|What Avery Bradley’s D-League assigment means for the Celtics||01.14.11 at 3:20 pm ET|
As expected, the Celtics assigned rookie guard Avery Bradley to their D-League affiliate in Maine, Friday. Bradley has played in just two game since Rajon Rondo returned from an ankle injury, and he has logged only four minutes total when he played.
The Celtics are sending Bradley to Maine, who is coached by Danny Ainge‘s son Austin, to get him on the court. Bradley missed all of the summer and most of training camp following ankle surgery and while he filled in admirably during desperate situations, he also clearly has a lot to learn. He’s appeared in 14 games with four assists and nine turnovers in just 66 minutes of action.
Since this is the first D-League assignment of the season, we thought it would be helpful to preemptively answer a few questions:
1. Does this move affect the Celtics roster?
The Celtics have 15 players under contract, the maximum allowed by the NBA, and Bradley’s assignment does nothing to change that. The D-League is not a true minor league in this regard.
In other words, this doesn’t mean the Celtics can sign a veteran free agent while Bradley is in the D-League. They can’t.
2. Why send him to the D-League?
Bradley needs games and practices and he wasn’t getting enough of either in Boston. This allows him the chance to get both, while working on his point guard skills. They can also bring him back at any time.
3. Is Maine the Celtics version of Pawtucket?
Yes and no, but mainly no.
The Celtics have an affiliation agreement with Maine. That means that when they send any of their eligible players — that also includes Luke Harangody and Semih Erden — to the D-League, they are automatically assigned to the Red Claws. The Celtics share an affiliation with the Charlotte Bobcats, meaning both teams can send their first or second-year players to the Red Claws. Most D-League teams operate with dual affiliation agreements.
Where it differs is that the rest of the Maine roster is made up of players who are eligible to be signed by any other NBA team.
|And the hits keep on coming as Semih Erden pulls his groin||01.13.11 at 4:13 pm ET|
“This is who we are right now,” Rivers said in announcing the latest injuries to hit the Celtics‘ front court.
Jermaine O’Neal had an MRI Thursday on his sore left knee that acted up in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston.
Rivers is concerned that surgery will likely be needed to correct the issue.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said following practice Thursday. “I know he did [have] an MRI. Honestly, my guess is they’re going to have to do something. So, I don’t know that. I’m just using my doctorate right now. My guess is they’ll probably have to do something.”
Complicating matters is a groin pull sustained by back-up center Semih Erden, which kept him out of practice Thursday and limited the Celtics to nine healthy players. With Kevin Garnett still out with a strained right calf, Kendrick Perkins (right knee) not yet cleared for contact practice and Shaquille O’Neal getting limited minutes to save his stamina for later in the season, the Celtics are struggling with depth in the front court.
“It puts more pressure on them,” Rivers said of his remaining healthy front-court players. “Semih couldn’t practice today. He has a groin pull. So, that’s what we are. We have 15 players. We’re going to send Avery [Bradley] down [to D-League] pretty soon, too, so he can get some reps playing basketball. I just think he needs to play basketball. It’s part of it.”
The Celtics face Charlotte on Friday night at TD Garden as they continue their season-long six-game homestand, likely without Garnett, Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.
|Delonte West gets some really good news about his right wrist||01.03.11 at 11:16 pm ET|
When Delonte West fell after a made lay-up against New Jersey on Nov. 24 at TD Garden, he and the Celtics feared the worst about his right wrist. It was a nasty fracture that appeared to – at the least – end his regular season.
But that perspective changed on Monday.
Calling it a big step, West had the hard cast protecting his healing right wrist removed on Monday, the first step of what he hopes could be a return on or shortly after the All-Star break. It was replaced with a brace to allow him some ability to start moving it for light rehab.
“It’s feels stiff but it’s not painful,” West said. “I got great news from doctors. They said maybe three weeks [then] rehabilitation. I’ve already started out conditioning, ball-handling. I’m left-handed anyway. Fortunately, I’m left handed anyway so I able to get shots on my left hand. It’s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one.
“Today is Day 1. I got a lot accomplished,” he said of Monday’s milestone in recovery.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” West said. “It’s killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sidelines but we all have a position to play and right now mine is getting healthy and getting ready to contribute.”
