Ray Allen participated fully in Tuesday’s practice, which (I believe) was the team’s first session in more than a month and is likely to be the last practice of the regular season. Barring any setback in the next 20-some odd hours, he should return to the Celtics lineup on Wednesday against the Spurs.
Doc Rivers said Allen will start, which kills any “START AVERY BRADLEY — THE CELTICS ARE 5-0 WITH BRADLEY AS STARTING SHOOTING GUARD, GODDAMNIT!” momentum that has grown in the past two weeks.
Still, Rich Levine considered an aspect of the “who to start?” debate that has nothing to do with Boston’s current chances of winning as many games as possible: The future.
And on that level, there’s absolutely no question as to which is the right decision.
Listen, there are many people out there, myself being one of them, who believe that Danny Ainge whiffed at a chance to trade Ray at the deadline. That, as sorry as we all would have been to see him go, the move was to trade Allen for whatever you could have gotten — whether it be a draft pick or a younger body — and stockpile for the future. You know how Danny does it, it’s all about collecting chips. And this was a chance for him to grab one. A chance to head into this offseason with a whole bunch of cap room and possibly three first round picks! But he balked at the chance, and opted for one last futile run with his Big 3. He sacrificed a little piece of future to keep peace in the present. And other than for nostalgia — which definitely counts for something — it didn’t make sense.
Even more now that Bradley’s clearly capable of stepping in — and only getting better.
And looking ahead, I think that’s one of the biggest questions facing this franchise:
How good is Avery Bradley?
Now that his game has clicked, and it’s clear he’s not the next Gerald Green, where does it end? Is there something to this Rondo/Bradley backcourt? Is this the runningmate Rondo’s been waiting for? The first major piece of his Celtics puzzle?
If you told me at the beginning of the season that Avery Bradley would set himself apart as a key piece of Boston’s future, I would have poured out some liquor in honor of the soon-deceased Celtics franchise. But all of a sudden, the future Bradley-Rondo back court provides a glimmer of light at the end of the Big Three’s tunnel.
It’s unclear what path the Celtics will take following this season, but I’m now legitimately excited to watch Bradley begin nurturing his game and harnessing his potential. I’m not quite sure what his ceiling is — can he become a solid full-time starter? Better? Will his lack of true shooting guard height and/or point guard skills relegate him to Sixth Man duty for most of his career? Will he make All-Defensive teams? Will his offensive game ever become refined? Somewhere underneath that 20.8 percent three-point shooting and 9.56 PER is a jump shot that doesn’t look awful, but can Bradley ever improve it and become an offensive force who can do more than cut backdoor?
The answers to those questions will come in time, but for now, the fact that we can even ask them points to how much Bradley has proved during this lockout season. It will be nice to have Ray Allen back, but a legitimate case can be made that Bradley deserves his starting spot.
P.S. — It’s bad news 100 percent of the time when your 36-year old shooting guard with a history of balky ankles needs a cortisone shot in one of his ankles, even if the shot helped Allen feel better on Tuesday. (Green Street)
“I never liked taking shots or taking medicine. I tried to do everything as natually as I can. Sometimes your body needs a kick in the right direction. Physically, the time off was good. My ankle was kind of pissed off. I kind of gave it a little help and time off was good but getting that joint lubricated [was] more than it was otherwise.”
“I felt good to be out on the floor,” Allen said. “My legs felt great today. I had a shot in the ankle on game day the other day and had all day [Monday] for it to manuver through my body and coming into today, I felt like I had two new wheels.”
“Oh yeah, going through shootaround and kind of favoring it, holding it, feeling different feelings and wincing, I didn’t feel that at all today,” Allen said.