NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When the D-League was first created, there was a stigma attached to it.

The league promoted it as a developmental league. To the casual basketball fan, the 'D' stood for demotion.

But in recent years, it has become clear that the D-League is indeed about helping develop and evaluate young talent.

And that's why Celtics first-round pick Avery Bradley is exactly where he belongs right now with the Maine Red Claws.

Even before he needed offseason ankle surgery, Bradley was going to have a tough time breaking through a Celtics guard rotation filled with talented, proven veterans.

And with the Celtics looking for him to become more of a point guard, the challenge of playing appeared even more daunting.

However, Boston recognized that there is value in him being surrounded early on his career with savvy, battle-tested veterans such as Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West.

His older teammates have praised him often for his willingness to listen, learn and ask when he's not sure about how to do something.

"That's what I'm supposed to do," he told CSNNE.com. "I feel like I would be stupid not to ask questions, being on a team like this with stars like this. I can learn so much from them."

The same can be said for his time in the D-League.

In two games with the Red Claws, Bradley is averaging 13.5 points, four assists and two rebounds per game.

Midseason Awards

This season has been filled with a number of coaches doing an impressive job, with some getting it done under less-than-perfect circumstances. And it is because of that latter point that I have to give my midseason Coach of the Year award to Chicago's Tom Thibodeau.

The former Celtics assistant has not looked like a rookie coach, which is impressive when you consider the number of proven veterans he has inherited and the fact that he has had to endure a number of injuries to key players.

The Bulls are very much in the hunt for home court advantage in the playoffs. Their talented roster obviously has a lot to do with that.

But so has the leadership displayed by their rookie head coach.

Here's a rundown of my other midseason award winners:

Rookie of the Year
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: The rookie of the Year award is a given. How about league MVP?

Sixth Man of the Year
Glen Davis, Boston Celtics: Davis' stiffest competitors for this award (Jason Terry of Dallas and Jamal Crawford of Atlanta) have already won one.

MVP
LeBron James, Miami Heat: His numbers, impact on his current and former team (Cleveland) give him a slight edge over the rest of the field.

Perkins returns as a starter?
There's no denying that having Shaquille O'Neal in the starting lineup has been a major plus for the Celtics this season. But with Kendrick Perkins officially back in the fold in a few weeks, one can't forget how successful the C's have been in recent years with him manning the middle.

So what does Doc Rivers do?

It's simple, really.

You go right back to Perkins.

Since suffering a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last June, Perkins has worked diligently to ensure he'll be able to compete at a high level upon his return which he hopes will be Feb. 4 against Dallas.

The biggest reason you bring Perkins back as a starter, is because he and Kevin Garnett are arguably the best frontcourt defensive tandem in the NBA.

"As far as me with the starting five, or me and KG being the best tandem on defense, we pretty much know each other," Perkins said. "We all got flaws on certain parts of the defensive end. With him, he knows how to cover up my weaknesses. I know how to cover up his."

And by moving O'Neal to the bench, this gives Boston's second unit a huge advantage in the middle against most opponents. But to get the most out of O'Neal with the reserves, the C's have to start developing chemistry with that second unit which hasn't been easy because of all the injuries.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at www.twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – When you look at Avery Bradley’s growth this season, seeing the tremendous strides he has made offensively is clear.

But at the heart of Bradley’s game remains a desire to dominate a matchup as a defender, something that was alive and well on Monday as he made his return to the floor after missing the four previous games with an Achilles strain.

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Bradley’s defense would prove instrumental in Boston’s 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

He was 2-for-9 from the field and played nearly 33 minutes against Hornets which is just a couple minutes under his season average of court time.

Usually he’s responsible for providing a boost at both ends of the floor.

But considering his long lay-off, it was clear early on that he was locked in defensively more so than looking to get back on track shooting the ball.

“You take any type of games off in this league, your rhythm and all that you gotta get it back,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.

Even though his shots weren’t falling, Bradley was on top of his game defensively while guarding 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum who is six inches taller but never was a factor on Monday.

Batum finished with eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he got out of Bradley in his return to action.

“I thought he (Bradley) was great,” Stevens told CSNNE.com. “He did everything we needed him to do. We knew there would be a little bit of rust (shooting the ball), but that’s part of you playing your way back into it.”

As far as Bradley’s stifling defense on Batum, Stevens said, “You have to do that against Batum. I thought Avery did a really good job of that. It’s a hard matchup no matter what way you go. Batum, giving up inches to him. He (Bradley) was there on the catch all night.”

And as Bradley gradually gets back into a flow, he’ll regain the form offensively that made him one of the NBA’s better two-way players this season.