Avery Bradley could have starred for the Boston Celtics this summer. Granted, his fellow starters would have included JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore rather than Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce; and his opponents would have been rookies and vagabonds rather than All-Stars. But still, were it not for the NBA lockout, Bradley would have been a go-to guy this summer. And he could have used the experience.
Bradley missed summer league last season due to an ankle injury, then missed training camp, then understandably spent the entire season playing with brain freeze. For a normal rookie, missing training camp is a crucial setback. For Bradley, whose game is more raw than Monday night WWE wrestling, time lost was devastating. The Texas product came into the NBA needing to A) impress a coach notorious for benching rookies, B) fit in with a Hall of Famer-laden lineup, C) learn Boston’s complex schemes, both offensive and defensive, and D) do all that while switching to a position he had never played before (point guard). As Doc Rivers said, Bradley “had no chance.”
The season became an extended learning experience, though most of the learning came during practice. Bradley saw few game minutes; during the ones he did play, he often looked like a boy among men. Despite possessing the on-ball defense of a young Lindsey Hunter, Bradley’s offensive game reminds me of the car gifted to Will Hunting on his 21st birthday in “Good Will Hunting” — it is raggedy, pieced together from spare pieces in the junk pile, and the first thing I said when the Celtics received it was, “It’s a real piece of shit.” That sounds harsh, but Bradley’s offensive game has more holes than a Connect Four board. He is not comfortable dribbling. He is not comfortable shooting. He is not comfortable running an offense. And he damn sure wasn’t ready to play meaningful minutes on a title contender, lockdown defense be damned.
Unfortunately, Bradley has already missed summer league again. Training camp, if it ever happens, will be shorter than normal. Team workouts over the summer are in disarray, if not wiped out. And so Bradley, for the second straight year, will miss a crucial aspect of a young player’s development.
Knowing that, he and his agent are looking into options for Bradley to play overseas (as reported by ESPN). If Bradley does take his talents elsewhere, he would not miss any NBA games — he and his agent are only looking for a deal that includes an opt-out clause to return to Boston when the lockout finishes.
An overseas move would make sense for Bradley. He’s in a Catch-22 in Boston — he needs experience to blossom, but he won’t receive playing time until he improves. Playing in a foreign country (at least in the right league, since I imagine Bradley would play very few minutes in certain leagues) would presumably allow Bradley the opportunity to garner much-needed court time, similar to the way Brandon Jennings used Italy. Jennings played 17 minutes per game and struggled pretty desperately at times. He did not shoot well. He did not score much. He did not pass very many assists. But he learned during his time in Italy, and he returned to the United States a better, more complete player.
When a player like Deron Williams signs overseas, I imagine his NBA team cringes. What if he gets injured?
But when the Celtics front office learns about Bradley’s overseas plot, they should be pleased. Bradley needs this.