Avery Bradley took another step toward his return to the Boston Celtics’ lineup, practicing on Monday in Chicago, and that’s a great thing if you’re Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry or Doc Rivers. Allow me to explain – wait for it, wait for it – but first, let’s get the drab, boring particulars out of the way. You know the story; Bradley has been sidelined since mid-May with shoulder issues that required a pair of off-season surgeries, removing a key player from the playoff rotation when the Celtics needed him most. Bradley’s breakout 2011-12 season ended with a final shoulder dislocation in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and who knows what effect his presence would have meant against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, Bradley is back on the court. And while it hasn’t generated the buzz or the headlines that the eventual return of Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls certainly will, Bradley could be exactly what the Celtics need to jump-start season that suddenly teeters on .500.
Let’s start with the obvious. Bradley is a hellish on-the-ball defender who thirsts for the challenge of clamping down on an opposing wing player. He will immediately up the defensive ante on a team desperately in need of consistent toughness. And therein lies the first benefit of Bradley’s return – he’ll extend Garnett’s unwavering commitment to defense to the perimeter. KG has to like the thought of having another player obsessing over defense, and having the skill to back it up. Bradley and Garnett should feed off each other, and in the process make KG even more effective on the defensive end of the court.
Suddenly, Rajon Rondo will have a backcourt running mate who can go north and south as quickly as anyone in the NBA. Rondo has to like that. A lot. Together, Rondo and Bradley are the Transition D Wonder Twins. You know – form of a defensive blanket, shape of a basket-protecting attack dog.
And then there’s Jason Terry. You know, the Terry who signed to come off the bench and provide instant offense from distance? The former Sixth Man of the Year? Yes, that Jason Terry. Bradley’s return will accelerate Terry’s return to the role he’s excelled in late in his career. Suddenly, the Celtics’ bench just got far more scarier that it was at the start of the season.
Finally, there’s Doc Rivers. Clearly, Doc hasn’t been pleased with his team’s effort, and he’s made it no secret that they need to get tougher and lose the tired excuse. He plans on running them more between games, at least as much as the schedule allows, in an effort to get them into better cardiovascular shape. Enter Bradley. Yeah, it may take AB a couple of weeks to ramp up the cardio fitness, but he’s going to be off the charts in no time. Rivers can count on him to play hard game in, game out, and the rest of the team will certainly feel the pressure to get into better shape and do the same.
Bottom line, Bradley is a player who balls hard all the time, something our C’s currently lack.
Hurry back, AB. We need you, m’man.