WASHINGTON -- When identifying leaders from an outside perspective, it is only natural to look at the Washington Wizards and see Bradley Beal and John Wall, their two All-Star guards. Logic would suggest they set the tone for younger, less experienced players, that they are the ones the rookies should look up to.
But Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sees similar value in less-heralded members of his team, the journeyman veterans to whom nothing has been given. Guys like Ish Smith and Gary Payton II have bounced around the league to varying degrees. In Payton's case, that has included extended time in the G-League.
Brooks has been tasked with creating an environment for the Wizards that is conducive to the development of young players and he believes those types of veterans set an important example.
"If you're really good, you have two or three All-Stars on your team," Brooks said. "But the league is made up of guys like Ish. His story can help the younger guys make it and stay in the league. It's what the league is about. He has the grit, the fiber, the substance and the experience to share with all the players who are trying to make it."
Brooks has used similar language to describe Payton II, who was first signed by the team to a 10-day contract last season. He was let go, then returned this past December and then had his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season earlier this month.
"He's fought and he's been cut many times and sometimes those are the guys you want in your program because they have that fiber, that toughness and that anger because they know that it can go away," Brooks said.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard has said on several occasions they want Brooks to install a culture and mindset with their young roster similar to the one he helped build in Oklahoma City. Smith happens to remind Brooks of one of his former players with the Thunder.
"I love guys on a team like Ish. We kind of had that guy with Nick Collison [in OKC], just a winning player on and off the court. Ish is the same way. I look at Ish the same exact way," Brooks said.
Collison averaged a modest 5.9 points in 14 NBA seasons, but was so respected for his leadership role that his jersey number was retired by the Thunder last year.
There is another person guys like Smith and Payton II remind Brooks of and that is himself. Before he became a coach, he was a 10-year NBA player. And he carved out that career as an undrafted, undersized point guard.
He was constantly fighting for his NBA future on the fringe of rosters and was able to stick around only because of his hard work and toughness.
Though he played with some great teammates like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, Brooks likes to think he left his own mark.
"I always took pride in having a relationship with the best player to the, well, myself; the worst player," he said.
"This game, it's a family and it's fun and it's about relationships; empowering and inspiring one another. You don't have to be a star player to do that. I've had great conversations with Olajuwon. I've had great conversations with players that only play on a 10-day or a year in the league. I took pride in it and I think Ish does the same thing. I think it's pretty important that we all are blessed and honored to be in the league, that now it's your job to leave your situation better than when you started it. We have a couple of guys on our team that can really carry on what we want our team to be about."
Ultimately, though, the Wizards' young players have to put in the necessary work to reach their potential. Brooks can teach them lessons directly and guys like Smith can do so indirectly.
But the players themselves have to understand the message.
"Now it's up to the younger players to listen to it. It's one thing to listen to John and Brad, but there's a great chance you're not going to be as good as John or Brad. There's a chance you're going to be a player like Ish," Brooks said.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS: