OFFSEASON

C's need all of Avery

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C's need all of Avery

I don't want to oversimplify the Celtics' current struggles, but at the same time, I don't want to overlook a very basic and obvious storyline in this up-and-down season. Or really, the last two up-and-down seasons.

That is:

1. The Celtics are a very good team with Avery Bradley on the court.

2. The Celtics are a very average team without Avery Bradley on the court.

I broke down the numbers in my column from the morning of Avery's return, and just for fun, here they are again:

I'm sure some people will find that last part ridiculous, but those people forget how effective Bradley was down the stretch last season. That over 15 games in April (after officially reclaiming the starting two spot), Bradley averaged 15.1 points a night, shot .520 from the field and .545 from three point land. That more often than not, he was and will continue to be the most dominant defensive player on the floor. That he's egoless, a guy who doesn't need plays run for him, and LOVES moving without the ball. That last season, the Celtics were 20-8 in games started by Bradley and 19-19 when he came off the bench. That even in the playoffs, as Bradley played through two bad shoulders, the Celtics offensive rating was 105.9 with AB on the court and 98.8 with him on the bench. That their defensive rating 90.2 with him on the court and 103.1 with him on the bench. That, bottom line: He makes the Celtics a better team.

What happened next?

The Celtics eased Bradley back into action that night, in a 10-point loss to Memphis. After that, with AB in the mix, they won six straight games; their longest winning streaking in more than two years. Four of those wins came against quality, playoff-caliber teams. We all believed that they had finally turned the corner.

What happened next?

Bradley injured his ribs against the Hornets and the Celtics lost. He missed the game against the Bulls and the Celtics lost. He played against the Pistons last Sunday, but he shouldn't have; he was nowhere near his typically tenacious self. And the Celtics lost again, leading to Doc Rivers now famous post-game rant.

So, to sum it up: In six games with a healthy Avery Bradley, the season went from shambles to saved; in three games since his latest injury, it went from saved to "TRADE EVERYBODY!"

Like I said before, I don't want to oversimplify things. After all, Doc Rivers doesn't have a reputation as a guy who carelessly loses his cool the way he did in Detroit. You get the sense that his frustration runs much deeper than one three-game losing streak, and that, Avery or not, there are guys in that locker room who aren't living up to the coach's crazy (but necessary) expectations.

I'm just saying that it might be worth seeing what happens with a healthy Bradley back in the lineup before re-tooling the entire roster.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA