Morris' tough love exactly what Celtics need now

Morris' tough love exactly what Celtics need now

BOSTON -- When the Marcus Morris trade with Detroit went down in 2017, I made a point of reaching out to some of my Detroit connections (I spent nearly a decade covering the Pistons when they were really good in the 2000s) just to see what the Celtics were getting in Morris. 

The most commonly used words in describing him were “tough” and “versatile.”

But the one word no one uttered about him was leader. 

However, reflecting upon the incident he had with Jaylen Brown in the 115-99 loss at Miami on Thursday, there is absolutely no question that what we saw on that video was a brand of leadership from Morris that this Celtics team desperately needs. 

Kyrie Irving preaches patience when it comes to his youthful teammates all the time, while trying to balance that with still challenging them. 

And Al Horford is a respected veteran who is also a man of few words, preferring to instead lead by example.

Those are all noble approaches to leadership. 

But when the stakes are as high as they are for the Celtics this season, there has to be someone willing to initiate those frank, straight-no-chaser, high accountability-driven conversations that are uncomfortable because more likely than not, feelings will get hurt. 



He’s that dude!

“To be the team we want to be, we have to be open with each other and be able to discuss things that are going on, on the court,” Morris told reporters in Orlando. “If it leads to a little bumping, pushing and shoving...it’s nothing. You move past that type of stuff and keep going.”’

And that is essentially what he and Brown have made of the incident that stemmed from Brown not getting back quick enough on defense, which led to a Miami Heat lay-up and on the sideline, Morris pushing Brown before Marcus Smart - yes, Marcus Smart - intervened. 

Morris, Brown and coach Brad Stevens downplayed the incident, acknowledging that those kinds of run-ins happen all the time in the NBA especially when you’re talking about a highly competitive team with winning a title as a legit and realistic goal. 

They’re right. 

But the issue that so many had with it, was that it happened in the middle of a game with thousands of eyeballs and at least one camera phone that captured the incident for the entire world to see. 

“It’s not weird. You see it all the time,” Brown said when asked about seeing the incident go viral. “In this case, it’s nothing major.”

Actually, it’s a pretty big deal but not for the reasons you might be thinking. 

Morris has been the most consistent player on this team all season, the one player who seems to understand what playing with a sense of urgency all the time really means. 

But as much as they need his scoring and rebounding and defense to win games, they also need him to become more of a leader. 

And the way he leads is the way he plays - hard, in your face, no apologies. 

It has the potential to leave some with hurt feelings and in the heat of the moment, tempers will likely flare. 

But Morris doesn’t care. 

He wants to win it all this year, something he has not been the least bit coy about acknowledging. 

And to do so, it’s going to take all the Celtics to be at the top of their game and come as close to reaching their full potential talent-wise as they can. 

If you’re doing that, he’ll be your biggest cheerleader. 

If you’re not, he’ll let you know. 

How you handle that, is your business. 

Helping the Celtics win games, whether it’s with his play or leadership, is his. 

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Evan Turner played a key role in selling Enes Kanter on Celtics

Evan Turner played a key role in selling Enes Kanter on Celtics

Danny Ainge himself admitted Enes Kanter probably could have made more money elsewhere.

So, why did the veteran big man choose the Boston Celtics in free agency? You can thank Evan Turner in part.

As Kanter considered the C's as a free-agent destination, Ainge suggested he reach out to Turner, his teammate on the Portland Trail Blazers for part of the 2019 season and former Celtic who spent two seasons in Boston from 2014 to 2016.

Turns out that was a good suggestion, as Turner gave Kanter a five-star review of the C's.

"He told me how amazing and friendly the front office was," Kanter said Wednesday at his introductory press conference at the Auerbach Center. "He told me it’s like a family. From the moment that you step on that court, they’re going to love you, treat you like family."

Turner also sold Kanter on the basketball side of Boston, and with good reason: The veteran wing parlayed two solid seasons under Celtics head coach Brad Stevens into a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers.

"(Turner) told me how much he trusts in Brad," Kanter said. "All he kept saying is how much he trusts in him.

" ... He told me amazing things about the organization, about the fan base, about the coaching staff and everything. So, it’s pretty awesome."

Combine Kanter's trust in Turner (one of his close friends in Boston) with a separate phone call from fellow recruit Kemba Walker and a good first impression from the Celtics' ownership, and the 27-year-old big man was convinced to sign in Boston -- where he fittingly took Turner's former No. 11 jersey.

"I just met all the owners today,” Kanter added. "I’ve never seen anything like this before. They actually come talk to you, and that just shows so much respect. They’re having a conversation with you. That's something that’s very special."

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Will Kemba Walker-Boston Celtics union have Happily Ever After ending?

Will Kemba Walker-Boston Celtics union have Happily Ever After ending?

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker is all smiles right now. So is Danny Ainge, and Brad Stevens, and Wyc Grousbeck and … pretty much everyone associated with the Boston Celtics right now. 

But if you hit the rewind button to a couple years ago, there was a similar vibe of optimism surrounding the program as we all sat and watched Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward trotted out before the media in what many thought would be the perfect marriage. 

No need to dwell on Hayward’s injury anymore than we have, or Irving’s decision to leave Boston for Brooklyn this summer. 

For a myriad of reasons, things didn't work out.

And while the positive, upbeat vibe we have now is very similar, there’s a strong sense that this Walker-to-Boston marriage has a better shot at a Happily Ever After ending. 

That’s because Walker, more than anything else, is wired very differently than Irving. 

While he led UConn to a national title as a senior in 2011, Walker didn’t come into the NBA with nearly as much fanfare or expectations as Irving, who was the top overall pick in the 2011 draft — eight spots ahead of Walker after having played just 11 games at Duke. 

And it is that perpetual chip on his shoulder that never goes away, constantly drives Walker to prove his naysayers wrong and for the Celtics, provides them the kind of leadership that at this point in time their talented but fragile roster desperately needs. 

I asked Walker during his introductory press conference on Wednesday to describe his brand of leadership.

While initially indicating that it all depends on the situation, Walker soon added, “I’m not a rah-rah kind of guy. If I have something to say, I’m gonna say it. I feel like if I’m doing something, if I’m working hard,I feel like that’s how guys have to be. Chemistry is important. A team has to be together. That’s one thing throughout my career, I try to do team activities, small things like that.” 

And it is the small things that Walker knows all too well add up to success, the kind of success that has eluded him for most of his NBA career. 

Of the 14 lottery picks from Walker’s 2011 draft class, he is one of nine that have been in the NBA for each of the past eight seasons. 

But only one of those nine has yet to ever make it out of the first round of the playoffs — that would be Walker. 

So for Walker, coming to Boston is about more than just playing for a team where he’ll be the face of the franchise for years to come. 

It’s about exorcising some basketball demons that have haunted him for most of his professional basketball career. 

That’s why as much as the Celtics need Walker to be that difference-making, high-impact scorer we saw named to the All-NBA Third team last season, he needs the Celtics just as much to finally get over that playoff hump that more than anything else, has kept him on the outside looking in on those conversations that center around the best guards in the NBA. 

Because talent-wise, Walker is right up there with the best of them. 

But the wins haven’t been there, something he seems poised to change now that he’s a Celtic. 

For someone who has suffered as many losses as he has through the years, this change of scenery to Boston from Charlotte may be exactly what Walker needs to keep on smiling. 


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