Avery Bradley’s successful first NBA start
|01.21.12 at 1:44 am ET|
In the first quarter of Friday night’s loss against the Suns, Avery Bradley picked off a pass at midcourt and converted an easy layup. In the fourth quarter, Bradley lunged after a loose ball underneath Boston’s basket, saving a possession that led to a score.
That’s his job: Provide energy and defense.
Injuries to Rajon Rondo and Keyon Dooling gave Bradley an opportunity to make his first start in the NBA. The experience was valuable.
“It builds my confidence a lot,” said Bradley. “Every game I play I know what Doc [Rivers] and my teammates expect from me — to bring that energy every time I step on the floor.”
He was tasked with defending two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Bradley felt his best chance to combat the 37-year-old was to antagonize him with aggressive defense.
“I tried to get him tired,” Bradley said. “[I] picked him up full court to let him know I was going to bother him the whole game.”
Bradley held Nash in check, allowing him to score only 11 points. But Nash buried a critical 3-pointer when Bradley pinched off him to help in the interior. “I learned not to gamble with him,” Bradley said.
Nash took notice of the young guard’s defensive prowess. “He did a good job,” said Nash. “He hustled defensively and he made a few shots. He’s learning and he’s a young player. It’s a great learning experience for him.”
Bradley admitted that he expected to have nerves going into his first start. To his surprise, the jitters evaporated from opening tip, and soon he found himself understanding game situations.
“I felt good because I was calling plays and Doc was looking at me saying that was the play I wanted,” said Bradley. “It made me feel good that I’m feeling more comfortable knowing what Doc wants.”
Bradley’s numbers won’t jump off the page, but he proved to be more than serviceable Friday night. The 21-year-old scored 10 points (5-of-9 shooting) while his pesky defense earned him three steals. In addition, Bradley only committed one turnover, but Rivers wouldn’t have minded more assertiveness from his point guard, even if that meant more mistakes in the flow of the offense, which became stagnant throughout the 71-point night for Boston.
“It’s not the turnovers or being aggressive,” said Rivers. “It’s seeing the open guy when you come off the pick and roll. How many turnovers did we have off the pick and roll when we couldn’t make the pass? It was over and over. Paul [Pierce], Ray [Allen], Avery and it may not have led to a turnover but it used clock up. I couldn’t count the number of times we were late in the clock and standing around the 3-point line and not attacking the basket.”
Rivers has alluded to Bradley’s lack of court vision in the past, and the Celtics have used him as a shooting guard at times this season, but as for Friday’s depleted roster, Rivers was satisfied with Bradley’s role as court general. “He doesn’t see stuff,” Rivers said. “But he ran the team as much as he could, so I was really happy with him.”