Bradley's decision to go pro paying off

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Bradley's decision to go pro paying off

TORONTO For elite college basketball players, March Madness is often followed by April Agony with many unsure whether to take their talents to the NBA or stay in college.

Avery Bradley has been there, done that.

He left the University of Texas after one season, a decision that at the time was viewed as questionable.

Even after the Boston Celtics took him in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, there were still questions about whether he left too soon.

Those questions today?

Nowhere to be found, with Bradley establishing himself as one of the emerging talents in the NBA whose play has been one of the keys to the Celtics' surge to the top of the Atlantic Division.

Injuries, more than anything else, buried him on the C's bench as a rookie.

But in this his first healthy season, Bradley is proving that he belongs in the NBA now - something he was confident about when he decided to leave school early.

"I feel it was more so about my family," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "Not only that, I was ready to take my game to the next level. I feel one-year, two years, three years, if you feel like you're ready to go, you should go. That's what it was for me. I was ready."

Bradley fully expected to have his ups and downs as an NBA rookie, but trouble began before he was drafted when he suffered a chipped bone in his ankle during a pre-draft workout.

"Oh, I was nervous," Bradley said when he learned of the injury. "But I still had confidence in myself. Like I said, it really doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. It's up to you and your family. You need to make the best decision for you and your family, nobody else. "

Far removed from his days leading up to the draft, Bradley still has vivid memories of being drafted by the Celtics as well as his first days inside the C's locker room.

"The first time I got here, I was nervous walking into that locker room with Shaq and Ray Allen, guys that I grew up watching play," Bradley admitted.

Although he didn't play much, Bradley made a point of listening to everything - EVERYTHING - that the veterans who were playing, would say to him.

During time-outs during games, you would often find Bradley during his rookie season listening in to head coach Doc Rivers giving instructions to the players about to head back on the floor. During the game, he could often be found chatting with his older teammates, guards and big men alike.

And this past summer, he spent some time with Rivers with the goal being to develop a better repoire so that this season, Rivers would feel more comfortable with him both as a player and as a person.

"A lot of people say I'm mature for my age," said Bradley, 21. "I think it comes from them, being around them, being professional, learning how to do the right things, play the right way."

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey is among the (growing) list of folks impressed with Bradley's play and the impact he has made on a Celtics team that's loaded with seasoned, Hall-of-Fame bound veterans.

And while Casey recognizes and appreciates Bradley's play, he believes having those veterans around have also helped his transition from being a first-round pick on a veteran, to an NBA starter.

"The veterans have given him confidence," Casey said. "He took the opportunity, and this league is about opportunity. If you get a chance to step out there and play, he's done that. I'm happy for the young man just not tonight."

Bradley's play has been instrumental in a Celtics unit ratcheting up their play defensively to a level that has caught the league totally off-guard.

"They're two pit bulls," Casey said of Bradley teaming up with Rajon Rondo in the backcourt.

And Bradley has emerged lately as being more than just a tough defender.

"Before you could go under on him in pick and rolls," Casey said. "Now he's knocking down everything. They're playing like a well-oiled machine right now, playing together, playing with a sense of purpose, urgency."

And while most see Bradley as simply making the most of his chance to play, there's more to his emergence than being in the right place at the right time. Hours spent after practice working on his game, hours spent before listening to coaches, being part of the scout team, listening to those around him give him encouragement, advice it all brought Bradley to where he's at now - an NBA starter for one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

And it all came about because Bradley ignored conventional wisdom, and did what all NBA players do - he went with his instincts and entered the NBA draft.

"That's why it doesn't really matter what anybody else thinks. When people are coming out the draft, you don't worry about anyone but yourself and your family," Bradley reiterated. "Right now, I just worry about my team and how I can play and help them and help us win. Starting now, I don't worry about scoring or anything other than what can I do to help my team win. At the end of the day, people won't see the little things that your teammates see and know. I play for my teammates. As long as they see what I'm doing, how hard I'm working, that's all I care about."

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

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Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while picking the San Jose Sharks over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

 

*Patrick Lalime hopped on sports radio in Ottawa, and said the Chris Phillips/Zdeno Chara defense pairing was the best he ever played behind.

 

*Don Cherry had a major problem with Steven Stamkos suiting up and playing in the losing Game 7 to the Penguins.

 

*Phil Kessel gets pretty emotional about finally getting to the Stanley Cup Final after years of struggle in Toronto.

 

*USA Today’s Kevin Allen says the gap between the No. 1 goaltender and the backup isn’t what it used to be.

 

*Speaking the Sharks, the trip back to Pittsburgh for the Cup Final brings back memories for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

 

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) writer has the news about Dustin Brown getting stripped of the captaincy with the LA Kings.

 

*Bryan Rust was in the AHL to start this season, but much like Mike Sullivan and Matt Murray he killed it for the Penguins in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: It’s official that moving Jackie Bradley Jr. in the lineup wasn’t what killed his hitting streak.

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

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Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move. 

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

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Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
 
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
 
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
 
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
 
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
 
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
 
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
 
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
 
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
 
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
 
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
 
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
 
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
 
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
 
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
 
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
 
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
 
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
 
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
 
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
 
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
 
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
 
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
 
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender.