Missed season will be devastating for Celtics

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Missed season will be devastating for Celtics

NEW YORK Every year, we always seem to talk about the Boston Celtics and their "window of opportunity" closing.

Well, how about that "window" being totally shut for a year, and then re-opened?

Different scenario, but a similar challenge.

Actually, the challenge becomes even greater when you look at where the Celtics are now, and how much losing an entire season - which is more likely to happen after the NBA Players Associations' decision to file a disclaimer of interest on Monday - will affect them.

"There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement," NBA Commissioner David Stern said after hearing of the NBPA's decision. "But the 2011-2012 season is now in jeopardy."

And for veteran teams that have few bodies under contract right now, like the Celtics, they could very well fall under the category of collateral damage associated with this lockout if it wipes out the entire season.

Beyond 2011-12, the Celtics only have three players under contract - Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley.

So if the season were to be wiped out entirely, the C's would have as many as 12 roster spots to fill.

And with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen coming off the books after this season, there's no telling 1) if they would want to come back after sitting out a season, or 2) if the C's would necessarily want to bring them back.

Rajon Rondo, who represented the Celtics at Monday's meeting, might be hurt just as much as the veterans if the lockout lasts all season.

He has had the benefit of spending the bulk of his career playing with three of the game's elite players (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), all of whom in some way have helped him to become one of the NBA's better point guards. With all those players inching closer and closer to retirement, he knows it would be in their best interest - as well as his - if there was a season.

But that didn't stop him from supporting his union brethren in their decision to dissolve, which opens up a Pandora's box for a potential anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA and its owners.

"You have to take yourself out of the equation. We're a family," said Rondo, referring to the union. "We have to stick together. This is a tough time for us. It's something we have to go through, as far as business negotiations."

But that won't take away the potential sting of this past season being the last we see of the Green Team's Big Three, the kind of Super Team that we may never see again with a new CBA.

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.