Dick Motta, notorious for his hard-line approach, had just been hired to turn around the 7-21 Sacramento Kings. It was Jan. 4, 1990, the day he was officially named coach, and he gathered his players to tell them a thing or two. "The first thing he said was, `You better play my way,' " recalls Jerry Reynolds, who was removed as coach and bumped upstairs to the front office. "He told them, `If you do everything I say, and listen to me, then you'll get what I have' -- and then he held up his championship ring."
The room was respectfully silent, but only for a matter of seconds. That's how long it took Kings guard Danny Ainge to chime in. "Hey coach," Ainge said. "They really better listen to me. I've got two rings."
"Danny is going to tell you what he thinks -- maybe to a fault," says (Kevin) McHale, the Timberwolves general manager. "What you see is what you get. If you don't like the answer, then don't ask the question."
That seems to be similar to what we are getting, and will continue to get, from Jaylen Brown. Don't ask the question if you don't want the answer. And you may even get the answer without ever asking a question. Danny was brash and outspoken as a player, but that doesn't mean he will tolerate it from one of his own guys. Ainge has proven his level of intelligence, at least within the basketball realm, but 21-year-old Brown has yet to do that in any venue. One more vignette via The Globe's Jackie MacMullan:
"One day Danny comes up to me," says (Sacremento Coach) Reynolds. "He said, `Coach, I figured out what's wrong with our team.' I said, `Great, Danny, please enlighten me.' He said, `Well, I'm the best player on the team. We'll never win consistently with me as the best player.'
"I liked his frankness. I'm not sure if I coached him or if he coached me. The thing about Danny was, he was always right. He was challenging. I had to kick him out of practice a few times. He would start taking that `coach on the floor' idea a little too far."
The Danny/Jaylen comparison is far from perfect, but it is appropriate. Brown has taken a significant step forward this season but progress seems to have flattened out. His free throw shooting is still terrible with percentages in the mid-50's. For the past 10 games, his other shooting percentages have dropped considerably, while his rebounds have also taken a hit.
One of our CelticsLife readers, JBDA, supplied this thought as a comment to Part 1 of this article. I could not have stated it better:
I am going to go out on a limb here and say Jaylen seems torn to me. He has been blessed with the physical abilities to play basketball that few can dream of however I am not sure that is really where his heart is. At times recently he appears to be just going through the motions and I think he would honestly rather be in the classroom than on the court.
Jaylen may be torn, but he also is young. Life experience always changes our view of the world, at least somewhat. Reality checks theory. Brown has a combo of near-perfect size, physique and athleticism to play basketball. He will never get the thunderous cheers from the Boston crowd in academia, and probably not the adulation. He would not have received an invitation from Harvard University without being a member of the Boston Celtics. Stardom in the NBA opens a lot of doors that would be otherwise closed and locked.
The trade deadline is 16 days away. Does Danny Ainge sense a lack of total commitment from Brown? Does he think Jaylen has peaked, or his mind is elsewhere? Are Jaylen's comments questioning the Celtics culture an irritant? Can Danny tolerate someone with his own early outspokenness? Answers to these questions will determine Jaylen Brown's future with the Celtics or another NBA team, or perhaps in a completely different venue. Jaylen has many gifts. He needs to determine how he will use them.
Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC
Brown photo via Complex Original/David Cabrera
Ainge/Auerbach photo: 1985 Boston Globe file