Danny Ainge may be giving the players some time away from basketball, but we are calling every player on the roster into our Celtics Town offices for their exit interviews for the rest of this week. Here’s the ninth in the series: Avery Bradley.
Your mid-season return from surgery left all of Celtics Nation hoping you were the answer. The unknown toyed with us all, remembering you as a glorified player who absolutely shut down the opposing guard and made enough backdoor cuts to provide 16 points a game on lay-ups. This was our fault; we let our imaginations get the best of us.
Since your emergence during your second year you have been consistently one of my favorite players to watch. Watching you wreak havoc on defense is truly a joy; seeing you beat the offensive player to the spot before they can even think about driving makes me giddy. Also I love the times you got open looks off of screens, just to make the open mid-range jumper just like in your Dunkin Donuts commercial.
You did provide a lot of what we needed, another defensive stopper and someone to stretch the floor, but maybe you were not the answer. You are still young and need time to develop. Sorry for rushing that process a little bit. After starting for the Celtics in the playoffs last year and having such a positive effect with Ray Allen coming off the bench, you appeared ready. The insurance policy and perhaps the extra motivation of the greatest three-point shooter behind you on the bench has to mean something– maybe something changed a little bit.
At times you seemed to rush the shot, seemingly fresh out of a timeout where Doc encouraged you to “take the open looks!” and taking that directly to heart, shooting the next four shots regardless of the presence of potential defenders. Other times, perhaps without Doc’s pep talk you disappeared on offense, sitting in the corner ready for the three point attempt, but mostly deferring to Rondo, Pierce, or Garnett. The reality of the situation is that Ray Allen spread the floor in ways you could not. The more condensed paint was difficult to penetrate for Boston’s offensively challenged sets. This was not your fault, I promise, but it was difficult not to reminisce about what was.
This was a trend for you, as a great deal of undue pressure was put on your shoulders this season. Having to fill a role you were not meant to– an outside shooter and a ball handler due to injuries and departures during the off season. Rondo’s injury forced you into becoming one of the primary ball handlers. Simply put, it just wasn’t meant to be.
These playoffs were particularly tough. You seemed to disappear for long stretches of game play, getting in early foul trouble and never being able to rediscover your rhythm. It looked like the Knicks could have had some permanent damage on your career, with Iman Shumpert out ‘Avery Bradley-ing’ you for much of the series. Then the fourth quarter of game six happened– you got back to the Avery Bradley we know and love, harassing mediocre ball handlers and hounding the opposition as they attempt to set up their offense. The Knicks were a lot less effective with isolation plays when they could only work for 10 seconds as opposed to 15 seconds. Doing the small things began to come naturally for you once again. Your impact highly contributed to the Celtics cutting a 24-point deficit down to four during the almost heroic game six comeback. You gave Celtic Nation the entire offseason to re-expand all of our expectations for the line-up of the future with you playing alongside Rondo, Green, and Sullinger. Hope was restored, and for that I thank you.
The next step for you should be identifying good shots from bad. You tend to make the open looks, but sometimes force it, already determining what you are going to do as opposed to reading the defense and reacting to how they are playing you. Next year you should be able to return to your more natural shooting guard position with the return of Rondo so you can begin to regain your confidence at both ends of the floor. Also, while I am at it — whether it is your fault or the referees not knowing how to handle the ‘Avery Bradley experience’ there needs to some adjustments as to not getting so many foul calls. The Celtics need you on the court, so picking and choosing times to be aggressive on both ends on the court will truly take your game to the next level.
You are and continue to be a huge piece for the Boston Celtics franchise, and will always be one of my favorite players to watch. Thanks for all your hard work this season, hopefully next year you will be able to feel more comfortable and be able to expand on your contributions to close the season.
Follow Jesse on Twitter: @J_duderanch