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Avery Bradley Meets Challenge In Boston
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On February 9, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Avery Bradley missed the first 30 games of the 2012-13 season after surgery to both shoulders, but since his return in January, the Boston Celtics’ fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the better and even the loss of All-Star Rajon Rondo hasn’t been able to slow things down. After going 14-16 to start the season with Bradley watching from the bench, the veteran Celtics have won 12 of 18 games with their third-year guard back in the starting lineup.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bradley is still very concerned about getting injured again. However, he hasn’t let it affect his play as he knows any hesitation on his part could hurt his team.
“I think it’s only human nature to be cautious of doing certain things because of your injury,” Bradley explained. “For me, I’m scared to fall still sometimes. When I had my armed pulled the other night, I was a little worried about that. You get kind of scared, you don’t want to do certain things, but that is why I have that mindset to just go out there and just play hard and try not worry about anything, because if I do that I think I’ll be fine. If I don’t I could be restricting myself and hurting my team by not going out there and playing the way I should be playing. If you play hard, you don’t have to worry about anything.”
Last season, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers explained that Bradley was able to break out after he stopped trying to treat him like a point guard. Bradley’s first instincts are to score, however, at various times Rivers has been forced to use the 6’3 guard at the point and with Rondo injured for the season, Rivers has little choice but to rely on him there now.
“[Playing] point guard is both good and hard,” Bradley said. “It’s one of the hardest positions to play in basketball at every level, especially the NBA level because there are so many stars, you have to get everybody involved. You have to know play calling, you [do] everything quick. So it was good for me that Rondo happened to get hurt last year around this time and I got an opportunity to play point guard for seven games. With him not playing and starting, I feel like that kind of got my confidence and not only that, but it prepared me for situations like this. Rondo is down for the rest of the year and I’m being called to for a job like this, that’s hard. Once again, I just go out there and just play as hard as I can and try not to worry about anything. My teammates make me feel comfortable, because it is hard playing point guard. Size-wise, I should be a point guard, but it’s not my first position, I’m more of a scorer.”
The Celtics have recognized that they no longer have a true point guard in the rotation and everyone from Rivers through all the veterans on the team are doing their best to make sure Bradley can handle the task. Bradley doesn’t have to bring the ball up the court on every set. Rivers mostly wants Bradley to be a defensive presence and to just keep doing what he has been doing.
“He’s doing great,” Rivers said. [Bradley] really hasn’t done anything much different, we just ask him to be the defender that he is. Everyone has taken up the responsibility. We don’t really have one guy, everybody brings the ball up the floor, Jeff Green, Paul [Pierce], Avery, Jet [Jason Terry], Courtney [Lee]. We just try to eliminate pressure and then our offense starts on its own. The first pass starts the offense, so it doesn’t matter who starts it. We’ve done pretty well with it so far.”
Rivers might sound like he isn’t relying on Bradley to be a true point guard, but he spends a lot of time working with him on his point guard skills in practice and the ever vocal Kevin Garnett is there to help him as well.
“[Rivers] helps me a lot,” Bradley said. “He helps me every single practice. If I’m going to fast, he’ll let me know. If I miss somebody that was wide open, he’ll let me know. Usually I’ll miss them because I am going too fast. Not only him, but KG and all those guys. KG isn’t even a point guard and he helps me out every single practice. It shows what kind of team that we have and what kind of culture we have. They just want to see you continue to improve.”
Like many young guards, Bradley has to fight the temptation to operate at 100 miles per hour and remember to avoid the classic mistakes young players make. On the court, he relies on the Celtics’ veteran guards to remind him about what he needs to do. The Celtics talk on the court and that helps a young player like Bradley.
“When you watch the best point guards, they are so calm out there, so poised,” Bradley explained. “Rondo was like that and Chris Paul is like that, that’s what makes them so good. They go out there and change speeds and that’s something that I’m learning now. Being a young player, all you think is fast, fast, fast, but other people are fast in the NBA and that’s what they want you to do is speed up.
“I have to remind myself [to slow down], sometimes I’ll tell Courtney [Lee] to remind me as the game goes on. Sometimes putting the ball down before the pick-and-roll, keeping my dribble so I can go either way, I usually have Courtney to tell me if I forget. My teammates really stay on each other.”
Bradley attributes much of his personal success to his veteran teammates. Rather than viewing the veterans who were ahead of him in the rotation at one time as an obstacle, Bradley acknowledges that they taught him how to be a professional, both on and off the court.
“A lot of people say that coming to a veteran team and not being able to play sucks, but it didn’t for me,” Bradley said. “I got to learn the game the right way, on and off the court from the leaders that we’ve had throughout the years. I feel like everything happens for a reason and me landing here on this team with these players made me the player that I am today. I just have to keep improving. [Garnett] told me you want to be able to to look at your career when you’re done, from your rookie year to the last game you played or to the peak of your career or your best years, and you want to be able to say you’ve improved every single year. If you are able to do that, that means you got the most out of this game. I kind of laughed because looking at my rookie year to now, I can say I’ve improved and that is what you want to be able to say every single year.”
Bradley could have looked at being drafted by Boston as a hindrance to his NBA career and he could have let the ankle surgery that ended his rookie season, his shoulder problems and eventual shoulder surgery hold him back for fear of being injured again. He could have let taking on point guard duties when he was more comfortable as an off guard set him back as well, but Bradley met those challenges with a lot of help and support from his coaches and teammates.
Meeting those challenges has been good news for the Celtics, especially now. The team hasn’t lost a game since Rondo was injured and Bradley was moved to the starting point guard spot. To be sure, a lot of the credit for the winning streak goes to the Celtics rallying around each other in Rondo’s absence, but this team wasn’t the same without Bradley in the lineup before Rondo’s injury and it’s pretty obvious Bradley has learned to play the game the right way and continues to meet the challenge in Boston.
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