By: Eric St. Cyr |
Tonight is the first game of the rest of the season, and the weary Celtics have a chance to wipe the slate (somewhat) clean and start off the new year with some semblance of a quality 48 minute effort…hopefully. They take on a feisty but recently cooled down Grizzlies squad at the Garden tonight.
Tonight the Celtics and the City of Boston gets its first sip of hope in what feels like a dehydrated eternity… Avery Bradley’s long awaited return is finally among us and it feels as if it’s the most important day in Celtics history, and who knows… maybe it is. The legend of Avery Bradley has grown from a whisper in the dark to a tumultuous crescendo among the near 8 months he’s been off the court. His uniqueness and character as a player is irreplaceable and it seems as if he needs to put this vulnerable squad on his shoulders…no pun intended.
I’ve heard a lot of mixed talk of what fans and insiders ‘think’ is missing from this team and what they ‘think’ the team needs. I’m hearing a range of comments from “Avery cant save this” to “We are in dire need of Avery Bradley.” It does seem a bit ‘hopeful’ to think that a 6’3 and still offensivley raw 22 year old is going to completely right this ship, but for some reason something about number 0 just seems different. The fact that we all watched Avery Bradley go from an unconfident and awkward footed and rarely thought of rookie to a starting force and a very key piece of this team in such a short amount of time should tell you something about this humble kid from the North West. I don’t think it’s by any means a fluke, and I think there are even more improvements folks will start to see in Bradleys game…
Defense- Although it sounds ridiculous and redundant to say, I don’t think we’ve seen it all from this kid on the defensive end yet. That should make fans ecstatic considering on the ball defenders like Avery are not only a huge advantage and weapon to take opposing teams bests guards out of the game, but very rare in today’s NBA. It’s hard to find a player to currently relate him too, I often hear Tonly Allen but I don’t fully agree, I simply think Avery has far more potential.
Ball Handling- Jackie MacMullen on WEEI once said something along the lines of “this kid can hardly dribble, it’s hard to see where he would ever fit, dont know if he has NBA level skills,” That’s a loose quote but after seeing number zero make a conscious effort in pushing the ball up the floor in a rage of effort towards the end of last season, it’s hard to imagine he wont be improving in this cateogory as well, which could take some of the load off Rajon Rondo, obviously a benefit.
Shooting and offense- The pressure is on for Avery to become a knock down type guy and not mainly just a cutter who moves well without the ball. We saw some nice glimpses of consistency shooting from the corners and a mid-range pull up game, but if Avery is going to gain more minutes playing alongside Rondo, shooting will be key. He has to stretch the floor. If opponents start to fear his shooting this Celtics offense will come alive in a big, big way.
Leadership and character- This part of Avery’s game is indispensable to the C’s. He has already become a true Celtic in a short period of time and his effort and game changing abilities become are highly contagious. There has been a lack of grit, a lack of grind and hustle I’m sorry to say for the Celtics so far this season. If getting Avery back isn’t an infusion of energy, effort and character for this group, maybe he can’t fix them. But until then, the like-able youngster offers us something to look forward to, hopefully for a long, long, time.