|Avery Bradley’s season is over, but his future is bright||05.25.12 at 1:35 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Avery Bradley came into this season as a question mark. He leaves it as a potential future cornerstone.
Bradley had surgery on Friday for his injured shoulder, which had repeatedly popped out during the playoffs. It’s a huge loss for the Celtics, who have come to rely on his tenacious on-the-ball defense and the jolts of athleticism he provided the offense.
“Avery’s a big blow. There’s no doubt. If I’m the guy on the other team and I don’t have to play against Avery Bradley, I would sleep a little better,” Doc Rivers said. “No one wants to play against Avery. Our guys don’t want to play against him in practice. He’s a pain in the ass defensively. That’s what he does, and that’s not here anymore.
“We’re a great defensive team. What Avery did was allow us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore. So now we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”
Bradley’s loss has an effect on everyone on the court, but his absence is most acutely felt by Rajon Rondo. With Bradley in the game, Rondo didn’t have the responsibility of guarding the ball. That hasn’t meant as much for Rondo against the 76ers, who have several guards who can attack off the dribble, but at the same time, losing their best perimeter defender puts the Celtics at a disadvantage.
“It’s so unfortunate,” Ray Allen said. “This season has probably been one of my more challenging seasons just from a team perspective just because we lost so many guys. Probably one of the more resilient teams that I’ve had because we’ve had so many guys step up and play well. My heart goes out to him because I know what he’s dealing with, I’ve been dealing with it myself.”
Beyond the ramifications for this season, Bradley’s emergence has been an unexpected revelation. As a rookie, he could barely stay on the court. In his second season, he not only established himself as one of the best on-the-ball defensive guards in the league, he also found ways to contribute offensively.
Bradley developed a knack for cutting to the basket and showed the strength and athleticism to finish inside. He also mastered the art of the corner 3-pointer, knocking down 56 percent of his attempts. With Bradley as a starter, the Celtics offense suddenly became dynamic and efficient, scoring over 112 points per 100 possessions.
“His growth this year has been terrific,” Rivers said. “He’s become a very valuable piece of this basketball team.”
It remains to be seen if the Celtics can go forward with an undersized backcourt and have it hold up over the course of an 82-game season, but one way or another, Bradley is a vital part of their future, and that’s not something anyone could say with certainty even three months ago.
“Avery Bradley is having surgery today so he’s out for the playoffs,” Rivers said. “That’s that. When a player goes down, that’s disappointing, and especially with what Avery has given us this year. His growth this year has been terrific and it’s been great. He’s become a very valuable piece to our basketball team. His ability to guard the best [opposing] guard at [point or shooting guard] has really taken so much pressure off Rondo, in particular. And not having him means that Rondo now has to go back to that role and run the team, and that’s hard, that’s hard to do, unfortunately and especially against the team we’re playing that has two guards that attack.
“Rondo doesn’t have a lot of breaks. But that’s the way it is. We’ve been a team all year when stuff happens, you deal with it and you just move forward. That’s who we’ve been and that’s who we’re going to have to be [Saturday].”
Then Rivers explained exactly why the Celtics need to fall back on their great defensive principles to get through Game 7 without Bradley, their third straight without their best on-ball defender. The Sixers have a group of athletic guards who attack the basket, and did so at will in Game 6. Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams all took advantage of a weakened Ray Allen in drives to the basket.
“We’re great defensive team,” Rivers said. “What Avery did was he allowed us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore so we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”
Bradley was diagnosed with a sore rotator cuff during the first round series with the Hawks and attempted to play with pain. But early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday in Philadelphia, his shoulder popped out of place. He missed Games 5 and 6 before the decision was made to have surgery on Friday.
Bradley, in his second season out of Texas, started 10 games in the playoffs and 28 in the regular season, taking over the starting job from Ray Allen for the final 13 games of the regular season. He average 7.6 points a game in the regular season and quickly won respect around the league as one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.
|Doc Rivers on Avery Bradley going forward: ‘We really don’t know’||05.23.12 at 8:36 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — As expected, the Celtics will not have Avery Bradley available as they try to close out the Sixers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bradley did not take part in the shootaround Wednesday morning and could not get himself to the point of being ready for the game in warmups. Bradley missed Game 5 Monday with a left shoulder injury that was re-aggravated in the third quarter of Game 4 Friday night in Philadelphia.
“We keep saying day-to-day but we really don’t know,” coach Doc Rivers said an hour before Game 6.
Ray Allen, meanwhile, will play but Rivers said he is clearly limited by his right ankle sprain, that he reaggravated on Monday night in the Game 5 win.
Rivers also said Greg Stiemsma is ready to go off the bench despite two sore feet.
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.
But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.
On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.
