NBA Smallest player becomes a leader

Earl Boykins, who at 5-foot-5 is the NBA's shortest player, has become a motivator for the Warriors.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- At 5-foot-5, Earl Boykins doesn't have a lot of weight to throw around. Yet that's exactly what he did shortly after the Golden State Warriors signed him.
In one of his first practices, Boykins stood in front of his new teammates and lectured them on the importance of desire and tenacity. After all, Boykins has shown an excess of both while scratching out an NBA career as the shortest player in the game.
"He just stepped up and let us have it," Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas said. "You respect it when a guy like that says something, even though he hasn't been with the team for very long. You just look at him, and you know he knows a lot about toughness.
"Now, it's like that on the court, too. Whenever he comes out, everybody looks to him and says, 'Oh, it's Earl! Let's see what he can do!' "
Nothing new
Earning respect is nothing new to Boykins, who weighs 133 pounds -- nearly all of it heart, according to Warriors coach Eric Musselman, who's barely 5-foot-8 himself. Between Boykins' outstanding play and Musselman's good work in his first season with the team, it's a good year to be small in Oakland.
Boykins became a crowd favorite in the CBA and in each of his previous four NBA stops with New Jersey, Cleveland, Orlando and the Los Angeles Clippers during the 31/2 seasons since he went un-drafted out of Eastern Michigan.
His size was one of several factors that kept him moving along, but he never quit -- and he even raised his standards. After being cut loose by the Clippers last summer, Boykins waited to sign until another team offered him a chance to play regularly.
"I think a lot of teams are afraid, but this organization allowed me to come in and play the way I'm capable of playing," Boykins said. "I'm just trying to pay them back for giving me a chance."
Spark plug, leader
In just a month with Golden State, which signed him largely because of second-round draft pick Steve Logan's baffling refusal to reach contract terms with the Warriors, Boykins has become the perennial losers' spark plug and emotional leader. What's more, he has been on the floor for nearly every important fourth quarter since the day he signed.
"I'm having fun," Boykins said. "It's easy to play with guys who get along, and everybody gets along here. When I come in the game here, the crowd gets up and cheers every time. I just try to make an impact."
So far, Boykins' impact on the Warriors has been remarkable. He averages more than 10 points and four assists per game, and he's unafraid to take big shots down the stretch for a team with precious little toughness in crunch time.

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