Celtics

Bradley's defense valuable to C's

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Bradley's defense valuable to C's

ORLANDO, Fla. As Boston Celtics point man Rajon Rondo (wrist) inches closer to returning to action, Avery Bradley's role will decrease obviously.

"Avery won't start. I hope you guys know that," quipped Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Maybe not, but he's starting to turn heads to the point where teams have to give some thought to game-planning against his on-the-ball pressure.

For all that went the Celtics' way in their 87-56 win over Orlando on Monday, it was Bradley's ability to stifle the flow of Orlando's offense that played a major role in the blowout.

"Avery Bradley set a great tone," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after the loss. "We had trouble even getting the ball into the scoring area."

And to think, it was just a couple weeks ago that Bradley was headed toward end-of-the-bench status with rookie E'Twaun Moore looking as though he would replace Bradley in the rotation.

After spending much of his rookie season either injured or simply not playing, questions about whether Bradley could legitimately help this team were starting to take shape.

Now, it's not a question as to whether the second-year guard can help the Celtics win games. It's now about how much can he provide moving forward.

Of course Bradley's game has its shortcomings.

He still struggles at running a team effectively, and his perimeter shooting is shaky, at best. These were all issues that Rivers and his staff went back and fourth discussing during the offseason.

"We talked about it as a staff at the beginning of the year," Rivers said. "That we may have to go to a different offense for the second unit which I don't do very often. Avery's not Rondo; he's not going to be Rondo as far as running a team. What he does defensively is so good for us, it's good to have him out on the floor. So if we have to have him on the floor as a point, we have to run a different set so that that group can function offensively."

That's why you'll most likely see him on the floor with Paul Pierce andor Kevin Garnett, with one of them being the one to initiate the offense after Bradley gets the ball into the frontcourt.

But Bradley's shortcomings are all things that can only get better with time and opportunity - both of which he has made the most of with Rondo being out.

"It's hard to grow as a player if you don't get the minutes," Pierce said. "Even though Rajon is hurt, he (Bradley) is able to get these minutes which is valuable experience, which also leads to confidence."

And as confident as Bradley has been in his ability to play, now you're starting to see his teammates have confidence in him as well.

Veteran guard Keyon Dooling has seen his share of talented players during his 11-plus NBA seasons. What Bradley does defensively, sticks out in a really, really good way for Boston.

"Avery is the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA," Dooling said. "At the point guard position, there's nobody who does it better on the ball. And I want the whole league to recognize that. He has a unique skill, and he does it great."

And while it's still early, Bradley's defense has actually put pressure on his teammates to step their defensive game up.

During Monday's win, Pierce pulled Bradley aside for a brief conversation.

"Paul came up and told me when you play defense like that it makes us play defense even harder," Bradley recalled. "Thats all I try to do, I try to help in anyway I can.

With Rondo back as early as Thursday, Bradley will come off the bench and most likely play some with Dooling, who is also a good on-the-ball defender.

"I'm looking forward to contributing to the team any way possible," said Dooling, who has been out with a knee injury. "Obviously, when you see Avery in the backcourt picking up 94 feet, if you're off the ball you don't want your guy to have easy catches or things like that. That would negate all his efforts. I want him to be able to trust me, so I have to make sure I do my job as well defensively."

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

AFC EAST: Cutler hurt, Moore leads Dolphins to 31-28 comeback win over Jets

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AFC EAST: Cutler hurt, Moore leads Dolphins to 31-28 comeback win over Jets

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler and threw two touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes, and the Miami Dolphins pulled off another comeback win by erasing a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the New York Jets 31-28 on Sunday. Click here for more.