Bradley, Bass Upgrade Their Games

WALTHAM, Mass. – You don’t make a name for yourself in the NBA by standing pat. In this league, you need to continue to improve.

That’s what two Celtics veterans, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass, have been doing since the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. You’ve heard of them before, but they want their improvements to make even more noise this season.

Bradley and Bass have been known for years as players who dominate with one aspect of their game. For Bradley, it’s with his defense. For Bass, it’s with his mid-range jump shot. Three weeks of preseason basketball have shown us, however, that both players have added to their arsenal.

It was impossible to miss Bradley’s shooting struggles if you watched the Celtics last season. He returned to the lineup in January after undergoing double-shoulder surgery during the 2012 offseason, but his shot did not return with him.

Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass

Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass are hoping their hard work pays off this season.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images Sport

Bradley shot just 31.7 percent from 3-point range in 50 games last season after making 40.7 percent of his long-range shots the season before. Many wondered if his 2011-12 season was a fluke, but Bradley is proving those naysayers wrong in 2013.

Seven Celtics have attempted at least 14 3-pointers during Boston’s seven preseason games. Bradley leads them all – and by a substantial margin – in 3-point shooting percentage. The fourth-year guard has made 50 percent (7-of-14) of his shots from beyond the arc this preseason, which is at least 10 percent better than every other Celtic in that group of seven.

“There’s a lot of confidence in his shot,” teammate Keith Bogans said of Bradley. “I can tell when he goes up and shoots… I feel confidence when he’s shooting, so I know he does.”

Bradley, who was unbeknownst of what Bogans had just said about him, seconded that notion on Tuesday while speaking about his shooting abilities. “I have a lot of confidence,” he said with a hint of swagger.

Though it may seem as if Bradley’s shot has magically reappeared, the real reason for his shooting resurgence can be found on the practice court. Bradley has put in countless hours since the end of last season and thus far, that work is paying off in big ways.

“Obviously I’ve been working on it during the offseason and after practice and stuff,” Bradley said. “It’s going to take time, but I’ve just got to keep working and staying in the gym.”

Bradley doesn’t put this work in all by himself. He has company every time he works out. That company, as Bogans noted, could be the difference maker.

“He’s working with a guy that I give a lot of credit to for my 3-point shooting: Ron Adams, a great shooting coach,” Bogans said of Boston’s first-year assistant coach. “I’ve seen Avery working with Ron a lot, and back when I was in Chicago I worked with Ron every day, the whole season. I can’t think of a day that I didn’t work with him. And I make shots, so it’s gotta be Ron.”

Bradley spoke of the impact Adams is making on his shot.

“He helps me with just getting lift on my shot,” noted Bradley. “I’ve always had a decent shot, but he’s trying to make it more consistent. I just have to keep working on it so it’s consistent.”

Bass is also working to be more consistent, but in a totally different area of the game. The 6-foot-8 power forward wants to change the stigma that he is not a great rebounder.

“I just want to make a more concerted effort to be a better rebounder,” he said on Tuesday.

Thus far in the preseason, he has been an exponentially better rebounder.

Bass averaged 5.2 rebounds per game last season while playing 27.5 minutes a night. That works out to a per-36 minute average of 6.8 RPG.

Fast forward to this preseason’s statistics and you’ll find that Bass is blowing that number out of the water. He is averaging more rebounds this preseason (6.3 RPG) than he did last season (5.2) while playing nearly six less minutes each game. His per-36 minute rebounding average through seven exhibition games is 10.4, a 3.6 RPG increase compared to last season.

There is no doubt that Bass is making a conscious effort to crash the glass this preseason. In order to do so, notes Brad Stevens, Bass is willingly making concessions in other areas of his game.

“He’s been doing what we’ve asked him to do, and that is to mix in some rolling with popping on some of the pick-and-roll actions,” Stevens said, alluding to Bass’ preference to pop. “That has gotten him to the glass more.”

Being around the basket is one thing, but actually hauling in rebounds is another. Bass has been able to improve his rebounding this preseason by combining his positioning with his incredible athleticism.

“Watching him on film you notice he’s pretty darn athletic,” said Stevens. “Then you watch him up close and – he’s a guy who can play powerfully. We need guys that can do that to do that, and I think he’s done a pretty good job of that.”

Bass has done a great job of crashing the glass. Bradley has been a sniper from 3-point range. We couldn’t make those statements a season ago.

These two Celtics have taken it upon themselves to become better basketball players over the past six months. Don’t be surprised if those improvements make some noise around the league this season.