Sam Smith had this anecdote in his Celtics championship epilogue, which his his eyes told about the effect the team leader, Kevin Garnett, had on the rest of the roster:
They did it with defense, obviously, but also commitment and tactics.
We all knew they’d be good after trading for Allen and Garnett, but they still were starting two non scorers in Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. It had to be more than scoring, and it was. And it had to be more effort than they knew, and it was.
One instance in preseason stands out.
The Celtics were running suicides, those halfcourt sprints after practice, and not surprisingly Garnett was beating everyone.
It’s why Garnett, though not the offensive finisher to carry a team and a player who does not dominate from the post despite his size, was the key because if your best player practices the hardest, it’s difficult for anyone else to coast.
Still, Pierce has often been known to ease through seasons and particularly practices, not always the most motivated team player. He fought openly with Rivers when Rivers came in with demands Pierce expand his game and be more unselfish. Little progressed because the team was so bad and lacking in talent Pierce had license to continue to shoot and score.
Now flip to 2007.
Pierce was jogging through the drill in his L.A. cool mood and Garnett turned angrily and demanded, “Are you going to run with me!”
No one ever had challenged Pierce like that in Boston, and certainly no great player.
Message received and understood.
It's a bit romantic, and for all I know completely made up. But I think it does contain an important message.
I've usually mocked Paxson for his 'character first' mantra, and even moreso when it was proven to be more than rhetoric. And then even more-moreso when it was shown that his 'character guys' didn't prove to have much of it.
Needless to say, I think it's mostly hooey. At least in the way it's usually (over) applied.
Talent wins. It won for the Celtics. But there's plenty of 'superstar' talent in the league that doesn't give the kind of effort that the Celtics did, and I don't think it's far fetched to realize there are great players who aren't the type to, like Garnett, not only practice hard but demand a teammate practices as hard as he does.
Which is why I think the character 'hooey' matters when discussing a #1 overall pick, because it's the opportunity to draft the caliber of player who will be the best player on the team. The pick will be a rookie, so it may be too much to expect them to take the reigns right away. But then again, this roster also seems like they're desperate for someone to set that tone, no matter his age. (plus, school-marms Wallace and Griffin are gone).
That's why this Beasley 'personality' issue is a huge red flag with me. The stories are usually downplayed, and it's rarely gone so far to say it'll keep him from being a great player himself. But there's enough to worry the heck out of me. Even if he has the motivation to commit to the work, will he be the type to drag others with him?
This isn't like debating whether to keep Nocioni or not for his hustle and heart.
With Beasley and Rose, this question should be a dealbreaking issue.