Allow me to say this as an initial Kay hater lol.
The Kay criticism from what I recall initially was for at the time reasonable. If we take our minds back to 2019 we as fans heard all the talk about how he dominated camp and then come exhibition games he didn't look impressive at all and even some of the early wc games.
It may be hard to believe but at the time most people were really high on Bolden. The bloke came off a year in the nba, playing actual minutes for a good playoff team, however ever since it’s become clear that essentially Brett Brown was doing him a favour as he was in his 'get as many aussies as possible’ mode, which later saw Thybulle and Broekhoff join the team at later points.
Also, considering Kay’s not impressive performances early on and Lemanis sticking Bolden on the end of the bench it was natural to think Lemanis was doing his classic try and feature as many nbl players as possible like he did in 2014 and 2016 and then try and say something about ‘roles’ and ‘not an all star team’ to justify it. There was also some outrage in that Lemanis apparently told Bolden before any of the games that basically he was the fifth big and maybe 6th with cooks expecting to play some 4 too (Bogut in fact has confirmed this I believe on his podcast.) So coming out of that there was frustration from both his camp and fans that you have a guy (who at the time) we all thought was very talented just be wasted and relegated to a spot for the rest of the campaign without even seeing any court time.
With Bolden pulling out he copped all sort of crap some of which was deserved in that you made a commitment you don’t just pull out the first time things look ugly. However, on the other hand there’s a reasonable response from him in that he was going into a contract year and sitting on the end of a bench for a month wasn’t going to help that, and also if what Lemanis said to him was indeed true then that’s a pretty dumb thing to do as essentially we wasted a spot on a guy who expected to play but Lemanis had no intention of actually doing so. Instead why not go with Creek (which it took till an injury to cooks to actually do) or even Green just as a get a young guy in to get accustomed to the boomers culture for future campaigns. As you’d rather that be your 12th man then a guy moping on the bench thinking he should be starting.
This anti Bolden people (basically all the nbl die hards on here) then weirdly turned that into being so pro Kay that early on it was baffling as while he wasn’t bad by any means, there was nothing he was doing that made you think we need to be giving this guy minutes, which combined with the Bolden situation made a bit of a shit show in that (again we all thought this bloke was good at the time) we basically pissed off a guy who should be starting for us in favour of a not so good bench player.
In saying all this however, the deeper the wc got the more Kay proved himself to the point of starting in the bronze medal game. Ultimately Kay proved that he earned his spot however it wasn’t unreasonable to think (again at the time) if we just gave Bolden those opportunities would he be doing better in that spot. Nonetheless, Kay proved that he could play at that level.
Fast forward to both 2020 and 2021, both years saw us have different coaches expected and considering Weaver and Brown being so influenced of the nba style, most people thought that despite his talent Kay wouldn’t be in the team simply due to the expected fast pace style expected that would’ve favoured Simmons, Bolden and Maker at the 4 spots and even creek if we went small. Then Goorj was expected to be similar with his noted love of defence and athleticism (which personally I think this is a tad overplayed as the bloke started froling and aj together for majority of the season, and proceeded to bring Thybulle off the bench besides the bronze game and not play green and reath), Which further lead to again that with more talent expected to come in and throw in what we thought goorj would think of Kay, it wasn’t unreasonable to think he wouldn’t make the team.
Once again, he proved all the doubters wrong with even playing the 5 for big chunks during the olympics and proved his worth and then some. Well done to Nick Kay you legend and in future that 4 spot needs to be taken from you, not just simply Simmons walks in and gets it, all because time and time again you proved what you could do on the big stage despite initial criticism some had.