By Jessica Camerato
Avery Bradley turns 20 years old Friday.
He knows he still has a lot to learn - both on and off the court - and he isn't going to rush anything.
Even though the injury to Delonte West (broken wrist) could open up playing time for the Celtics rookie, he is finding the balance of staying ready and being patient.
"My teammates are the ones that help me out with that the most," Bradley said. "They're telling me to always be ready, but at the same time, don't try to go if I can't. So I would have to say my teammates are the ones who really help me balance those two."
Bradley made his NBA debut less than a week ago against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring two points in six minutes. He had been hampered by ankle injuries since the summer, and the Celtics didn't want to risk further problems by rushing him back on the court.
Now that a spot has opened up in the rotation, that doesn't mean Bradley will automatically see a drastic increase in minutes, though. The Celtics have options in their backcourt (see Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels) who can account for West's minutes while Bradley continues to develop.
"I was talking about it today for Avery," Doc Rivers said on Wednesday following West's injury against the New Jersey Nets. "I think assistant coach Lawrence Frank or assistant coach Kevin Eastman said he's been through three full practices this season, including training camp. And he's a rookie, and we're going to throw him on the floor? So we may, at times play Bradley, but we've just got to protect him. We don't want to ruin him. And he's not healthy yet. Not great health."
While Bradley understands the importance of waiting, he has found it frustrating at times. Bradley, who was selected by the Celtics with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, averaged 29.5 minutes last season at the University of Texas.
But this is the NBA, and he knows being patient is part of the transition on a championship-contending team.
"Usually I was starting at every level when I was young," he said. "But I just take it as a learning process. I'm just excited that I'm even in the NBA and feel blessed to be here. I'm just anxious to get better, and when my chance comes I'll be ready."
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba