The Boston Celtics enter the 2023-24 season with arguably the most talented top-six in the NBA, but there's a noticeable void in the locker room.
With Marcus Smart out of the picture, the new-look C's lack a vocal leadership presence. While they still have one of the league's best duos in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the tandem typically lets its play do the talking. The two All-Stars aren't known for speaking up to teammates off the court.
Celtics analyst Brian Scalabrine believes that for the Jays to get over the hump and bring the elusive Banner 18 to Boston, that needs to change.
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"I want them to be more playmakers, I want them to get people around them better, I want them in the toughest of moments to take this team and put them on their back, and then I also want them to empower other guys," Scalabrine said Tuesday on Celtics PostUp. "So there's a lot of pressure on them.
"And the last thing is, they need to be the leaders of this team. That's how you win. Your best players are your leaders and the guys who bring you through those tough moments, those tough nights where your team doesn't have any energy, and we saw them last year. The Jays are the ones that are immensely talented, that pull you through those tough nights."
Brown has acknowledged and welcomed the idea that he needs to be more vocal. Our Celtics insider Chris Forsberg agrees Tatum and Brown could improve in that category, but believes Tatum lifting his team in tough moments will be what separates Boston from the pack.
"They could always be more vocal, but everyone has to be true to themselves," Forsberg said. "Not everybody is that Marcus Smart type where you're just loud and boisterous and have that voice in the locker room. It might just be leading by example.
"For me, it goes back to what Scal said. There were too many times, especially in the playoffs, where things go sideways. Well, somebody's got to catch you. And to me, that kind of falls back on Tatum. He's the best player, he's going to be in the MVP conversation. I want him to be able to, in those moments, be the best player on the court.
"He's done everything else humanly possible and he's in that conversation; there's just another level, another step that you need to take, and that usually is what differentiates the teams that win a title vs. the ones that are knocking on the door."
Former C's guard Eddie House wants the Jays to lead by example and keep their teammates in check.
"It's off the court," he said. "What is your work ethic like off the court? Are you holding guys accountable? Are they in the weight room when they're supposed to be? Are they getting those extra sprints when they're supposed to? Are we locking up defensively when we need to be doing it?
"And it's by example, but at the same time it's like, 'When we are on the court, how am I going to make you better?' ... I think the leadership role is the most important and it's so many different categories of being a leader. ... It's, can you make other players better, and do you hold these guys accountable?"
Tatum and Brown's jobs on the court will be made easier by the offseason additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Those acquisitions helped to make Boston the 2024 NBA championship favorite, though the group is bound to experience adversity at some point in the campaign. The question is, who will lead them through it?
The Celtics' 2023-24 season begins Wednesday night against the New York Knicks. You can catch all of the action right here on NBC Sports Boston starting with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m. ET. The opening tip is set for 7 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.