What would a full Avery Bradley season look like?
|08.28.13 at 10:59 am ET|
Of course, losing a game to a few teenage girls after presenting New Hampshire’s Barker-Jobin family with a new basketball court courtesy of RE/MAX of New England probably isn’t the best sign of what’s to come.
“Yeah, the girls beat me at knockout,” Bradley joked. “That’s OK, though. I’m not used to this hoop.”
Whether it was the ankle injury that delayed his rookie year, Doc Rivers‘ reluctance to “play the kids” or the shoulder injury that cut his already lockout-shortened sophomore season even shorter, leaving him sidelined until January of this past season, we’ve never seen a complete Avery Bradley season.
“Most of the time, every summer for me has just been watching film or just going to watch people play, but this whole summer I’ve bee playing every single day,” said Bradley, who has added 16 pounds of muscle to the 180-pound frame he entered the NBA with in 2010. “I think I took three weeks off. My girlfriend kept telling me, ‘You need a break; you need to rest.’ But I was so excited to get back on the court and I’ve been here in Boston for two months, working out every day for two-a-days. Me, Jared [Sullinger] and some of the younger guys.”
Bradley may now be the second most tenured Celtics player behind Rajon Rondo, but at age 22 he’s still one of those younger guys. And if he ever combines his 2011-12 offensive game — 72 percent shooting (18-25) on right corner 3-pointers and 71 assisted buckets inside of 5 feet — with the on-ball defense that earned him an Second Team All-Defense bid last season, the Celtics could stack their backcourt up against the NBA’s best.
“I can’t wait until the season starts,” said Bradley. “I’ve been in the gym every single day trying to get better now that I can. I’m just excited. I can’t wait for the first preseason game. I can’t wait for training camp.”
However, last we saw Bradley, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton ran wild on him over six games, averaging 17.2 points in the C’s first-round playoff exit.
“Toward the end of the season, my body was kind of breaking down on me,” admitted Bradley, who averaged 28.7 minutes while playing all but one of 51 games following his Jan. 2 return from offseason double shoulder surgery. “I was getting a little sick and stuff, so I wasn’t eating. But I feel a lot better now.”
Bradley’s defense should be the least of the C’s worries. When healthy, he is among the game’s best. Just ask Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash or anyone else he’s frustrated over the years. Offensively, though, Rondo’s injury forced Bradley to alter his game in a point guard-less system, so any delay in Rondo’s return might further hinder Bradley’s evolution on that side of the ball.
“I’m not sure what position I’m going to play, but whatever I can do to help our team out, that’s what I’m going to be open to doing,” said Bradley, a better fit for the 2-guard position. “Rondo will still be there to play that leadership role and help everybody out. Even if I’m not playing point guard, I’m pretty sure whoever is, Rondo is going to be there in his ear, trying to help us become the best team we can be and win a championship.”
A title might be a bit much to ask, but even without Rondo a couple factors could help Bradley enjoy a career year. First, a new coach in Brad Stevens hell bent on developing young talent. “It’s different,” said Bradley. “Being with the same coaches for three years, it was hard for me [to see them go], but our new coaching staff is amazing. Every single coach. I’m enjoying being around them every single day. I learn from them every single day.”
And second, guys like Bradley and Jeff Green won’t have the option of deferring to veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as Rivers so often cited as a natural tendency for those guys. “I’ve been with these guys for three years, and so it was hard on everybody, but all we could do is just wish the best for each other and just move on from there,” said Bradley. “When we see each other, it’s always going to be love. We’ll always be a family.”
The question now is whether Bradley can make the leap from little brother to big bro in that family, and it wouldn’t be such a bad year for Bradley to have a (complete) breakout season, considering he’s slated to become a restricted free agent next season should the Celtics not reach an extension by the start of the season.