Bradley takes on idol, friend in Indiana's Ford

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Bradley takes on idol, friend in Indiana's Ford

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - A locker room attendant delivered a request to Avery Bradley following the Celtics win against the Pacers on Sunday.

T.J. Ford needed soap.

Under any other circumstances, Bradley would have been more than happy to lend him some suds.

But not this time. As they sat in opposing locker rooms, Bradleys childhood idol had become his competition.

I didnt give it to him, Bradley smiled and laughed. I cant do that for him now.

Bradley began watching the University of Texas mens basketball team when his family moved from Washington to Texas. Ford was a standout point guard for the Longhorns, and a young Bradley was hooked.

I just always looked up to him, Bradley told CSNNE.com. He was my favorite player then and its just crazy that Im playing against him now in the NBA.

Bradley and Ford were introduced through Bradleys AAU coach while he was still in high school. Ford was the first NBA player Bradley had ever met, and the nerves were overwhelming. In fact, Bradley was more nervous simply meeting Ford than he was playing against him for the first time in the NBA on Sunday.

The two kept in touch as Bradley followed in Fords footsteps and also played basketball for the Longhorns. Ford, who is seven years older than Bradley, embraced the role of mentor.

We have a good relationship and its continued to grow, Ford told CSNNE.com. Its been going on about three years. Hes a quiet kid, hes very soft-spoken, takes him a while to open up. But I think hes a very well-respected kid. He has great manners and I think hes going to be successful in this league.

Ford followed Bradleys collegiate career as he averaged nearly 12 points and 2 assists per game in his freshman (and only) season at Texas. Even though Bradley impressed the Celtics and was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Ford believed there was more talent to be seen.

Even at the University of Texas, you had flashes but he really didnt show all the talent that he really has and he wasnt able to put it together like everybody anticipated, said Ford. So I think he has a bright future and Im looking forward to see him get his opportunity.

Bradley, 20, has had to wait for his opportunity as a member of a veteran team. After rehabbing from ankle injuries, he has played a total of 38 minutes in seven games. Even in the absence of Rajon Rondo (ankle), Bradley understands he still has a ways to go in his rookie season.

Ford has been there to give him support during the learning process. One of his biggest points of emphasis to Bradley is understanding that the hard work he puts in now will pay off in the long run.

He usually always texts me after every game and tries to motivate me because he knows that I dont play that much being on the Celtics, said Bradley. He just tells me to learn as much as I can. He always says the same thing, like, I know that youre not playing that much, just learn as much as you can. You have a great team. Everything he says has something to do with that.

On Sunday, Bradley got the chance to put that advice to use when he faced off against Ford himself. The two started the second quarter at opposing point guard positions. Bradley looked ready against Ford early on, getting back on defense and attempting a shot over his mentor. But Ford, who said he planned to use some veteran moves, tossed an over-the-back pass by Bradley to Mike Dunleavy for a three-pointer.

By the end of the game the edge went to Ford, who scored 13 points (6-11 FG) in 18 minutes. Bradley was scoreless (including a missed free throw on a Ford foul) in over five minutes.

Even though Ford had the advantage over Bradley, he thinks this is just the beginning for the rookie.

Any time you can defend in this league, you can stick around a long time, Ford said. He was the number one player in high school at one point, so you take all those things into consideration and just know that with playing and building up his confidence, hes going to be a special kid.

Bradley will continue to soak up Fords advice as he plays his first year in the NBA, and Ford will continue to share his knowledge. He flashes a smile from ear-to-ear as he talks about Bradleys admiration and points out that he reads every article written on his mentee.

Hes a real big fan -- we talk about it all the time, said Ford. It means a lot to me, and its my job to help these kids at the same time so another kid can come around and say that he wants to be like Avery.

And when that happens, Bradley will know better than to ask him for soap.

Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba

Bulls trade Butler to Timberwolves in blockbuster draft-night trade

Bulls trade Butler to Timberwolves in blockbuster draft-night trade

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Tom Thibodeau took over in Minnesota last summer, a reunion with Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler seemed destined to happen.

For the coach that desperately wanted a defensive-minded veteran to set the tone for a talented young roster, and for the player who only truly realized what he had in that hard-driving leader after he was gone.

"It's been something that over a prolonged period of time there have been different moments where he's had to consider it and think about it," Butler's agent, Bernie Lee, told The Associated Press. "In some ways it feels like it was spoken into reality."

