Bradley impressed by fans' reaction to Antoine Walker


Bradley impressed by fans' reaction to Antoine Walker

BOSTON -- Avery Bradley watched as fans upon fans expressed their admiration for the former veteran NBA player.

In spite of what has happened since he left the league, they remembered the highlights of the years he spent on the Boston Celtics -- the playoff runs, the big games, and of course, the shimmies.

On Tuesday night Bradley was joined by Antoine Walker for an adidas Retro Real Deal autograph signing at Concepts in Cambridge. Bradley was taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive response Walker received from his fans.

"It was crazy to see how (they) reacted to him, the stories people were telling him, how nice he was," the Celtics guard told prior to their game against the Bulls. "One kid was like, 'You've been my favorite player since I was eight. I met you and you were so nice to me.' I know it was weird for him to see them come back to see him, for them to say how nice he was then, because everybody else could have just walked past him but they stopped . . . People still had his jerseys."

Bradley, 22, grew up watching Walker, now 36, and was in high school when Walker played his last NBA game. Years later, Bradley now sits in the same locker room the former forward occupied for eight seasons, a commonality he calls, "crazy."

"Of course (I followed his career,)" said Bradley. "He was a great player. He still is a great player. From all the stories I've heard from everybody, they say he's a great guy. Even from last night, I got to see it's true."

Since leaving the league, Walker's storyline has focused around his battles with bankruptcy and legal issues. Not on Tuesday, though. That night was about Walker reconnecting with the those who still appreciate what he brought to the court.

"It shows what kind of fans we (the Celtics) have, first of all," said Bradley. "And it shows what kind of person he was."

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
How different is anyone's guess.
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."