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.
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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