“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”
“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”
Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”
Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”
|Avery Bradley is a ‘game-time decision’ for Celtics, could Ray Allen be starting?||05.21.12 at 11:54 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics reported that all players were on hand and accounted for during Monday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility.
The team’s official website tweeted just before shootaround ended that Avery Bradley (left shoulder) was a “game-time decision” for Monday’s Game 5 against the Sixers at TD Garden.
Bradley did not practice on Sunday after suffering a recurrence of his left shoulder injury during the third quarter of Friday’s loss in Philadelphia.
If Bradley were not available for Game 5, it’s assumed Ray Allen would return to the starting lineup for the first time in the playoffs. Allen hasn’t started since April 4 against the Spurs, coming off the bench in the last four games he played in the regular season and all eight games to date in the playoffs.
Allen has been nearly non-existent in the last two games in Philadelphia, getting off just one shot and scoring three points in the Game 3 rout of the Sixers and making 2-of-6 and scoring five points in 31 minutes on Friday night in the 92-83 loss that evened the series, 2-2, heading into tonight’s Game 5 at TD Garden.
“It’s hard to really think about it from this vantage point,” Allen said of Boston’s second-half meltdown on Friday. “I know that in the third quarter, we just lost our attack. They attacked us. Going into the fourth quarter, we were still in a good place but they continued to attack. We lost momentum and on a ’50-50′ balls, it seemed like they got all of them.”
|Issues for C’s: Avery Bradley’s shoulder, team’s margin for error||05.20.12 at 9:42 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Avery Bradley‘s shoulder popped out of place early in the second half of Game 4, but at some point between the time he walked off the court in agony and the time he reached the end of the bench, trainer Eddie Lacerte was able to pop it back into place.
“It’s just tough. It really is. I swear a lot of people would not be playing, and the only reason he is is because he wants to,” Doc Rivers said on Sunday before the team conducted practice. “I am concerned at some point that he may not be able to anymore. We don’t know what game that is, we don’t know what day he can finish it. We can keep going all the way and he can play [or] tomorrow could be his last game.”
The 21-year-old Bradley has impressed his teammates with his toughness, but they also know that there’s a line and he’s right on the verge of crossing it.
“A lot of young players would probably sit down, worry about their future, their career,” Paul Pierce said. “At the end of the day, Avery has to do what’s best for him and his family and possibly for the long run. Hopefully he doesn’t have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he’s playing. I think it’s a fine line there, too.”
There’s the issue for the Celtics. They are 18 points better with Bradley on the court than when he’s off — the second-best mark behind Kevin Garnett‘s absurd plus-56. When Bradley picked up his fourth foul early in the second half of Game 4, they were ahead by 18 points. When he returned, they were down by one.
“We don’t ever do it the easy way, but I don’t know if we could,” Rivers said. “Not because of the mental, just because we are thin. There are times we do break and it’s more for other reasons than basketball.”
It’s not just Bradley, of course. Ray Allen is playing through bone spurs that would likely put him on the sidelines if it was the regular season. Mickael Pietrus and Pierce have knee issues. Every team in the league has injury issues, but few teams left in the postseason are as thin, or as old, as the Celtics.
“That’s the scariest part of our team,” Rivers said. “I’ve said it for three months. We are very thin. We don’t have a big margin for error. We don’t have it even when guys are healthy. Our good players have to play well to give our bench guys a chance to stay on the floor longer, which allows us to get more rest. There’s a minute number in every game that I’m concerned with our starters. When they get over that, we struggle. There’s a lot of things going on in a game every night for us. Quite honestly a lot of teams don’t have to deal with, but we do and we know that.”
|Celtics look to get Paul Pierce open||05.16.12 at 12:31 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics have had a hard time getting Paul Pierce open for shots in the first two games of their series with the 76ers. Part of that can be attributed to Pierce’s sprained knee. A lot of it can be attributed to Andre Iguodala‘s defense. Whatever the reason, the Celtics are going to try to make adjustments for Wednesday night’s Game 3.
“We’re not sure where those spots are yet,” Doc Rivers said. “Usually with Paul, the elbow isos are great, but right now he can’t get away from anybody with his leg. We’re going to go to more pin-downs for him and do different things. You usually didn’t have to get a body off of him. He can usually shake the body on his own. I think now we have to use him a lot like Ray [Allen] and bring him off screens.”
Pierce was 2-for-9 in Game 2 and is just 5-for-20 in the series. Rivers added that he may try to get more post-up looks for Pierce to try to get him going.
Asked about the severity of Pierce’s injury, Rivers said, “I don’t do percentages. I don’t think Iguodala cares what percentage he is and that’s what counts. When he’s on the floor he’s 100 percent and that’s how we play our guys, that’s how we view it. Whether he is or isn’t really doesn’t matter. We have to get 100 percent out of him of what he has, that’s what we have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »
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