about how to win.
"The thing about winning, it's a full time job. It's not just about game days," Chandler said at his intro presser in July. "The preparation has to start every day in practice. We have to be locked in, we have to be serious, really paying attention to details. And it's just kind of getting that focus around the locker room. Making sure everybody's engaged, everybody's locked in."
"It's never going to be one player that's gonna make a team win. It's gonna take the entire team."
Chandler goes on to say he won't always be politically correct.
"As athletes, a lot of times," he said, "you get in a situation where you hear what you want to hear and never what you need to hear. The older you get in your career and you're able to be around great vets like Jason Kidd, Dirk (Nowitzki), and in my younger days Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley would definitely tell you exactly how it is."
"Guys know that I'm going to be honest with them and with myself," he said. "If you want to be a winning team, a winning organization, you have to build that culture."
The concern is whether guys will listen.
Will his impact rival Luis Scola's?
Luis Scola was the consummate professional in his 2012-13 season with the Suns. He came to work every day, led the team in hustle points and generally made the most of his skillset. When Markieff Morris was impersonating a future D-Leaguer, Scola was holding down the fort at power forward.
But he just couldn't get anyone in the locker room to heed his advice. By the end of the year, he was shrugging his shoulders while the Titanic was hitting the bottom of the ocean.
Here's Scola in early November - the first week of the season.
"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," he said after just the second game of the season, a good win against a bad Detroit team.
"It's not going to be pretty a lot of times," he warned. "But that's just the way it has to be."
And here he is in December of that year.
"I don't know. We don't have a day off anymore," he said about Monday's off day after the back-to-back. "We need to practice. It's not going to happen by talking. I think a lot about it, I just don't know."
After we left him alone, he just sat there in his shorts at least ten more minutes. He didn't go take a shower or talk to any other players. He just sat there, staring at the floor.
And finally, in April.
"We just don't know how to play well," Scola told Craig Grialou in April of that season. "We don't know how to play basketball and that's why we lose. Until we learn how to play 48 minutes of basketball, we're not going to win games. I'm surprised we won (23) games playing this way. Many of the games we won, we did the same thing. We just overcame it somehow. I'm also surprised we didn't fix it. We saw the problem pretty much the first week and we couldn't fix it. It's very frustrating. It's a bad year."
Or will Chandler have the impact of Channing Frye?
Frye didn't spend much time talking to reporters in 2012-13, but he was regularly credited with being the sage, calming influence during the 2013-14 season. He had the benefit of playing for a team with nothing to lose, so he didn't have to teach anyone how to handle expectations.
"Two years ago, Channing Frye was kinda that guy," coach Hornacek mentioned on XM Radio last week.
The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns were youngish, but mostly inexperienced. Their locker room had a bunch of guys all around the same age (23-27), with Channing Frye the veteran in the rotation at the ripe age of 30. But more telling was the lack of NBA experience. Before adding Leandro Barbosa in January off the street, the only guy with more than 4 recent years of NBA experience was Frye. We continually covered the fact that the Suns were one of the least experienced teams in the entire league, and far behind the other playoff contenders.
Yet Frye's maturity coupled with the team's general lack of expectations helped keep the temperature steady in the locker room all season. Hornacek never said Frye was a firey leader. He just appreciated Frye's ability to bring calmness and professionalism to work every day and keep the Suns on a positive outlook.
"Last year we had really just a young group of guys," Hornacek continued. "We didn't have that veteran leader who'd tell them hey knock it off, or we need to do this or we need to do that."
Sure Frye left over the summer of 2013, but the Suns still began the 2014-15 season with three veterans in the rotation: Gerald Green (28), Goran Dragic (28) and P.J. Tucker (29) and a several other 3-4 year veterans in the Morrii, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. These guys knew how to play basketball. But unfortunately, none of them really kept the locker room on an even keel all year and none of them required the others to raise their game.
Will Tyson Chandler's tough love fall on deaf ears? Or will he provide ballast to a flagging locker room?