|Celtics, for the last time: Avery Bradley||10.29.13 at 2:06 pm ET|
One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘¦ ?” Next up: Avery Bradley.
When’s the last time a player emerged as a defensive standout and then made the offensive leap?
Avery Bradley earned what should be the first of a long line of NBA All-Defensive nods last season, joining Mike Conley Jr. in the Second Team backcourt. Considering he returned midseason from surgery on both shoulders the previous summer, his offense continued to lag behind despite averaging a career-high 9.2 points per game.
Bradley’s 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and nearly five field goal attempts at the rim per 36 minutes during his sophomore season offered glimpses of his offensive potential, but his shooting percentages dipped dramatically in 2012-13 (40.6 FG%, 32.2 3P%). That pit bull defense, though, remained tough as ever.
At this point, Bradley is nearing a point where it’s time to either make the jump to becoming a two-way stud or accept an NBA life as a defensive hound. It’s the fork in the road that — in a best-case scenario — either leads to Bruce Bowen‘s career or Dennis Johnson‘s. So, which one is Avery Bradley?
Really, there’s no precedent for a guard establishing an All-Defensive reputation and later making an impact as a double-digit scorer. Guys like D.J., Maurice Cheeks and Joe Dumars had already proven themselves as valuable offensive weapons by the time they made their first All-Defense teams.
History would tell you Bradley’s on a similar career path to Michael Cooper, who made the first of eight All-Defense teams in his third season, submitted his highest scoring average the next year (11.9) and settled in as a career 8.9 points per game scorer. That’s not such a bad scenario, either, considering Cooper won five rings over 12 seasons and took home the 1987 NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor in his ninth year.
Except these Celtics aren’t those Showtime Lakers. They could use the 15.3 points per 36 minutes on 43.8 percent shooting from 3 that Bradley provided this preseason. All it would take is a precedent-setting performance.
|Stat man: More of this Celtics lineup, please||10.23.13 at 12:17 pm ET|
After Celtics coach Brad Stevens finally granted Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace extended playing time together, the media immediately jumped on its perceived success following Sunday’s preseason loss to the Timberwolves.
‘I’d have to look at the overall numbers on it, but I thought we were pretty good in that stretch — both in the first and second half,” Stevens told reporters in the immediate aftermath. ‘We played them together some in the first half, when we played big on the wings, and we played them some together at the start of the second half. It’s probably a 10- or 12-minute clip of that. And, based on how it went tonight, I would say that you’ll probably see that again.”
It was actually a 14:34 clip of the highly anticipated Green-Wallace combo, and it started wonderfully. The two combined for 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting over a 4:23 stretch in the first quarter, adding two assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block during a span that trimmed Minnesota’s lead from 11 to four.
Beyond that? Not so much. They combined for a total of 8:11 during the second and fourth quarters, scoring seven points on 1-of-7 shooting to go along with three boards, two assists, two turnovers and a steal for a minus-2 rating.
|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.
|Avery Bradley makes NBA All-Defensive Second Team||05.13.13 at 4:56 pm ET|
Celtics guard Avery Bradley made the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team — the first such honor of his three-year career. He received 10 first-place and five second-place votes from the NBA’s 30 head coaches, and his 25 total points trailed only Tony Allen (53) and Chris Paul (37) among the league’s guards.
Often dubbed the best on-ball defender in the NBA, Bradley’s 0.73 points allowed per possession ranked 16th in the league, according to Synergy Sports. More importantly, the Celtics allowed 102.1 points per 100 possessions — ranking 14th in the league before Bradley’s Jan. 2 debut — and then posted the NBA’s fifth-best defensive rating (99.4 points per 100 possessions) in the 51 games after his return.
“I want to shut down everybody every single night,” Bradley said after limiting Warriors scoring sensation Stephen Curry back in March. “If you notice, every game I play the same way. Every single game on the defensive end. That’s just my mindset. That’s how I play. That’s how I always play my whole life.”
Forwards LeBron James and Serge Ibaka as well as centers Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah joined the backourt duo of Allen and Paul on the NBA All-Defensive First Team. Strangely, NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol made the Second Team alongside Bradley, Tim Duncan, Paul George and Mike Conley.
Kevin Garnett didn’t capture a single vote. This marks only the second time since 1999 he didn’t make either the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team — and the first time in that span he didn’t receive a vote.
|Wednesday shootaround: Kevin Garnett not paying attention to Knicks’ ‘shenanigans’||05.01.13 at 12:53 pm ET|
NEW YORK — No one knows trash talking like Kevin Garnett.
He also knows how to tune it out like no one else, or at least not feed into publicly.
J.R. Smith said there wouldn’t be a Game 5 Wednesday night in New York if he had not been suspended for Game 4, while Kenyon Martin is suggesting black formal wear at Madison Square Garden for the Celtics‘ funeral.
“I have not paid attention to none of the shenanigans,” Garnett said before Wednesday morning’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden.
Garnett says he knows what it will take to be successful in Game 5 — taking one possession at a time and not getting overwhelmed by New York’s tenacious defense.
