I wonder if it actually is exaggeration at this point to name Avery Bradley the team saviour.
With his return, the team somehow began to find their defensive gears once more. Credit Avery’s relentless defensive ball pressure. The hands that are ever ready to poke the ball, the agile feet that stay in front of the opponent and move to fight over screens. The energy and hustle he displays on ever defensive possession somehow inspires the team to defend harder.
We see more transition points coming into the fray, especially on the recent Knicks game. Is it Bradley’s presence, or was it simply because the Rondo-less Celtics knew they had to take advantage of every opportunity to score?
Whatever it is, I’m really happy that things are finally beginning to look up. Indiana gave up early and played dead, Atlanta sort of imploded in the second half. New York however, did not give up and went with us blow for blow up till the final minutes. Not the Thunder, the Clippers or the Heat, but it’s a convincing victory with the sort of grinding defensive intensity we know the Celtics bring.
So yes, as far as I’m concerned, Bradley is and will be remembered as the gamechanger for this season.
Of course, I’m not forgetting Jared Sullinger, our rookie who brings a 101% level on energy and hustle every night. I made my argument for Sully to join the ranks as a starter early in the season, and I’m still rooting for it right now. The guy is simply anchors our rebounding on both ends by himself, enough said. He’s smart on offensive spacing, knows when to make the right pass, learns the defensive rotations quick, takes charges, goes after loose balls and strokes the mid-range extremely well. What else do you want?
Without them, the Celtics are reduced to three seasoned champs and a bunch of veterans who simply cannot turn execute well enough on both ends to get a win. They are the new blood who know what it means to bleed green, and to play their A game every time – not because season games don’t matter, but simply because that’s how it is.
You play to win, period.