It’s always risky when a player criticizes his teammates, but Gerald Wallace dug into the Celtics’ selfishness and lack of effort during the preseason. Wallace, a well-established veteran, had to play hard to find his way in the NBA, so he knows what it takes to succeed in the league. And when Boston wasn’t showing those traits early, he wanted to nip the problem in the bud.
Seems like a reasonable time for intra-team criticism.
But not everyone agreed, namely the Celtics’ coaches.
Wallace, via Mark Murphy / Boston Herald:
“I’m getting fussed at by the coaches every time,” said Wallace. “They’re trying to tell me to relax and ease up. But the main thing is I want the guys to compete. If we lose all 82 games, but we lose them going down fighting and competing hard. I can live with that. I can’t live with losing and we didn’t compete, we didn’t give our best effort and we just gave the game away. I don’t want that for these guys and this team.”
The biggest challenge Brad Stevens faces is earning the respect of his players. He’s never worked with professionals, or even big-time college recruits. It’s important for him to begin that process early and pay careful attention to it, because there will be bumps along the way.
It’s possible Stevens doesn’t mind the message, just the source. Even if Wallace is preaching values Stevens agrees with (selflessness, effort), it could harm Stevens if Wallace gains to large a voice in the locker room. Maybe next time Wallace will be rallying the troops against Stevens, and even if that’s unlikely, a preseason tongue lashing for a team headed to the lottery anyway isn’t worth the risk of Wallace gaining too much influence.
For Stevens to set a clear agenda, the simplest route is to get Rajon Rondo on his side. If those two are delivering the same message, everyone else will follow.
Wallace doesn’t factor into that arrangement. He’s in Boston only because his contract made the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Jason Terry trade viable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and clearly isn’t part of the Celtics’ long-term plans.
Maybe Wallace can impart some wisdom while he’s Boston, but Stevens will try to make sure that happens on his terms.