BOSTON – 2013 was a year of ups and downs for Avery Bradley. It began with his return from double shoulder surgery on January 2nd that started a season of inconsistent shooting on a team that struggled to stay afloat after losing Rajon Rondo. Then his mother Alicia died a week before his son Avery III was born with training camp approaching.
After struggling to run the point, Brad Stevens moved Bradley to the shooting guard and he has flourished, finding his midrange shot and reestablishing his role as a defensive juggernaut.
"He's a guy that's still, even as much of a reputation he has developed over time for his defensive ability and his quickness and explosion on offense; he's a guy that's still really young and really developing, you know, who he is as a basketball player on the offensive floor," Stevens said before the Celtics host the Hawks in a New Years Eve matinee.
"And I think he's figuring out what he does best. And not only what you do best, but what applies at this level that you can do well. ‘Cause I think there's a lot of guys that can do things well that doesn't translate well at this level and he's figured that out and I think he's still got room to grow. It's been a positive thus far."
Bradley has been a reliable cog in a Celtics lineup that has been a model for inconsistent effort within games. While blowing double digits leads has become the norm for the Celtics, Bradley is one of the few players that can be pointed to as upholding the standard for consistent effort that was the calling card of the Big Three era.
"I came in here knowing that he was a guy that they thought highly of and I got a chance to meet him on my introductory press conference day and I really appreciated him stopping by," Stevens said.
"I could tell he was a good person by the way that he interacted with our family and everything else. So it never surprises me when guys with that kind of ability and that kind of people improve at a good rate. He's been easy to coach, he's taken coaching and I think he'll just continue to get better."
High moral character has been a clear indicator for Bradley's NBA career arc, but the skill set took time to recover after significant surgeries set him back for a season. Playing in a system with more freedom, the all-around game that once put him atop his high school recruiting class with John Wall is emerging. With free agency looming, the timing is perfect.
The big question now is how much better (and richer) 2014 will be for Bradley.