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Fast Break: Avery Bradley, Celtics can’t hold off Pelicans 01.03.14 at 10:10 pm ET
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In an ugly but entertaining game, Avery Bradley‘s contested go-ahead layup attempt ricocheted off the rim in the final seconds against the Pelicans, and — after a pair of Brian Roberts free throws — Jared Sullinger‘s game-tying 3-piont attempt sailed wide, as the Celtics fell short against New Orleans at home, 95-92.

The Celtics (13-20) lost their second game in as many nights and third straight — a killer for a team headed on a five-game-in-seven-nights West Coast trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets on Sunday.

Bradley (22 points) led the Celtics in scoring while Sullinger (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (16 points, 11 rebounds) each notched double-doubles. Jeff Green (16 points) also reached double figures.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Cold start: Whether it was the frigid temperatures, the same-day trip from Chicago or just plain stagnant offense, the Celtics scored just 13 points in the first 10 minutes against a team that allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions entering the game. Bradley scored seven points (3-5 FG) in that stretch, but his Celtics teammates scored only six (3-11 FG) — including a zero-point, zero-rebound start for the ailing Sullinger.

The Stiemer: Battling a knee injury, old friend Greg Stiemsma hadn’t scored in double figures all season — until his glorious return to Boston. No Stiemboat whistle sounded in his honor, but the 7-footer who found his way back into the NBA under Kevin Garnett‘s tutelage scored 12 points on seven shots in 19 big minutes off the bench.

Ryan Anderson: In a scary moment that deserves mention, the Garden crowd sat in silence despite a 75-73 C’s lead early in the fourth, as Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson lay motionless on the floor following a head-to-head collision with Gerald Wallace. Considering all that Anderson’s been through already this season, it’s no wonder every player on both sides of the ball stood in support as paramedics carted him off in a neck brace on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cervical stinger.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA
How much is Avery Bradley worth to Celtics? 12.13.13 at 11:46 am ET
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Avery Bradley turned down a four-year, $24 million offer from the Celtics in hopes of earning an $8 million average annual value in restricted free agency this coming summer, according to a Bleacher Report report (h/t Red’s Army).

While everything from Bleacher Report requires one part sodium and one part chloride, this line from NBA analyst Jared Zwerling‘s piece should be taken with an extra packet of salt: “Bradley will be a restricted free agent next summer, so things could get ‘tricky,’ as one source said, for the Celtics to keep him.”

There’€™s really nothing tricky about the Celtics keeping Bradley. They can match any offer this summer, and they have the means to do so. The hard part, given present salary cap restrictions, will be for others to offer Bradley $8 million.

The Celtics thinking here probably goes something like this: We currently value Bradley as a $6 million player, but if he commands $8 million on the open market, then so be it. We can still match it. No harm, no foul, no overpayment. There’€™s no sense in starting a bidding war when everyone else has yet to arrive at the auction.

Given the guard’€™s inability to remain healthy, it was a smart play on Danny Ainge‘s part. The variance in what Bradley might earn this summer was simply too vast to offer more than a bargain level salary at the time.

However, Bradley has played himself into the $8 million conversation as an All-NBA defender averaging a career-high 15.7 points on 44.6 percent shooting, especially considering Marcus Thornton cashes a similar check.

But Thornton’€™s deal was signed in 2011, and most teams smartened up this summer. Look at the deals top free agent shooting guards landed. Talented two-guards Tony Allen (4 years, $20 million), Gerald Henderson (3 years, $18 million), Kyle Korver (4 years, $24 million), Kevin Martin (4 years, $28 million), J.J. Redick (4 years, $28 million), O.J. Mayo (3 years, $24 million) and Monta Elllis (3 years, $25 million) all signed between $6-8 million, and they also took a quarter of the league out of the running for Bradley’€™s services.

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Avery Bradley ‘can’t wait until’ Rajon Rondo returns 12.04.13 at 1:10 am ET
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As the past few days have brought conflicting reports about whether Rajon Rondo has already met with Dr. James Andrews or will do so in New York next week, the only certainty is that his return is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a Celtics squad that just assumed first place in the Atlantic Division.

And while we can measure Rondo’s statistical impact on these Celtics all we want — as we attempted hereAvery Bradley knows the three-time NBA All-Star point guard brings so much more than stats.

“I think that’s going to be big and good for us to have a player like Rondo,” said Bradley, one of only five players on the current roster to play with him. “He’s a very good player, and that’s going to open up everything for everybody. Everybody’s going to get a lot of open looks, because he’s a great player. I can’t wait until he comes back.”

The C’s have shown a remarkable ability to stick with teams through the first three quarters of games, winning the ones when a handful of guys contribute on the same night — like Tuesday’s win over the Bucks, when Bradley’s 15 points, including a ridiculous over-the-backboard bucket, gave the Celtics six players in double figures.