The initial timetable called for West to return in time for the playoffs but West said he’s hopeful for a return after the All-Star break.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” West admitted before sounding a hopeful but realistic tone. “I’m praying and I’m trying my best to get back before then. But the trainers and the coaching staff, they’re really trying not to rush me but I think I’m really rushing myself right now.”
As for his biggest test, that will come after his rehabilitation, which is still three weeks away.
“I guess it would be lifting but first I have to regain movement but picking up weights and catching a basketball,” West said. “I think right now the biggest fear is falling and having to extend [the wrist]. Today is Day 1, the cast is off. It’s a good day and it’s all uphill from here.”
|The education of Avery Bradley||12.17.10 at 3:25 pm ET|
Avery Bradley is a good listener. That may not seem that important, but to the veteran Celtics it is a very big deal. They have a tendency to notice things about the young players who join the team. Not so much on the court, although that is obviously an important part of the equation, but about how they conduct themselves.
Do they pay attention during the huddle, even though they have less of a chance of getting in the game than Lucky the mascot? Do they ask questions when they don’t understand something? Do they listen?
“I really like the kid, actually,” Pierce said after the Celtics beat the Hawks Thursday night. “I see how he works and soaks up so much in practice and you can see him wanting to get better. He’s always asking questions and he’s always in the huddle.”
For Bradley, this is a no-brainer. When the vets talk, he listens and tries to absorb whatever lesson he can.
“Seeing their success, I would feel dumb if I didn’t listen to those guys,” Bradley said. “They know what they’re talking about. When they tell me those things I want to listen so I can become a better player. They’re trying to help me all the time. When I do something wrong, they pull me aside and that just shows that they care about me and want the best for me.”
For the first time in his career, Rajon Rondo is the elder statesman at his position. In past years the Celtics brought in vets like Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury to play behind him. It’s the endless circle of life in the NBA and now Rondo is the mentor. It’s a role he has taken an interest in with Bradley, often staying after practice to watch carefully as he plays in 2-on-2 games with fellow rookie Luke Harangody, Von Wafer and assistant coach Ty Lue.
Those games happen after every practice and it’s a way for them to stay active. Bradley, in particular, seems to use those runs as a way to test out in-game situations. Rondo will usually watch intently from the sidelines and then offer his wisdom in private.
“He’s a great listener,” Rondo said back in November. “That might not sound like much, but that’s big for a young guy to come in. He’s very humble. He works extremely hard. He’s going to be a great player in this league someday when he gets his opportunity. I always tell him to stay ready.”
With Rondo out for a few weeks, his opportunity is coming sooner than anyone imagined, and truthfully a little sooner than Doc Rivers had envisioned. But with only 10 healthy bodies, opportunity is here.
“You don’t try to put too much in his head,” Rondo said. “You just try to let him learn for himself, but he can always ask me or Nate [Robinson] or coach Rivers. So he has some good guys in front of him who are willing to teach him the game.”
Those lessons come the hard way in the NBA. Take Thursday night’s game when Hawks guard Jeff Teague went off on Bradley. Bradley had barely checked in when Teague stripped him and soared in for a dunk.
“You have to have a short memory,” Bradley said. “People make mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, especially at this level. You got to go to the next play.”
Things didn’t get much better for Bradley as Teague continued to dominate him. But late in the first quarter, Bradley dove into a scrum and came up with a loose ball leading to points for the Celtics on the other end. It wasn’t much, but it was something positive for Bradley to take into the next game and validation that he wasn’t going to back down.
“You can talk all the trash to him in practice and when you look up he’s staring you right in the eyes and he’s going nowhere,” Rivers said a few weeks ago. “I think our veterans really appreciate that in him.”
Even with all the injuries, nothing is guaranteed for Bradley. The Celtics have options, not necessarily ideal options but options nonetheless. Marquis Daniels has done spot duty as a backup point guard and Pierce and Ray Allen are more than capable of bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense. So, the onus is on Bradley to take advantage of this opportunity.
In the end, everyone agrees that he has a bright future. He is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who is not afraid to get up on his man and force the action. “He’s very physical,” Rondo said. “He gets through the picks, he gets up into you, he turns you, makes you dribble with your back to the basket.”
His offensive game is still developing and while his size — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds — says point guard, he may be better suited playing off the ball where he can work his mid-range game. The comparison has been made to a smaller version of Tony Allen, without the turnovers, and if he reaches that point this season the Celtics would be thrilled.
