He was the big brother, the leader, the guy who comforted Isaiah Thomas after his sister had been killed in an auto accident. No one had to ask Avery Bradley to do it; that’s what he did in Boston, as the Celtics rebuilt their franchise from the championship contending days through the dark years, taking what he’d learned from KG and Pierce and dropping that knowledge on Boston’s younger players.
An emotional scene in Boston as Isaiah Thomas will try to play in Game 1 vs. the Bulls pic.twitter.com/SwGSsYZjvN— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 16, 2017
Bradley played 413 games over seven seasons in Boston from 2010, when the Celtics took him in the first round out of Texas, until last July 7, when Boston traded him to Detroit so that the Celtics could clear cap room to sign free agent Gordon Hayward. He wasn’t exactly shocked; even though he’d provided Boston with great perimeter defense -- breaking on the scene in 2012 when he stuffed Dwyane Wade at the rim in a nationally televised game -- and gradually improved his offensive game the last few seasons to be a complement to Thomas in the Boston backcourt last year, he knew Boston had been building for this moment, when it could attract an impact free agent.
Yet another one of the stream of players from the Seattle-Tacoma area, Bradley played much of his early ball in the same backcourts in the area with Abdul Gaddy, a star guard in his own right that wound up going to the University of Washington. But Bradley went to Findlay Prep in Vegas before going to Texas as a one-and-done. Again starting over, now at 26, Bradley will take over for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two for the Pistons, with Stan Van Gundy needing proven veteran voices in his still-relatively young locker room. Bradley’s looking to show he can score and defend, and earn a big payday as one of the top two-way guards available in free agency, whether in Detroit or elsewhere.
Me: I wonder if it’s easy to turn the page on Boston now that the games have started, or is there a part of you that’s still processing what happened?
Avery Bradley: Yeah, part of me still is. But I’m just taking it day by day, game by game. I’m just going out there trying to compete, playing the way that I know how to play, and not thinking about it. At the end of the day, this is a business. I understand that. The Celtics made some decisions that they needed to make to better their organization, so I respect that. Now I’m here and I’m part of a great organization. I have some great teammates and a great coach, and I’m just looking forward to keep growing as a player and a person. I continue to say that. I think I’m definitely going to continue growing here.
Me: Did Stan say specifically that they want you to grow and evolve here as a player and a leader?
AB: Yes, they have. That’s something that me and Stan talked about over the summer, and now once the season’s started, you can see that he’s given me the opportunity. I’m taking it day by day as far as leadership. I don’t want to just come in here and boss people around. I’m trying to lead by example. But I’m definitely challenging myself to be a better player, the player I want to be.
Me: Where do you think you need to improve?
AB: Offensively, I feel like I have a chance to show more of my game. And defensively, I just want to continue to grow as well. I want to give myself a chance to not only make first team (all defense), but be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
This is the NBA; you can’t stop everybody from scoring 30. But that 30? They’re going to work for every point they get. And that’s my mindset.
Me: I’m sure you’ve seen the debates about you as a defensive player among the analytics community and players, with some in the advanced numbers community saying you’re overrated on D. What do you think of that?
AB: I think basketball, you know, it’s all about what your peers think, the guys you’re actually playing against. I respect the numbers as well, ‘cause numbers don’t lie. But there’s a lot of other things that factor into numbers as well. It’s all about respecting the game, to me. Respecting the game is giving credit where credit’s due, and I feel like I should always be in that conversation every single year. No matter who I’m playing against, they’re going to say that I’m one of the toughest guys they play, for sure.
Me: So what’s important to you as a defensive player -- about what do you say ‘if I’m doing this well, then I’m doing my job?’
AB: I think making every possession hard. This is the NBA; you can’t stop everybody from scoring 30. But that 30? They’re going to work for every point they get. And that’s my mindset.
Me: This team is a veteran squad in some ways, but they’re still kind of young in important spots. What do you see that they need to take the next step?
AB: The number one thing is to all buy in to what Stan’s trying to do. That’s the first thing. And just being mature, being professionals, understanding that we have to go out and do our job each and every night, and make some sacrifices. Because on a young team, you have guys trying to prove themselves. At the same time, if you make sacrifices, it’s all about winning. Once you’re able to win, you’re able to be more established as a player as well. It’s hand in hand. And then you can show more parts of your game. As long as guys can understand that, I feel like this could be a fun year for us. We could definitely give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs, and maybe get out of the first round and have a good year.
Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s keeping us inside on the courts. I don’t know, man. We do have a lot of talent."
Me: Have you talked to Isaiah?
AB: Yeah. We spoke, I texted him actually just after the Gordon (Hayward) incident. I was just like, man. That’s unfortunate.
AB: Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s keeping us inside on the courts. I don’t know, man. We do have a lot of talent. Even (Spurs’ second-year guard) Dejounte Murray played well the other night. We just have a lot of talent. I think it’s all about heart. A lot of players up there, it’s all about heart, going out there and proving yourselves every night. You can see that in all the players.
Me: Chip on your shoulder, like Jet (Jason Terry) and Nate Robinson.
AB: A little chip on your shoulder -- Nate. Even Zach LaVine. When he comes back, he’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder.
Me: The Celtics decided to blow up last year’s team, even though it was successful. Is there any part of you that wonders why?
AB: There’s a lot of what ifs. But like I said, it’s a business, and that’s not our decisions to make -- it’s Danny (Ainge) and the guys up there in the front office. All you can do is respect that and move on. One thing I understand about this league is you have to do what’s best for you, as players and as organizations. So I respect every decision they made.
Me: You still talk with Gaddy?
AB: Yeah, we talk every day. I talk to him every day before practice.
Me: What’s he doing now?
AB: He’s playing in Germany. He played in Italy, and he played in Latvia. Now he’s in Germany.
Me: I asked because y’all played so many years together growing up, and then, all of a sudden, your last year in high school, you split up. And I wondered if having that kind of experience early kind of prepares you for a sudden changes like this summer?
AB: Yeah, exactly. And, you want to know something? Once I left Abdul, I grew as a player. So I believe God puts us into situations to be the people we’re supposed to be. So maybe this is the same thing. Me leaving Isaiah, somebody I’m used to playing with. We learned how to play off of each other. Maybe this is a chance for me to show more of my game.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
-- JaVale McGee (@JaValeMcGee34), Wednesday, 10:43 p.m., displaying the hardware that was given out Tuesday before the Warriors’ regular season opener. The championship rings, designed by Jason of Beverly Hills, has 36 blue sapphires, 31 white trapezoid diamonds and 83 pave stones, and weighs 11 carats.
THEY SAID IT
“I was surprised by my own reaction because that’s not who I am. I’m a competitor. But I never meant to hurt my own teammate."
-- Bulls forward Bobby Portis, to local reporters, trying to explain why he punched teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face during an on-court fight during practice last week. The Bulls suspended Portis for eight games for hitting Mirotic, who suffered two broken bones and a concussion, and is expected to miss a month of play. Portis apologized to the team for the fight on Friday.
“For 50 years I shut the world out. Everything became second. Now, as much pressure as I have here, I’m not going to allow it to do to me what it used to. It was toxic. Negative. I wasn’t much fun to be around.”
-- Pat Riley, to the Miami Herald’s Greg Cote last week, as he’s “rounding third” in his career and life at age 72.
“It is what it is, man. I’ll just go into evey game with the mentality that it’s a road game, if that’s how it’s going to be.”
-- Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, after being booed by the home fans in Memphis in the team’s regular-season opener on Wednesday. Parsons signed a four-year max deal for $94 million in 2016 but was limited by injuries to just 34 games last season.
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