Celtics Question of the Day: Who will be C's biggest villain this season?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Who will be C's biggest villain this season?

It's hard to imagine someone as beloved as Ray Allen was in Boston suddenly becoming a villain.

But leaving the Boston Celtics for their arch-rival, the Miami Heat?

To do so for half the pay?

That'll do it.

Despite being an integral part of the C's return to glory with Banner 17 in 2008, there's little doubt that the future Hall of Famer will be greeted with his share of jeers from Celtics Nation when he returns to the Garden for the first time with his new team on Jan. 27.

Still, does that make Allen the biggest villain on the Celtics' schedule?

Hardly.

Heck, he might not even crack the top-5 even with there now being an opening with Mike Bibby and his turnstile-esque defense no longer in the league.

Celtics Nation serenaded him with boos every time he stepped on the floor following comments he made in 2008 (then with the Atlanta Hawks) about the C's having "fair-weather" fans.

For years, he was a lock to be on the franchise's most hated list.

Chicago's Joakim Noah is another player that Celtics fans have no love for, although most of the dislike for him stems from his not-so-fuzzy relationship with Kevin Garnett.

You can throw LeBron James in there as well.

C's fans have nothing but disdain for James, even more so after he led the Heat this past season to an NBA title which included some monster games in eliminating the C's in the Eastern Conference finals.

Go down the list of the game's elite players and there's a heightened level of dislike for all of them by Celtics fans.

But when it comes to Public Enemy No. 1 around here, there can only be one Kobe Bryant.

No player brings out more vitriol in Celtics fans than Bryant. It's in part because he's such a dynamic player who has been among the game's best for years.

The fact that he plays for the C's longtime rival out West, the Los Angeles Lakers, just adds to the hatred.

More than anything, Bryant does it with an elevated level of cockiness that will never sit right with fans in these parts. Some of his biggest game-winning shots have come at the expense of the Celtics.

Those are the moments that Bryant has made no secret about relishing his role as a basketball assassin, even more so in delivering that killer shot to bury the Green Team.

But if you sift through the mutual hatred for one another, at the core of it all is respect.

Bryant has repeatedly said he loves the rivalry because of the storied tradition of both franchises. And the C's certainly have a great deal of respect for what Bryant has done on the floor in establishing himself as one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA.

Respect aside, Celtics fans will still boo the heck out of him with the kind of intensity that's fitting of an arch-rival.

And Bryant wouldn't want it any other way.

"The fans hate your guts when youre playing here, but very appreciative of the talent, Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. When you see them out on the streets, its always a warm reception. Man, I hate you, but I love watching you. How do you think the Celtics are going to do? Its a running conversation.

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.