Bradley takes on idol, friend in Indiana's Ford


Bradley takes on idol, friend in Indiana's Ford

By Jessica Camerato

BOSTON - A locker room attendant delivered a request to Avery Bradley following the Celtics win against the Pacers on Sunday.

T.J. Ford needed soap.

Under any other circumstances, Bradley would have been more than happy to lend him some suds.

But not this time. As they sat in opposing locker rooms, Bradleys childhood idol had become his competition.

I didnt give it to him, Bradley smiled and laughed. I cant do that for him now.

Bradley began watching the University of Texas mens basketball team when his family moved from Washington to Texas. Ford was a standout point guard for the Longhorns, and a young Bradley was hooked.

I just always looked up to him, Bradley told CSNNE.com. He was my favorite player then and its just crazy that Im playing against him now in the NBA.

Bradley and Ford were introduced through Bradleys AAU coach while he was still in high school. Ford was the first NBA player Bradley had ever met, and the nerves were overwhelming. In fact, Bradley was more nervous simply meeting Ford than he was playing against him for the first time in the NBA on Sunday.

The two kept in touch as Bradley followed in Fords footsteps and also played basketball for the Longhorns. Ford, who is seven years older than Bradley, embraced the role of mentor.

We have a good relationship and its continued to grow, Ford told CSNNE.com. Its been going on about three years. Hes a quiet kid, hes very soft-spoken, takes him a while to open up. But I think hes a very well-respected kid. He has great manners and I think hes going to be successful in this league.

Ford followed Bradleys collegiate career as he averaged nearly 12 points and 2 assists per game in his freshman (and only) season at Texas. Even though Bradley impressed the Celtics and was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Ford believed there was more talent to be seen.

Even at the University of Texas, you had flashes but he really didnt show all the talent that he really has and he wasnt able to put it together like everybody anticipated, said Ford. So I think he has a bright future and Im looking forward to see him get his opportunity.

Bradley, 20, has had to wait for his opportunity as a member of a veteran team. After rehabbing from ankle injuries, he has played a total of 38 minutes in seven games. Even in the absence of Rajon Rondo (ankle), Bradley understands he still has a ways to go in his rookie season.

Ford has been there to give him support during the learning process. One of his biggest points of emphasis to Bradley is understanding that the hard work he puts in now will pay off in the long run.

He usually always texts me after every game and tries to motivate me because he knows that I dont play that much being on the Celtics, said Bradley. He just tells me to learn as much as I can. He always says the same thing, like, I know that youre not playing that much, just learn as much as you can. You have a great team. Everything he says has something to do with that.

On Sunday, Bradley got the chance to put that advice to use when he faced off against Ford himself. The two started the second quarter at opposing point guard positions. Bradley looked ready against Ford early on, getting back on defense and attempting a shot over his mentor. But Ford, who said he planned to use some veteran moves, tossed an over-the-back pass by Bradley to Mike Dunleavy for a three-pointer.

By the end of the game the edge went to Ford, who scored 13 points (6-11 FG) in 18 minutes. Bradley was scoreless (including a missed free throw on a Ford foul) in over five minutes.

Even though Ford had the advantage over Bradley, he thinks this is just the beginning for the rookie.

Any time you can defend in this league, you can stick around a long time, Ford said. He was the number one player in high school at one point, so you take all those things into consideration and just know that with playing and building up his confidence, hes going to be a special kid.

Bradley will continue to soak up Fords advice as he plays his first year in the NBA, and Ford will continue to share his knowledge. He flashes a smile from ear-to-ear as he talks about Bradleys admiration and points out that he reads every article written on his mentee.

Hes a real big fan -- we talk about it all the time, said Ford. It means a lot to me, and its my job to help these kids at the same time so another kid can come around and say that he wants to be like Avery.

And when that happens, Bradley will know better than to ask him for soap.

Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace


Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”