Celtics go into season with support for the foundation

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Celtics go into season with support for the foundation

WALTHAM For the Celtics, Step 1 of constructing the 2012-13 roster was simple: get Kevin Garnett back.

Step 2? Figure out a way to put all the pieces in place after that.

Taking a look at the team on paper, you could say Celtics GM Danny Ainge passed with flying colors.

Garnett agreed to return the day of free agency, and Ainge was already on to the next one.

Jason Terry joined. Brandon Bass re-signed. Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox returned. Courtney Lee came over in a trade. Oh, and don't forget the two rookies, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo.

Not too shabby, eh? The Celtics hope that they have enough depth to soldier through whatever injuries arise throughout the course of the season as they were forced to do last season. They will already be without Avery Bradley to start the year, but the acquisitions of Terry and Lee will soften the blow.

"Every year we try to build depth," Ainge said. "Last year we did have a lot of injuries a lot of injuries to our young guys, which was a little bit surprising. I was amazed at how our resiliency got us through the year and this deep into the playoffs. It's a credit to Doc and the players, particularly, KG, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen. But yeah, we want to not have injuries, and we think our depth is much better this year."

Some think that this is the deepest Celtics team since Garnett arrived for the 2007-08 season. They could be right. Jason Terry provides the scoring off the bench that Celtics have lacked. Lee is good enough to (and will at first) start on any team, and will have plenty of open looks. Green will benefit greatly by getting actual practice with his team, and not being thrown into the mix midway through the season. And don't forget Wilcox, who was coming into his own just before his season abruptly ended.

Somehow, someway, the Celtics made it all work financially.

"This past year was pretty hectic, Ainge said. "Starting with the lockout and going late in the season, the draft coming up with three draft picks, and free agency starting up right after that. Some of the uncertainty of the future of KG and just knowing which way we were headed. And then having to fill so many different places with different resources. So I think it was a very challenging summer, yeah. A lot of work went in. Assistant GM's Mike Zarren and Ryan McDonough in particular, they did a great job, and Austin Ainge, those guys were great. They worked relentless hours."

Doc Rivers is forever grateful. Stuck with mediocre to bad teams for the beginning of his Celtics coaching career, Rivers has been given plenty of tools over the last five seasons to keep the machine running.

"First of all I want to say Danny and the staff did an amazing job," Rivers said. "When you are under the restrictions that we were under, if you had told me we would have ended up with what we would have ended up with, I'd thought that would never happen. A lot of things had to happen for us."

A lot things did happen for the Celtics over the summer. Now it's on them to make things happen over the winter.

"I just really like our team, I like our team on paper," Rivers said. "Now we have to turn it into a team."

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.