With Allen and Bradley, C's Have Options
WALTHAM, Mass. – Ray Allen or Avery Bradley? Choosing one or the other is now a dilemma the Boston Celtics are staring down as they head into Wednesday’s tilt with the San Antonio Spurs.
That’s what many on the outside of Boston’s locker room would lead you to believe. On the inside, however, it’s a far different story.
Allen has missed the past six games with soreness in his right ankle, allowing Bradley to become the hottest thing since sliced bread. Bradley has excelled as a starter over Boston’s past five games, averaging 14.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 52.8 percent shooting while shutting down opposing perimeter scorers.
Bradley’s stellar play has led many onlookers to wonder if he should continue to start at shooting guard even when Allen returns to the lineup. The questions have been pondered about, written about and asked to Celtics coaches and players for a solid week now.
What should instead be pondered about and asked about is why that topic has become a story. Shouldn’t the story be that now, with Allen set to return to the lineup, the Celtics have one of the greatest shooters of all time and an electric young guard who is developing into a game-changer?
The Celtics certainly think so.
Yes, Boston has won its past five games, all of which were started by Bradley, but it is also 15-5 overall since the All-Star break. Let’s not forget that the C’s have racked up a 9-4 record since the break with Allen in the starting lineup. He’s no chopped liver, and the Spurs certainly won’t be drooling if he’s in the starting lineup Wednesday night.
Such a scenario is expected to occur after Allen returned to the practice floor this afternoon and made it through the entire session pain-free. Barring any setbacks, Allen will start tomorrow night, leaving the suddenly-hot Bradley fire things up as the top guard off the bench.
That doesn’t seem like a problem to me, and it doesn’t sound like a problem to Doc Rivers, either.
“I think he’ll be great,” Rivers said of Bradley returning to a reserve role. “We’re going to try to sub guys a little differently to keep the combinations the same.”
And therein lies the beauty of this situation. Rivers now has even more options and combinations than he did before, thanks in large part to Bradley’s emergence at the offensive end of the court.
It used to be the case that Allen was the one who could score and spread the floor, while Bradley was the one who could only make an impact with his defense. That’s no longer the case now that Bradley has become one of the best off-the-ball cutters in the league. As Rivers said Tuesday afternoon, Bradley is no longer learning how to slice through defenses. It’s now past tense.
“He’s learned how to cut, so he’s not learning anymore,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing – he had the instinct and didn’t know it, let’s put it that way… It’s like something has been freed up in him and he sees it now, he reads it, and he’s fantastic at it.”
That type of play has led to a high level of chemistry between he and Rondo, which is something many media members are fearing will disappear once Allen returns as a starter. As stated said at the top of this story, however, thoughts on the outside of Boston’s locker room are far different than those from the inside.
“I don’t think you can pretty much lose chemistry,” Rondo said on Tuesday. “The timing may be off when guys come back, but if Ray starts tomorrow and Avery’s not there, me and Avery, we’ll catch up. We won’t slack off at all. We’ve got a good knack for each other.”
Add that to the chemistry that Rondo and Allen have already developed with each other over the past four-plus seasons, and you’ve got a really good thing.
This isn’t a dilemma, folks. This is a luxury.