Perhaps more than any other Celtic player, the work Avery Bradley puts in this offseason could define his career for years to come. Bradley’s intense defense and incredible athleticism make him a formidable, intriguing player, but his offensive limitations are significant.
During this offseason, Bradley is working with Chris Hyppa, a Washington-based basketball trainer, to improve his offensive game. Hyppa trains male and female athletes of every level, from youth to professional, putting them through rigorous ball-handling and shooting workouts to prepare them for in-game situations. Hyppa stresses the importance “situational training” in his workouts; putting players in a position that they might find themselves in an actual game, and teaching them to understand why the workouts they are doing are relevant and how to properly apply them.
I talked to Hyppa about his work with Bradley so far and what he believes Bradley can become.
Celtics Town: How did you and Bradley initially meet?
Chris Hyppa: We are from the same area. Obviously, he’s about 10 years younger than me, but we’ve known of each other and we are from the same area, raised by the same environment.
CT: What did he say when he approached you for training?
Hyppa: This past offseason, he reached out to me and the first thing he said was “I want to be an all-star.” Obviously, he’s one of the better defenders in the league, but for him to be an all-star, he’s going to need to score more and add some more tools to his offense. He’s going to be back and forth between here and Texas, but whenever he’s in Washington we are going to be in the gym, and we’ll continue to train. Our relationship right now is really starting to grow, and I’m looking forward to helping him. I think he’s one of the best athletes in the league.
This past offseason, [Bradley] reached out to me and the first thing he said was “I want to be an all-star.”
CT: Right now, Bradley is a player with very defined strengths and weaknesses. Do you work to emphasize the strengths or improve on the weaknesses, as his trainer?
Hyppa: Right now we are trying to improve on what he’s not very good at. We are trying to improve his ball-handling. Looked at five guards in the East who are all-stars right now, last year it was Rondo, Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, Paul George, Dwyane Wade. Those were the five guards in the East. The thing those five players can do, what they have in common, is that they can create their own shot consistently, night in and night out. Right now, Avery’s biggest weakness is creating his own shot. If he can do that consistently, he can be in the same category as those five.
He’s gotten to the point where you can rely on him for a drive and kick spot-shooting three. He’s not Ray Allen yet, but he’s becoming more and more consistent from that spot. I’m trying to add more mid-range, giving him more and more options. If he can do that consistently night in and night out, he’s going to be an all-star. I spend a lot of time working on his weaknesses. We do a lot of things he may not know how to do, or things that would be a challenge for him to do by himself.
CT: So I’m guessing you are working on a lot of one- or two-dribble pull-ups?
Hyppa: That’s pretty much all we did this past week. That was our main focus. Obviously, we did a lot of ball-handling. That’s what we do to get warmed up, spend about half an hour on ball-handling. We do a lot of stationary stuff, four to five dribble combo stuff. We worked on a lot of different ways to score at the rim. Right now, you look at guys who are getting drafted into the league, like Steve Nash and Chris Paul, they are small and they have to be crafty around the rim. So we worked on different ways for him to score around the rim, floaters, reverses and footwork stuff so he won’t always have to dunk it.
He is a great athlete, but he’s still only about 6’3, so for him to be in the league 9, 10, 11, 12 years, he’s not going to be the athlete he is now. So he’s going to have to work on being a little more crafty, and we’ve been working on some more floaters and that kind of thing. But this week, we did work on a lot of one-bounce, two-bounce shots, quick jabstep, off the catch, just trying to create space and score.
CT: In Doc Rivers’ system, Bradley has mostly been playing shooting guard, except for last season with Rondo being out. Is shooting guard where you see him as the best fit?
Hyppa: Avery has a killer instinct. He’s always been a killer. So we look at him and he’s more of a scorer than he is a point guard. I think he’ll be able to score more points than assists. He might be able to average 4-5 assists per game, but that’s not someone like Rondo who can get you 14-15 a game because he’s used to running the show and knows how to get the ball to guys. Avery has an instinct to score. Now he just has to perfect that craft through repetition, repetition, repetition. I see him as a natural scorer.
Avery has a killer instinct. He’s always been a killer.
CT: So is conditioning a focus as well, or do you mostly work on skill areas?
Hyppa: He’s been instructed to take some time off, which I think all players are after playing six months. It’s important to take some time off. We have not incorporated any conditioning, but in my training, you’ll get conditioning in the workout. If he goes as hard as he can and does what I expect, we’ll condition him in the workout, and he won’t even know it. I think that’s the best way to do it: Let’s condition ourselves doing basketball stuff.
We aren’t doing five days a week for three hours a day either, because you don’t want to burn the kid out. We are going hard, but the workouts might only be an hour and twenty minutes. The workouts are intense and to the point, and he gets in and gets out. There’s not a lot of wasted time. We get in and do what we have to do.
CT: You mentioned you believe Bradley can be an all-star. After working with him, how soon do you think that could realistically happen?
Hyppa: I would say the more opportunities he gets, the more growth you’ll see. Now, you look at the stature of the team, I don’t know what kind of offseason changes will be made, but there is a chance he gets thrust into a situation where he has to do more scoring, and he’s capable of doing that. I believe he could be an all-star in the next couple years. Honestly, I do.
CT: Who would you compare Bradley to, after working with him? What’s his ceiling?
Hyppa: (Very long pause) That’s a good question. He gets after it defensively and… (another pause). I wouldn’t compare him to anyone. He’s unique. He’s a defensive stopper whose offensive game will make him an all-star. I don’t have a comparison off the top of my head.
CT: Any last thoughts on Bradley?
Hyppa: His hard work. He has a want, a burning inside of him, where he is not just happy to be in the league. He wants to be great. For him to reach out to me, that says a lot about that kid. He wants to improve. Some guys get in the league and are content with being on the bench and being a role guy. He doesn’t want that. He wants to be the best he can be.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisHyppa.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.