Pierce to take on more point-forward role without Rondo

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Pierce to take on more point-forward role without Rondo

BOSTON Paul Pierce takes pride in being able to give the Boston Celtics whatever they need.

That mentality takes on even greater significance now that Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn right ACL injury.

Rondo's injury means the Celtics will look to Pierce to play more of a point-forward role which is essentially what he did in Boston's 100-98 double overtime win against Miami on Sunday.

Pierce finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists which was his first triple-double of the season.

"Responsibilities definitely go up when you have Rondo out the game," Pierce said. "More of a facilitator. Have to do a little bit of everything for this ball club. That's about it."

It is a role that Pierce has taken on at times in the past, one that might be easier for him to excel at based on the Celtics' personnel.

The need for Pierce to handle the ball more is necessary because the C's perimeter players are primarily scorers more than they are ball-handlers.

Pierce might benefit from handling the ball more, as it would likely take some of the pressure off him to score more points.

The Captain has been in a bit of a shooting funk lately, connecting on six of his 16 shots from the field against the Heat. In the five previous games leading up to Sunday's match with Miami, Pierce was shooting 32.9 percent (23-for-70) from the field.

"You know my shot, it's going to fall," Pierce said. "It's not something that I'm worried about."

For now, Pierce is focused on doing whatever he can to help the Celtics build off of what has to be their biggest win of the season. And with Rondo out, that's going to require him to do more - a lot more - than he has thus far this season.

"I still have a lot of intangibles," Pierce said. "The know-how; I know how to play this game."

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.