While it has only been a week since Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the new season is already upon us.
For many Celtics fans, the NBA Draft is closure to a season that fell just short of the ultimate goal. For Avery Bradley, it is the start of what he, and we, hope is a successful career wearing Green and White.
He certainly has high expectations for himself coming into the league.
"I would definitely love to be one of the top defenders in the league and I want to try to get Rookie of the Year- that's my goal," said Bradley.
Bradley, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound freshman guard out of Texas, was drafted by the Celtics with the 19th pick in the draft.
He started 32 of 34 games as a freshman for Texas averaging 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.3 steals.
While Bradley's college numbers are not out-of-this-world great, a lot of what Bradley does won't show up on the stat sheets.
"I love his speed, I can tell you that," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He has unbelievable speed, a good in-between game; he can make the spot up jump shots."
Bradley played the shooting guard position at Texas, but it seems as though the Celtics plan on using him as a point guard or combo-guard on the court.
"He's an NBA defender right now, and he can play point guard defense on anybody in the league, and that's huge for us. But he has to learn the position; he has to be a point guard. So with Rondo in front of him he'll be a good teacher."
"I feel like the coaching staff there is going to help me get better and better and feel more comfortable playing the point guard position," said Bradley. "And I can also learn from the older guys like Rondo to help me become a better point guard."
"I watched [Rondo] a lot not only on the defensive end but on the offensive end as well. I know that he is a very good defender and I'm going to be able to learn a lot of things from him."
One glaring weakness after looking at Bradley's stat sheet is his free throw percentage. He shot 45 percent from the field, but a very Rajon Rondo-like 55 percent from the free-throw line. Yes, Rondo can be a good teacher in front of him, but Bradley better hope Ray Allen returns to the C's if he wants to learn how to shoot free throws better.
He was a Big 12 All-Freshman Team and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection in 2009-10. Also, he competed for the USA Junior Select Team in the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit as a high school senior.
But Avery really made a name for himself while playing high school ball at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. It was there he led the team to a 33-0 record and was later named ESPNrise.com High School National Player of the Year and ranked as the No. 1 prospect nationally by ESPNU. Bradley was a McDonalds All-American and Jordan All-American and actually won the slam dunk contest at the McDonald's All-American Game.
This is exactly the type of player Celtics GM Danny Ainge loves. Ainge has a history of falling in love (for better or worse) with big name high school players. Bradley fits this mold perfectly. The difference between Bradley and some other big name high school players that didn't work out for the Celtics (I'm looking at you Gerald Green) is that Bradley already plays great defense.
"Danny kept talking about all the offensive things, but what stood out to me clearly was his defense," said Rivers. "As a freshman, the way he defended right away, you don't get that very often..."
Bradley agrees with Rivers that it is his defense that makes him stand out above the rest at this time in his career.
"I definitely feel that [defense] is the part of the game that I'm most comfortable with right now," said Bradley. "I feel like I have to work on every part of my game even on the defensive end but defense is definitely the strongest part of my game right now."
Rivers also noted that his two sons have played against Bradley during AAU tournaments.
"It's funny," said Rivers. "The one, Austin, who is more offensive minded- the first thing he said was, ‘that kid plays hard defense.' So if Austin noticed that he played defense, he's probably a good defender."
What should make Bradley a late lottery to mid-first round pick is his ability to be a lock down defender ... He uses his long arms and persistent nature, constantly causing havoc for whoever is handling the ball... His off the ball defense is no different, and if you watch him follow his man around the court, you'll notice the focus and concentration he has on trying to prevent his man from getting the ball ... His defensive intensity shows he takes pride on this side of the ball, and makes it seem like he wants to be the best perimeter defender in the league, which he might have been his freshman year at Texas...
The scouting report on Bradley is that he is an explosive guard who knows how to play both ends of the floor- something Doc has constantly tried to get his team to do. The fact that Doc already thinks that Bradley is an NBA-ready defender proves how highly they thought of him. Ainge really wanted Bradley, and there was a very good chance that the Celtics were going to trade down in the draft is Bradley was picked before the Celtics were on the board. Rivers said there was one other player they were targeting, but that they expected that player to be on the board at that time.
Bradley will hop on a plane and make his way to Boston for a press conference sometime on Friday. He is now a member of the 17-time NBA Champion Boston Celtics.
"It means a lot," said Bradley. "As far as the history, all their championships and all the good players who played on their team, it's just an honor to be able to play on a team like this. It means it's like a family to me. I'm pretty sure you guys (the media) agree just watching them play, how they have each others backs and how hard they play every single night."
Rivers Still Undecided
Doc Rivers is still undecided on his future with the Celtics. Asked what made him decide to come up to Boston for the draft, Rivers responded, "Well, because I'm still an employee. Danny wanted me to be here."
There's no doubt that the ownership and the players want Rivers to stay.
"The players have been very vocal of late," said Rivers. "But, you know, that's good, we're very close so I understand that from Kevin (Garnett) and Paul (Pierce) and those guys."
"I don't think there's a better organization," said Rivers. "That's something I've known pretty much for a while. You can't get this anywhere. I don't think you can get this anywhere. As a matter of fact, Danny and I, our relationship- he's my boss but he's one of my best friends. When you look around the league, you don't see that. You don't see the two getting along, you don't see the two being able to fight and argue and then go golf right afterwards so that's a tough part of it."
It was reported tonight that Rasheed Wallace had officially retired from the NBA after 15 seasons. For Rivers, he knew the time would come just a few days before the NBA Finals concluded.
"I don't think he's going to change his mind," said Rivers. "Rasheed had told me three days before the last game that he was pretty sure that it was it. Then the night before he said he was going to give me everything he got because this is my last time playing and he was pretty definite about it. But again, it was very emotional then, so you never know. I think it is."
Many questioned Wallace's passion and effort throughout the regular season, but it would be tough to question his effort in the postseason- the time he said it would matter the most.
"He went out great," Rivers said. "I mean, he went out literally, there were times where you saw we had to pull him out to stretch him, I mean he was struggling in that game and he gave everything he had in his body on that night. And that's what you want."
Pierce and Allen- Celtics for Life?
While members of the Celtics are all wondering what Doc's plans are for next year, Doc is quick to turn the tables and make them focus on their own contract situations. Both Pierce and Ray Allen have the option to leave the Celtics this season, but Rivers is quick to tell them that this place is where they belong- for life.
"Both of them should always be Celtics for the rest of their careers, and I'm very honest with them about that. And I think Paul wants to be that. Obviously he's going to have to do his job, and whatever that part is- the business part- and he's going to do it. But I made it very clear to both of them- ‘You guys are Celtics, you are Celtics for life.' And I tell them, ‘it wouldn't be right to see you anywhere else.'"