Celtics Re-Take Division, But Aren’t Content
With a win in Minnesota last night, the Boston Celtics moved back into the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, a spot they believe they should have been in all season. However, as an older team dealing with many injuries, they haven’t quite been the team most expected throughout the year. Yet, slowly but surely they are making their way back to their own expectations leading up to the postseason.
Many questioned the depth of the Celtics outside of their big name players, but throughout the myriad of injuries to those key players, others have had the opportunity to step up. One of the most notable to this point has been Avery Bradley, the second year player out of Texas.
“Those guys make it easy on me,” said Bradley. “They made me a better cutter, like Paul (Pierce) and Rondo, they help me out so much. They help me out all the time and I thank them so much for it. I’m just going to keep going out there, playing hard on the defensive end and everything else will work itself out.”
While Bradley may be having a fine season, fitting in well with the starting unit during Ray Allen’s absence, he is well aware that he has a long way to go. He is not content to remain where he is, always striving to improve and do things the Celtic way.
“I can improve in everything, but I definitely made the most improvement in my cuts,” Bradley told HOOPSWORLD. “I can improve on my cuts, I can improve on everything because I’m never going to stop wanting to learn. I’m going to continue to ask questions and do what I’ve been doing, which is going out there and playing hard, leaving everything out there on the court. That’s what kind of a player I am. After the game, I’m going to be tired because I gave my all when I was in the game.”
Forward Brandon Bass is another player who is also beginning to find his niche on this veteran-laden team. Out of both necessity and because he has earned the right, Bass is averaging over 30 minutes per game for the Celtics, feels as if he’s fitting in well, but, as is the case with Bradley, he is not ready to become complacent.
“I feel I’m coming into my own as far as helping the team in certain ways, but my goal is to continue to get better each and every game,” said Bass. “I need to improve my defensive talk and still have a lot of ways to improve on both ends of the court, as far as getting other people shots and things of that nature, helping to space the floor and getting rebounds.”
While Bradley has taken every opportunity to learn from the perimeter players such as Allen, Pierce and Rondo, Bass has the unique opportunity to learn from future Hall of Famer, Kevin Garnett. He is well aware of how remarkable this opportunity is to help the Celtics fight for a championship now as well as develop under Garnett’s watchful eye for his future.
“You can learn a lot from KG,” said Bass. “He’s always vocal, I’ve seen him do things and I’ve learned so much from him. The experience of playing with KG is something I’m embracing and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him.”
It may be somewhat of a silver-lining the Celtics have found playing time for their younger players, but, of course, when it comes to the playoffs, the rotation will shorten. Rivers will go back to a rotation of his experienced, championship tested players to lead the way, but it is an asset to know that if a difficult situation comes up, he can begin to trust his younger players will do what is needed for the Celtics.
“You’d rather have your guys. Are you crazy?” said Rivers. “You’d rather have Ray Allen, you’d rather have Mickael Pietrus and everybody. Every time you lose a guy, your team gets thinner and thinner, guys are playing more minutes, they get stretched, so it’s nice that we’re winning, but we won in the stretch when Rondo was out.”
“We have some talented players still and our guys understand that,” added Rivers. “Any team can win in a small pack of games when guys are out, but it’s when it gets extended is when you struggle. That’s why having Ray out, this is about the max right here as far as I’m concerned, especially with Ray and Pietrus. That combination has really stretched us.”
Now that the Boston Celtics have regained the top spot in their conference, they feel as if they are on the right track, despite all they have gone through this year. The young players such as Bradley and Bass have already learned not to take anything for granted because you never know what tomorrow may hold.
“That feels good, it was definitely one of our goals, but we ain’t really worried about that,” said Bradley. “We’re just taking it game by game, we’re going to keep improving and we’re going to keep getting better each game, not taking any steps back and keep taking steps forward.”
Not taking any steps back also means to constantly learn, improve and be ready when your number is called. Immediately after the Celtics win against Minnesota, Bradley was making plans with some of his veteran teammates to get into the gym and get shots up only hours after returning home to Boston.
“I learn from them every single day,” said Bradley. “I have great teammates and the good thing is they want to teach us, we want to learn and I appreciate them so much. I’m going to continue to ask questions and continue to learn from those guys, so I can be prepared when they’re gone and I can share with the younger players what they have shared with me.”
With the veteran leaders they have coupled with the young athletes wanting to learn and improve, the Boston Celtics are in good shape.