“It’s not that hard, to be honest,” Garnett said of the approach. “Taking one possession at a time is something you have to be conscious of, not individually but as a group. Understanding each possession and what it means, the importance of that possession. Small things are what’s going to make this a do-or-die type of game.
“I think it’s more, not for us to [instill] doubt, but it’s important to show some type of barrier, if not willingness, in this whole game. We know we’re playing on the road and we know they play really well here. I think the important thing is not to get down, to come out with some fire and play throughout with that fire.”
Garnett appreciates some of the fire on the Celtics bench in the form of Rajon Rondo. Garnett said he’s been huge in helping Avery Bradley and Terrence Williams while being an extra pair of eyes for him and Paul Pierce in the post.
“More importantly, he’s talking to Avery, T-Will, the guys who play the point guard position, Paul and I about opportunity and being aggressive, giving the coaching staff a perspective. Doe is a very smart guy, very high IQ when it comes to a lot of different things. He’s giving his take on what he sees out there as far as where he’s at. But more importantly being a safety net for Avery right now. Avery goes through periods where it’s difficult. It’s going to happen. We’ve all been young before. Just being like a security blanket for Avery and anyone else who needs it.”
Garnett has 34 rebounds in the last two games. What has been the secret to his success?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really [put] thought into it, to be honest. A lot of rebounding is timing. Tyson [Chandler] and I, Kenyon and I are down there battling for the ball. It’s not one or two things that go into it, nor would I like to share, but the things that I have been doing are working for me and I’m going to stick with it.
“You don’t have a choice whether you like it or not. It’s whether you adapt or not. If you don’t adapt, you know what end you end up on, and I don’t want to end up on that end.”
|Game 3 pregame: Kevin Garnett feels ‘good’, Avery Bradley battles through illness, Jason Terry starts for Brandon Bass||04.26.13 at 7:39 pm ET|
Asked if he would make any changes to the starting lineup, Doc Rivers said “we’ll see.”
Rivers also announced 45 minutes before Friday’s Game 3 with the Knicks that Kevin Garnett felt “good” in Thursday’s practice and kept pestering him to practice more. Rivers was playing it cautious with his star after Garnett injured his right hip in the Game 2 loss on Tuesday night.
As for Avery Bradley, Rivers explained his tardiness to Thursday’s practice was due to an illness, which kept him on the sidelines for most of practice. “We gave him a TUMS and told him not to do too much.”
Rivers said he wasn’t sure whether Bradley would start but that he is feeling “good” and would likely be available at close to 100 percent.
As for his $25,000 fine on Thursday from the NBA for criticizing officials after Game 2, Rivers said, “Like I said to [NBA security], I didn’t get fined for being wrong, I got fined for saying it.”
|Danny Ainge ‘not particularly thrilled’ with Knicks matchup||04.25.13 at 5:52 pm ET|
During his weekly Thursday appearance with Salk & Holley, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped short of saying he thought his C’s are the better team in their first-round NBA playoff series against the Knicks.
“We don’t think that we’ve played like we are capable of playing,” said Ainge. “It’s one thing to lose to a team who deserves to beat you and is a better team, but I feel like we’ve come out ready to play and I have no idea why the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good.”
Asked to clarify his comments, Ainge showered praise on the Knicks, who lead the series 2-0 and have held the Celtics to 48 combined second-half points.
“They’re very good. I have a great deal of respect for the Knicks, and Carmelo [Anthony] is a great player — maybe the toughest matchup in the entire league,” he said. “He’s right there in the same category as difficult a matchup as the Lebron [James]es and the Kevin Durants and the Kobe Bryants. He’s one of those types of players that can score against certain defense. So, no, I’m not particularly thrilled with the matchup.”
Still, Ainge placed the blame on his players. The Celtics simply haven’t lived up to their ability.
“We just need to play with more mental and physical toughness,” he said. “This isn’t the team I’ve seen play all year. The first halves have been, but not the second half. I wish I had an explanation, but we just need to be tougher, instigating the physical play. I think that they are getting into us, and we’re not responding. I’d like to see us instigate and initiate contact and be aggressive and not let their pressure affect us as much as it has.”
And the blame doesn’t rest with just one or two Celtics. They’ve pretty much all been been underwhelming.
“It’s everybody,” said Ainge. “It’s gotta be everybody. Avery [Bradley] embodies toughness. Paul Pierce is toughness to us, and Jeff Green — when he’s playing the way that we need him to play — he’s asserting himself and tough. And we know how tough Jason Terry is. And right on down the line. It takes everybody. Brandon Bass. It takes every one of the guys. We don’t have a team where we can rely on one or two guys. We have to get good performances out of the whole team.”
“We’ve got to have contributions from the whole team,” he added. “You can’t do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don’t have that kind of scoring power. We don’t have the league’s leading scorer on our team right now, so we have to get contributions out of a lot of people.”
Got it? Good. Now here are the remaining highlights of Ainge’s interview, which can be heard in full on the Salk & Holley audio on demand page:
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