When the Celtics needed a true leader they found one in Kemba Walker


Brad Stevens has studied the dynamic of naming team captains. His conclusion? He doesn't like it.

The Celtics' coach has had just one captain during his tenure with the team, that being Rajon Rondo in his first season with the Celtics. The idea being that everyone in the locker room should have a voice, not just one player with a 'C' on his chest.

That approach proved dicey last season when the best player, Kyrie Irving, wasn't always the best player for the group to follow into battle. And some might have thought the same sort of dysfunction was prevalent earlier in the week when 2 a.m. hotel room meetings were necessitated due to locker room outbursts.

But sometimes you just know who is the captain without putting a title on it. For the Celtics, that is Kemba Walker.

In case there was any doubt about who represented the top of the heap when it came to in-uniform leadership Walker put any debate to rest Friday night. It was the 30-year-old guard who didn't have necessarily the best game (15 points in 28 points) in the Celtics' 121-108 Game 5 win, but he did possess the most powerful voice when it counted the most. (For a complete box score, click here.)

Down by as many as 12 in the first half, and carrying a seven-point deficit into halftime, Walker made his presence felt.

“What I remember from halftime is Kemba saying, 'We just need to settle down a little bit,'” Jaylen Brown said after his team's 121-108 Game 5 win.. “We all felt the intensity that we all had in the beginning. I don't think we came out flat. It was different from Game 4 for us. We had the intensity; it was just coming out all over the place for us. We just had to dial in a little bit.”

"Everybody was so anxious, eager to make a play, make something happen,” Tatum said of the team’s first-half struggles. "We know what’s at stake: We lose and go home. But, at the same time, we’ve got to relax a little bit. Take a deep breath. We know how important every possession is, but we’ve still got to just relax a little bit and play the game, and that was kind of the message at halftime.”

Sure enough, the words hit the spot.

Holding the Heat without a field goal for more than four minutes, the Celtics went on a game-changing run in the third quarter, even leading Stevens to tell his team during one of the timeouts, "All sincerity, first time I’ve seen Celtics basketball in the last few games."

"I hate those (mic'd up) things," the coach would say after the game.

But what he doesn't hate is the whole leadership thing sorting itself out like it did. For that, he can thank Walker.