That said, I'm going to go out on a limb: I think the crisis of the organization has not been personnel so much as personal. In being the solution to every problem, Payton's also become the problem in every solution. In other words, Payton has been cast as a maverick. Whether this role has been self-appointed or thrust upon him by outside forces is irrelevant. What's important is the distinction that must be made between true leadership and isolated heroism. Over the course of his career thus far, Payton has not displayed--or, more appropriately, has not had the opportunity to display--the qualities of a leader.
Payton, no question about it, evinces a rare and admirable work ethic: He plays a tough, wily, and uncommonly smart game of basketball, always performing at full-throttle and nearly always capable of finding innovative ways of winning. But he's also, at times, a rather unforgiving player. For better or worse, Payton's game is all about respect, and, especially when he's disappointed, the total lack thereof. It goes without saying that a modicum of articulated disrespect for one's opponent might prove felicitous now and again; but Payton is sometimes indiscriminate about who he chooses to turn upon with his psychological gamesmanship of humiliation and rejection. Think a few years back to the squabbles with Shawn Kemp, or coach George Karl. Or look no further than last year. When, early in the season, Vin Baker started showing signs of physical and mental inattention (like Kemp), Payton, for all intents and purposes, phased him out. And when Payton begins to take things into his own hands, questions of cause and effect become pointless.
And so further out on the limb I go: It might be that Payton's particular form of leadership, as yet untapped, is dependent upon the presence of an equalizing force--a player as phenomenally competitive and tough as himself. Whether Patrick Ewing is just such a player remains to be seen.