Bradley focused as bigger role on C's nears

Bradley focused as bigger role on C's nears
October 1, 2013, 1:45 am
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Avery Bradley and the Celtics will play in their preseason opener tonight against the Raptors.

(USA Today Sports Images)

WALTHAM -- Avery Bradley isn't one for many words but he made his message clear on Boston Celtics Media Day -- he is zoned in on basketball.

Following an offseason in which he lost his mother and became a father, the soft-spoken guard concentrated on his life on the court, not away from it.

"I've just been trying to focus on basketball," he said. "I'm just worrying about this upcoming season, just trying to worry about whatever I can do to help this team."

Bradley enters this season with a more increased role than in the past. At only 22 years old, he is one of the longest tenured members of the Celtics. He will be called upon to be a consistent contributor, a task Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge believes he is capable of fulfilling.

Bradley had a breakthrough sophomore year during the 2011-12 season, earning a spot in the starting lineup and showing glimpses into a promising career as a lockdown defender. But injuries cut his run short during the playoffs and he underwent double shoulder surgery. Last season's return wasn't as impactful, and Ainge hopes to see the 2012 version of Bradley in the 2013-14 season.

"Last year, I think he'd be the first to tell you he didn't play as well as he was capable of playing," said Ainge. "He didn't play as free as he would like to play. I think he's mentally stronger having gone through that and I'm hoping that we'll have the Avery of that second year this year."

Being healthy will help that. Bradley says he feels "amazing right now" when it comes to his shoulders. He also looks forward to participating in the first training camp of his career, something that had been prevented by injuries in years past.

Part of being in training camp means being to work with the coaches on the court rather than studying game film with them and walking through drills. Bradley has embraced head coach Brad Stevens, who was hired this summer following the departure of Doc Rivers, with open arms. The two have already spent hours together in offseason workouts and discussions about hoops.

"He's a very great guy," said Bradley. "We've all been calling him a basketball junkie because he truly loves the game. In these few weeks I've been here, I've been able to learn so much from him. I respect him a lot and I appreciate him because he just wants to see everybody succeed and he's taught us a lot since we've been here."

Stevens has begun sharing point guard know-how with Bradley, a position he could play this season while Rajon Rondo recovers from ACL surgery. Bradley has played at the one spot the past and says he is open to stepping into any role the team asks of him. Even though Bradley's previous point guard experience often included Paul Pierce, Ainge believes he can succeed in the position without his former teammate.

"A lot of his point guard play we were able to win because we had Paul facilitate a lot of the offense," said Ainge. "It will be different this year, we don't have Paul, we'll have to run different things. Do I think he can play minutes at the point guard? Absolutely."

Ainge also deemed Bradley the Celtics best defender, a superlative Bradley does not take lightly.

"(I want to bring) the intensity, that bulldog mentality," he said. "Everything starts first on the defensive end for me, so I just want to go out there and play hard every possession, make it contagious so my teammates do the same thing."

Once a shy rookie, Bradley is now a go-to player in his fourth NBA season. Coaches and players alike will turn to the disciplined guard on and off the court, and he is ready to come through for them.

"I don't really talk that much," he said. "I feel like the best thing to do is lead by example. That's what I'm going to try to do, come into every practice, be the first one here, work the hardest, be the first one in drills and hope it rubs off on my teammates."