The quote comes from an unnamed Celtics player in a story by Jeff Goodman, and it encapsulates the crux of the decision the Celtics have to make.
As much as Kyrie talked about the young players not understanding he did it before and they should follow him, it was never a question to the players on the team appreciate and respect his basketball abilities. There was never talk about his standing within the organization.
But as we found out many times before, the best player is not necessarily the leader of the team. That title is not earned by scoring points and grabbing rebounds – it’s earned in the locker room, on the bus and the plane, in the press conference. As the player said, Kyrie’s performance in that department is primarily “all about him.”
Fitting in with most players of his (and younger) generations, Kyrie is all about his brand and his story. That’s not a good foundation upon which you can build a good leader. He is only 25, but if you analyze the cause of his poor leadership, it is not likely to change with time and aging. A clash between modern 24h media cycle and a man that believes he is above it all yet craves love and approval is not likely to change. (Sounds a lot like another superstar, right?)
So the Celtics need to decide – do you want a dominant scorer that is likely to make the team a moody group or a team that likes coming in to work every day. His performance against the Bucks showed us those are more connected than one might think. A man that gets called out on changing (and deteriorating) the identity and chemistry of his team and then sulks is not worth a max contract.
Yet, all the numbers say even if he wants to leave, losing an asset for nothing is the worth outcome. After recovering from his mild heart attack, Danny Ainge has a lot to decide, especially when you factor in the Anthony Davis possibility.
Usually, I’d say that if he stays, the Celts need to have an honest talk with each other. But they had one on that magical plane ride and it didn’t really help.
If your only method is a conversation and you are dealing with a man that you can’t really trust, not because you think he is being dishonest, but he is so moody he just might think something else the next morning, it’s an impossible decision to make.