Bradley relishes chance to face Crawford

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Bradley relishes chance to face Crawford

BOSTON -- Avery Bradley was happy to play against the Portland Trail Blazers, and it had nothing to do with the Boston Celtics blowout win.

On Friday night Bradley faced off against his friend and mentor, Jamal Crawford. Bradley considers Crawford to be the leader of a tight-knit Seattle-area basketball brotherhood which also includes Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, and Terrence Williams, among others.

I feel like hes a leader for all the guys that come out of Seattle now, Bradley told CSNNE.com. Hes been in the league the longest out of all of us and he looks out for all of us. He gives us all advice. I can speak for all of us, Nate, all of us, we all look up to Jamal.

Bradley met Crawford during high school when he was ranked the top player in the country. Crawford had years of NBA experience under his belt at that time and was eager to share it with the teenager. That began a strong bond that continued as Bradley attended the University of Texas and was selected by the Celtics with the 19th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

He's such a humble kid, Crawford, an 11-year veteran, told CSNNE.com. He's a guy who wants to continue to get better. I watched him grow and heard about him for so long when he was in high school playing with Abdul Gaddy. All those guys, I just try to show them the right way to do things. We hang around as much as possible in the summer. The thing that makes us special in Seattle is we're a close-knit fraternity of guys who all support each other. When Averys doing something, were all supporting him and vice versa.

Crawford has noticed Bradley playing with more confidence this season, noting a solid performance during the Celtics recent loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They didnt win the game but it was a big step for him, I felt, playing against a top-flight point guard like Russell Westbrook, he said.

As Bradleys role off the Celtics bench behind Rajon Rondo increases, he appreciates the advice he has received from one of the leagues top sixth men. Crawford has made a successful career outside of the starting lineup.

Jamal could be a star on any team, but he accepts his role and he goes out there and he plays hard, said Bradley. But at the same time, hes a vet in this league and I feel like he knows the game and hes been through a lot of the things that Im going through or could go through. To see how much better hes got throughout the years -- because everybody knows who Jamal is and everybody knows he can play -- just makes me want to be like him.

Two years into the NBA, Bradleys career has been invaluably impacted by Crawford.

He doesnt know that, but all the young guys, Im telling you, we all look up to him, Bradley said. If you go and ask a young kid, Whos the best player coming out of Seattle? theyre going to say, Jamal Crawford.

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.