“Everybody on our team I feel like can have a big game any night,” said Bradley. “That’s the good thing about our team. We have a lot of good players that could have breakout games. Jared [Sullinger]’s been playing well, Jordan [Crawford]’s been playing well and Jeff [Green]’s been playing well, and that brings a lot to our team when we have those guys come out every single night and take turns having big games.”

Except the Celtics can’t depend on six guys all coming to play every single night if they hope to cling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Gerald Wallace. They’re lacking star-power, especially when they need to execute in the final minutes of close contests. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s hard sometimes when things tense up late.” Basically, they need Rondo. Half of their 12 losses have been by six or seven points, and Bradley knows Rondo’s return could mean the difference between competing regularly and winning regularly.

“It could be big for us,” he said. “I know once he comes back, a lot of teams are going to hate to play the Celtics.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Behind the backboard: Larry Bird vs. Avery Bradley 12.03.13 at 11:56 pm ET
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Who made the better behind-the-backboard basket?

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For the record, Avery Bradley had never seen Larry Bird‘s over-the-backboard bucket before.

“That was honestly just a lucky shot,” said Bradley, who finished with 15 points in the Celtics‘ 108-100 win over the Bucks. “I didn’t even know how much time was left. I just wanted to get the shot up.”

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Stat Man: Avery Bradley is an elite jump shooter 11.21.13 at 1:04 pm ET
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One word said it all. When asked if he had more time to devote to his midrange game this summer — his first NBA offseason without injury issues — Celtics guard Avery Bradley said plainly, “Yes.”

For Bradley, it’s always been about confidence. After tumbling from nation’s No. 1 high school recruit in 2009 to No. 19 pick in the 2010 NBA draft and shooting 19.6 percent (9-46 FG) from anywhere outside the restricted zone as a rookie, he had none. Obviously, an ankle surgery that kept him from his first NBA training camp didn’t help matters, but slashing off the ball to the basket was the only offensive weapon in his arsenal that first year.

(NBA.com/stats key: Red = Below Average, Yellow = Average, Green = Above Average)

Bradley began his lockout-shortened sophomore season as most young players under Doc Rivers did — on the end of the bench — only earning significant playing time once Ray Allen‘s ankle issues flared in late January. After shooting just 1-for-12 from 3-point range through the first three months of the season, Bradley discovered another niche, adding a right-corner 3 to a quiver that still included all those backdoor cuts to the bucket.

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Fast Break: Balanced Celtics effort stops the Magic 11.11.13 at 9:52 pm ET
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Seven Celtics scored in double figures as they shot 60 percent as a team and stopped the Magic, 120-105.

Avery Bradley led the way with 24 points; Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford and Kelly Olynyk each netted 16; Courtney Lee dropped 12 and Brandon Bass contributed 10 in a balanced effort that improved the C’s record to .500 (4-4) for the first time in the Brad Stevens era.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Steez knees: Believe it or not, Crawford actually looked like a point guard. Submitting by far his best half of basketball in a Celtics uniform, he reached triple-double watch by halftime: 12 points (5-7 FG), six assists and four rebounds. More importantly, he entered the break with zero turnovers in 17 first-half minutes and owned the C’s best plus/minus number (+13) in staking them to a 59-50 advantage.

On the range: Bradley’s jumper from 15-19 feet has steadily improved since his rookie season, rising from to 26 percent in 2010-11 to 41 percent in his sophomore season and 44 percent last year. After knocking down his first three attempts from that range against the Magic — and finishing 7-of-9 on long 2’s — he’s started 13-of-24 (54 percent) from that range this season. Avery Bradley is officially a shooting guard.

Kelly O’Sully: By replacing Vitor Faverani in the starting lineup, Brad Stevens broke up the unselfishly entertaining Olynyk-Sullinger frontcourt combination that had helped produce 105.1 points per 100 possessions through the first seven games. And the two talented young bigs responded by providing consistent production throughout a thorough dismantling of the Magic, totaling 30 points on remarkable 14-of-18 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and three steals as Jelly Sullynyk.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jordan Crawford, NBA
Report: Avery Bradley headed for restricted free agency after failing to finalize deal with Celtics 11.01.13 at 10:46 am ET
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Avery Bradley and the Celtics could not come an agreement on a contract extension by Thursday’s deadline for 2010 draftees on rookie contracts, meaning the guard will become a restricted free agent next offseason, according to a Boston Globe report.

The sides had been talking about a four-year deal but apparently could not put the pieces together. The Celtics still would be able to match any offer Bradley receives from another team.

The 22-year-old defensive standout continues to be inconsistent with his offense, evidenced by his 4-for-13 shooting in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Raptors. He also had as many turnovers as assists (4).

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