Celtics

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. 

Morris?

Yup. 

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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Kyrie Irving's critical comments were justified, explains Celtics legend

Kyrie Irving's critical comments were justified, explains Celtics legend

Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving was critical of the team's younger players after a recent loss to the Orlando Magic, and one Celtic legend thinks the veteran point guard's comments were justified. 

Paul Pierce, who spent 15 years with the Celtics and helped deliver Boston a championship in 2008, explained Tuesday on ESPN's "The Jump" why he had no issues with Irving's comments. 

“However he has to do it to wake them up,” Pierce said. “Kyrie understands what it takes to win a championship, so he’s trying to show them there’s an everyday process to this.

“When I won a championship and we came back the next year, it was like, ‘don’t get bored with the process’ or ‘understand what the process is.’ And that’s what he’s trying to teach them. And that’s why they’re inconsistent, because they don’t understand that. It doesn’t start just on the court during games. It’s in practice, it’s the little things … It’s the little things that they have to follow — the details that it’s going to take for them to win a championship, and Kyrie’s trying to show them that.”

The Celtics have not met expectations so far this season and enter Wednesday's showdown against the Toronto Raptors with a 25-17 record. A lot of the frustration involving this team stems from its inconsistency. The C's have lost three consecutive games, but won four straight games before that. An eight-game win streak in December was followed by a three-game skid.

The Celtics' season ultimately will be judged on their playoff run, but they won't enjoy much success in April, May or June unless they find an identity and every player buys in. Irving, as one of the most experienced players on the team and one of two Celtics with a championship ring, is the right man to lead that process.

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Terry Rozier gets real about Kyrie Irving's criticism of Celtics

Terry Rozier gets real about Kyrie Irving's criticism of Celtics

We'll say one thing about the 2018-19 Boston Celtics: They're not afraid to speak their minds.

Kyrie Irving certainly did so Saturday night when he seemed to call out the Celtics' young players after a loss to the Orlando Magic. We've since heard from a few of those young players, with Jayson Tatum endorsing Irving's message and Jaylen Brown perhaps suggesting Kyrie tone it down a bit.

Following Monday's loss to the Nets in Brooklyn, Irving's backup, Terry Rozier, chimed in.

“Kyrie said a lot after the last game (against Orlando) and it was probably stuff that people didn’t want to hear," Rozier told Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill. “But it’s showing.”

The 24-year-old also admitted it's been a challenge for players like himself, Tatum and Brown to adapt to roles that were larger late last season when Irving and Gordon Hayward were out due to injury, even suggesting the Celtics could be "too talented."

"I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this," Rozier said. "Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it."

And if you ask Rozier, the impromptu meetings (led mostly by Irving) to iron out these issues haven't always been beneficial.

"I feel like we have them talks throughout the season, but it didn’t turn out that good," Rozier added. "You see guys get into it with each other, but that’s part of the game. You gotta be real with each other."

The Celtics still have time to figure things out, of course. Rozier admitted the Celtics needed to hear Irving's critique, which the All-Star point guard actually walked back before Monday's game in Brooklyn.

"Sometimes I may come off and say things, never to question my teammates in public like that ever again," Irving told ESPN.com's Ian Begley. "I just want to win so bad."

Boston hasn't done much winning of late, falling to seven games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors after their third straight loss. But now would be a good time to start: The C's play seven of their next eight games at home, starting Wednesday against the Raptors.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.