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BOSTON - The last time Doc Rivers coached Avery Bradley on the TD Garden sideline was nearly five years ago. At the time, a 22-year-old Bradley was just finishing his third NBA season with the Boston Celtics, while Rivers was wrapping up his ninth and final campaign as the team's head coach.
Now, as members of the Los Angeles Clippers, the coach-player duo will take the parquet floor once again Wednesday night, but under very different circumstances than they have experienced together before: As opponents of the Celtics.
Five years ago, when Rivers left the C's for LA, Bradley was still in the development phase of his career. The guard since blossomed into one of the most respected two-way players in the league, all while Rivers admired his progress from afar.
Fate placed them back together two weeks ago when the Clippers landed Bradley in a blockbuster deal that sent franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. The acquisition delighted Rivers because it gave him a unique opportunity to work with a player that he helped develop years ago.
"Avery is such a different player than when I coached him," Rivers said Wednesday morning before taking on his former team. "He was so young back then. We wasted the first year trying to get him as a point guard, and then we realized he's more of a (shooting) guard.
Added the 19-year NBA head coach, "He's just a heck of a player. His offensive game has just opened up so much more. It's really interesting, because you don't get this opportunity very often when you have a young guy and then you get him back. But it's been really cool to see the difference and the growth in Avery."
Bradley attributes his growth over the years to the initial tutelage that Rivers provided him. He says that Rivers was always hard on him during his early years, but he believes that it was tough love that was meant to generate motivation in order to get the best out of him.
"Doc was someone that taught me discipline." recalled Bradley, who spent seven years with the Celtics until being traded this past summer to Detroit. "He stayed on me consistently for my first two years in the NBA. I was the person that he yelled at basically every single day. So, he definitely helped me grow.
Added the eight-year vet, "He made me a tougher player. I looked at everything as constructive criticism after Doc left. I always wanted to grow and expand my game, and I wanted to prove people wrong. He almost taught me to go out there and prove him wrong every single day. So, he's definitely helped shape me to the person that I am today and the basketball player that I am today."
Bradley has only played five games with the Clippers since joining them, but the 27-year-old starting guard seems to have had a positive impact on the team so far. LA is 4-1 with a 101.5 defensive rating (fifth in the league) during games that Bradley has played, compared to a 25-25 record and a 106.3 defensive rating (16th in the league) without him.
The Clippers will look to continue to build off that recent success Wednesday night when Bradley and Rivers reunite on the parquet floor with the hope of handing their former team a loss.