Celtics may start slow after lockout

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Celtics may start slow after lockout

When it comes to fast starts, there are few who do it better than the Boston Celtics.

In the Big 3 (now Big 4 if you include Rajon Rondo) Era, the Celtics have been the one team no one wants to see early on.

Look at the numbers. Dating back to the 2007-08 season, Boston has won more than 87 percent of its games prior to Christmas -- easily the best in the NBA.

However, that success has come after a full offseason of free agency, training camp and preseason games. This season, which will kick off on Christmas Day, is anything but business as usual for teams like the Celtics.

With the NBA and players tentatively agreeing to a compressed 66-game schedule, it will be a challenge to all teams -- especially clubs like the Celtics.

Their core group (Rondo excluded) is old, and with the games coming faster and more furious than past years, the C's will struggle to keep up with their younger, more athletic opponents.

Sounds familiar? It should. Lockout or no lockout, we've heard this before about the Celtics.

Every year, actually.

And there they are, bolting out to start the season better than anyone else, positioning themselves for title talk before the calendar flips to a new year.

But this is a totally new season, and the Celtics will be a totally different team. And unlike their past success, their starting point to the season has changed as well.

But the biggest change, maybe more than anything else, is there will likely be more new faces playing prominent roles in the rotation, than past years.

The Celtics only have six players under contract this season. That does not include Jeff Green, a restricted free agent that the C's have said repeatedly they want to re-sign.

"It'll be a different makeup (this season)," Rondo said. "A lot of different guys; a lot of new faces around the city. We'll try and get them accustomed to how we do things here in Boston and go for a championship."

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – When you look at Avery Bradley’s growth this season, seeing the tremendous strides he has made offensively is clear.

But at the heart of Bradley’s game remains a desire to dominate a matchup as a defender, something that was alive and well on Monday as he made his return to the floor after missing the four previous games with an Achilles strain.

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Bradley’s defense would prove instrumental in Boston’s 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

He was 2-for-9 from the field and played nearly 33 minutes against Hornets which is just a couple minutes under his season average of court time.

Usually he’s responsible for providing a boost at both ends of the floor.

But considering his long lay-off, it was clear early on that he was locked in defensively more so than looking to get back on track shooting the ball.

“You take any type of games off in this league, your rhythm and all that you gotta get it back,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.

Even though his shots weren’t falling, Bradley was on top of his game defensively while guarding 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum who is six inches taller but never was a factor on Monday.

Batum finished with eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he got out of Bradley in his return to action.

“I thought he (Bradley) was great,” Stevens told CSNNE.com. “He did everything we needed him to do. We knew there would be a little bit of rust (shooting the ball), but that’s part of you playing your way back into it.”

As far as Bradley’s stifling defense on Batum, Stevens said, “You have to do that against Batum. I thought Avery did a really good job of that. It’s a hard matchup no matter what way you go. Batum, giving up inches to him. He (Bradley) was there on the catch all night.”

And as Bradley gradually gets back into a flow, he’ll regain the form offensively that made him one of the NBA’s better two-way players this season.