But all of that is in front of him. He missed valuable time this summer after undergoing ankle surgery, which kept him out of the Orlando summer league and the majority of training camp. Once the season began, he rolled over Pierce’s foot in practice, which caused him to miss another week.
The learning curve will be steep, but the best thing Avery Bradley has going for him is that he’s willing to learn.
|Three point play: Time for Plan B||11.29.10 at 4:25 pm ET|
Barely a month into the season, Doc Rivers is already seeing his plans go up in smoke. The hoped-for scenario, with all the accumulated talent on the roster, was to employ a 10-man rotation, almost in a platoon style. Now that Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West are out, Rivers is forced to scramble a bit. The Celtics are down to a dozen able-bodied players and three of them are rookies.
“You come into the year with one plan and you got to change the plan sometimes and that’s something we’re doing as a staff,” Rivers said after the team conducted practice Monday. “The 10-man thing is not going to work right now. I believe it’s really important for us to have one because that allows [the starters] to get rest.”
Rivers said the injuries will force him to sub differently and you may see him go to his bench earlier in an attempt to jumpstart the minutes rotation. At the same time, he’s reluctant to leave all of his starters on the bench at any one time without veterans like West and O’Neal to take charge of the second unit.
“I’m just going to have to sub differently,” Rivers said. “It’s not what I wanted to do. The way our starters play, logically, I’d rather extend their minutes together. It’s just not going to work out that way.”
Rajon Rondo is already logging 39 minutes a night and Ray Allen checks in at 38 per game. Allen, Paul Pierce (36 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (33) have all seen their playing time increase from the previous season. Garnett said the veterans are ready for it.
“Everybody on here they’re going to have to be extended, not just us three,” Garnett said. “Guys have to anticipate playing more minutes.”
One player who has suddenly found himself with an unexpected role is Von Wafer, who has seen the court in small doses. Wafer is ahead of rookie Avery Bradley because of his experience, and also his shooting ability. “Obviously we need Von more than Avery in some ways,” Rivers said. “We need the guy to play the 2-spot. Avery can help us.” As for his defense, Rivers said that Wafer is working on it.
West is scheduled to have surgery on his wrist Tuesday and the Celtics will have a better idea how long he will be out after the procedure is performed. As for Jermaine O’Neal, his status is still up in the air. Rivers said that he was out for all of this week and that’s as far as they were willing to look.
Everyone knew injuries would be a part of this year’s team and now it’s time for the first of what could be many Plan B’s.
More practice notes after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »
|Danny Ainge on Delonte West injury: ‘We’ll stay with our roster’||11.25.10 at 9:59 am ET|
‘We like our guys, and Avery [Bradley] is starting to get healthy and Avery and [Von Wafer] are going to have to step up and play,’’ Ainge told the Globe. ‘In order to make a move we’d have to let someone go and we like our guys. It’s tragic for Delonte. Basketball is a very important part of his life. I hate to see this happen. But Delonte will be able to return late in the season to help us.’’
West missed the first 10 games of the season, during which the Celtics went 8-2. However, the team’s depth at point guard has been further depleted by the absence of Rajon Rondo, who missed his third straight game on Wednesday and, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, could miss Friday’s contest as well.
“We like those guys when the season started and I like them even more now with the work they are putting in and this league is a league of opportunity,” Ainge said. “So we’ll stay with our roster for now and see what we got.”
|Avery Bradley returns to practice||11.15.10 at 4:16 pm ET|
Rookie guard Avery Bradley won’t turn 20 until later this month and everyone around the Celtics thinks he has a bright future. But it’s been a slow start to his professional career after the Celtics took him with the 19th pick in the draft.
He had surgery on his ankle after the draft, which kept him out of summer league and also limited his time in training camp and in preseason. Then, he rolled his surgically repaired ankle on Paul Pierce’s foot and the team shut him down for two more weeks. He returned to practice Monday and is happy to be back on the court.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said after a spirited 2-on-2 game with Von Wafer, Luke Harangody and assistant coach Ty Lue. “Just anxious to get a chance to get in there and practice with my team again.”
Bradley didn’t travel with the team, but said players and coaches were texting him with information from the games.
“That’s the good thing about this team,” Bradley said. “They want me to get better. The older guys want me to help me out all the time.”
“Avery’s a talented young man,” West said. “He can do good things in this league. He’s big strong guard. He’s physical. He’s athletic. The biggest thing is he has heart. He reminded me of myself a little bit as far as getting after people defensively.”