Pierce, Rivers: Lakers' Buss will be missed

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Pierce, Rivers: Lakers' Buss will be missed

DENVER The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are always going to be fierce rivals.

But those intense emotions are now replaced by the pain that death can bring to those it leaves behind.

Dr. Jerry Buss, majority owner of the Lakers who was vital in reviving them into an NBA power, died on Monday morning.

He was 80 years old.

The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of the NBA community in mourning the news of his passing.

Paul Pierce, who grew up in nearby Ingelwood, Calif., has fond memories of Buss.

"He's part of the NBA, what this NBA is all about," Pierce said. "Just bringing the Lakers franchise to where it is today. He's pretty much an icon as an owner. Everybody knows who he was. My heart goes out to his family."

Pierce said he had met Buss a few times.

"He'd see me. It didn't matter if I played for the Celtics," Pierce said. "He always had kind words for me, asked me how I was doing. He's just one of those joyful owners."

Buss bought the team in 1979, and soon transformed them into one of the more exciting, successful franchises in the league.

Since the Lakers have been under Buss, the team has won 10 championships.

"He had a great impact on the league and most importantly, on the Lakers," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "When he bought the team, they changed quickly. He bought into the 'Showtime' stuff."

But what Lakers Nation clings to more than anything, is the 10 titles won under his watch which is greater than any team since 1979.

"That's ... you don't have to say much more than that," Rivers said. "He'll be missed."

One of the first challenges for the Lakers is trying to figure out the pecking order in terms of decision-making responsibilities.

Jerry's son Jim, is vice president of player development while Jerry's daughter Jeannie, is executive vice president of business operations. And that doesn't factor in Mitch Kupchak who is the team's general manager.

"His leadership was huge, with Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak," Rivers said of Jerry Buss. "Now with him gone, that leaves a void for them."

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.