We all know that Bradley is a fantastic defender. He's the equivalent of a shutdown corner in football. Stick him on the best guard and expect that guard to be considerably slowed down. With that said, it sounds like even Bradley has room to grow. Basketball flows a little more than football. Sometimes you can't just shut down one side of the field and expect that to be enough. You have to work within the confines of the greater defensive scheme. (Note: the same is true for football but in a different way)
So where Doc Rivers was happy to use Bradley as an on-the-ball pressure pest, Brad Stevens wants him to think in broader terms.
Where Doc Rivers loved to unleash Bradley on opposing point guards in an attempt to disrupt the shot clock, Brad Stevens is asking for more control. The rookie coach is asking Bradley to become more of a stopper than a ball hound. Last night that meant focusing on the Nets’ Joe Johnson. He cooled down the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. last Saturday in Manchester, N.H. But change in focus isn’t always easy. At one point Bradley gave in to instinct and started pressuring the ball, only to see Stevens waving him back. "It was weird, but at the same time it makes me (think)," he said. "I was going to go for steals, but it makes me smarter in the defensive end. That helps our team out a lot. Taking time off the shot clock and speeding up the point guard is one of my strengths, but I don’t have to do it every time down."
Added Bradley, "I was always on the ball last year, so I could get time off the shot clock. But this year they want me to calm down a little bit more, not be so restless on defense, I guess you can say, going for steals. They want me to be disciplined and pick my spots every now and then, pick up full court [occasionally], but get back and play angles. They are just trying to make me into a great team defender, as well as an individual defender."
On one hand you hate to tinker too much with a good thing (which happens to be the best part of his game). On the other hand, there's always room for improvement. I think one reason for the change is the fact that we don't have Kevin Garnett anchoring the middle anymore. So Bradley has to help out his teammates and prevent that softened core from being overly exposed.
It will also be nice when Bradley doesn't have to worry as much about helping out at point guard and focusing more on being an off-guard. Adding ball handling to his duties is a good learning development, but he's obviously not a long term solution at point guard.
It is still preseason and this whole season is going to be used for growth and development. So it should be interesting to see how Stevens continues to mold young players like Bradley.