In the blockbuster move of draft night, the Bulls traded Butler and the 16th overall pick Thursday night to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick as the Wolves try to finally put an end to a 13-year playoff drought.

The trade brings together Butler and Wolves coach and president Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls for five seasons before being fired in 2015. Thibodeau helped Butler become an All-NBA performer and earn a $95 million contract and Butler helped Thibodeau instill the brass-knuckle mentality into those Bulls teams.

"The longer you are with somebody, the more deposits you have with each other, the trust is there," Thibodeau said. "You're not afraid to tell them the truth. So I think I know him well. I know the things that are important to him. I know he wants to win. And he wants to win big."

Now they're together again, trying to lead a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004.

"It's one of those moments where the excitement of tonight has to carry forward to the work that has to come," Lee said. "And if it does, it will really be a beautiful thing to see."

The Wolves paid a big price: Besides surrendering the lottery pick, they gave up a rising star in LaVine, who is coming off of a torn ACL and Dunn, last year's No. 5 overall pick. They were among the youngest teams in the league last season, cast as a team that could be a force once all of their pups grew up.

After a disappointing first season overseeing the operation, Thibodeau grabbed a fully grown pit bull to toughen the team up.

Butler played for Thibodeau for four seasons in Chicago, developing from an unheralded, late-first round draft pick into a perennial All-Star. The two strong-willed workaholics clashed on occasion during their time together and Butler said during the Olympics in Rio last summer that it was "love-hate" relationship.

But he also acknowledged that his appreciation for Thibodeau's hard-driving style increased as time went on, especially when the Bulls struggled in their first season under the more player-friendly Fred Hoiberg.

"They've come by their relationship honestly," Lee said. "They worked through a period to where they really came to learn what the other is about. ... They have a basis to work from, but things have changed and they've changed and adapted. They will take the starting point that they have, but they have to build on it."

The Wolves drafted Arizona sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen for the Bulls at No. 7 and the Bulls took Creighton forward Justin Patton at No. 16 for the Wolves. Patton is a 6-foot-11 forward who was the Big East freshman of the year after averaging 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds last season.

When Thibodeau was hired as team president and coach last summer, he quickly set his sights on bringing Butler to Minnesota. The two sides engaged on serious discussions on draft night last year, but couldn't close it.

LaVine was having a breakout third season in the league when he tore the ACL in his left knee in February. His rehabilitation has gone well, but the injury certainly complicated the Wolves' re-engaging Chicago on Butler. Adding to the difficulty was Dunn's underwhelming first year in Minnesota, which diminished his trade value.

With all that in play, the Wolves were forced to also offer up the No. 7 pick this season to push the deal over the top. But they did receive Chicago's first-round pick in return. The move, and the package they assembled to make it, signal an organization that is desperate to start winning.

Butler averaged career highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5) in his sixth season. He is also one of the league's top defenders, an absolute necessity for a young team that finished 26th in the league in defensive efficiency last season. He will turn 28 in September, right in the middle of his prime for a team in need of veteran leadership.

"The most important thing to me are the things he does every day, the way he practices, the things that he does in meetings, the way he prepares before a game, the things that he does for recovery," Thibodeau said. "He'll show our players a lot of the things that he's learned along the way."

The move also represents the first significant steps toward an overhaul for the Bulls. Despite a spirited effort, the Bulls were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Wade opted in for the final year of his contract, but that isn't stopping Chicago from pivoting to a new, younger nucleus that includes LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen and Denzel Valentine.

Now that Butler is gone, the 35-year-old Wade could become a buyout candidate as the Bulls go into rebuilding mode.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics draft night recap

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics draft night recap

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0:41 - Danny Ainge on why he saw Jayson Tatum as the best player in the draft, Kristaps Porzingis rumors, and why Josh Jackson canceled his Celtics draft workout.

4:49 - Rich Gotham joins to discuss taking Jayson Tatum with the 3rd overall pick, being patient with the development of players and if there were any potential trades out there.

9:53 - Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Brian Scalabrine break down the selection of Jayson Tatum and talk about the rumor that the Celtics were in discussions with the Pacers for Paul George. 

13:15 - Tom Giles, Michael Holley, and Kayce Smith debate if it was worth trading down to the 3rd pick to draft Tatum and how Tatum will always be compared to Markelle Fultz for his whole career.