Celtics

Bradley fulfilling dream of being a positive role model

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Bradley fulfilling dream of being a positive role model

ROXBURY, Mass. – A fireman. A police officer. A pro athlete. A doctor.

Pick any kid from just about any neighborhood and there’s a good chance that one of these professions will be named if you ask them what they want to be when they grow up.

Just as Avery Bradley has distinguished himself on the court, he has done the same when it comes to turning his childhood dreams into reality – and we’re not talking about being an NBA player, either.

Bradley’s participation in the Sun Life Financial’s rewards-based “Fit to Win” program at the Roxbury YMCA on Monday was the kind of event that Bradley seems to love almost as much as – maybe more – than picking a point guard’s pocket.

The event featured 3rd-6th graders who completed the four-week program participating in a healthy eating activity (they built fruit-inspired sculptures) along with a panel discussion on healthy living and eating better foods.

Lots of ear-to-ear smiles, boys and girls alike, dominated the room.

But it was hard to tell who was enjoying it more, Bradley or the kids.

“It’s been my dream since I was a kid, to be a role model and be someone that someone would look up to,” Bradley said. “I take pride in that. I always want to be a great person off and on the court so the kids can look up to me. That’s what I’m going to try and continue to do for the rest of my career.”

And just as enthusiastically as Bradley embraces being a role model to grade schoolers, he was more than eager to step up to the challenge of being more of a leader this past season with the Celtics.

Following trades that sent Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green to Dallas and Memphis respectively, Bradley became the longest-tenured Celtic currently under contract.

Drafted by Boston with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Bradley distinguished himself early on by doing his best to soak up every drop of knowledge veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, were willing to sprinkle him with.

And as they moved on to other teams, those lessons did more than just help make Bradley a tougher person and player mentally.

But they would help form the foundation for his brand of leadership which is more about works than words.

However, with so few veterans on the team for the full season, the 24-year-old gradually became more comfortable as both a talkative leader and one who still lets his play carry the day.

Knowing how important it was for them to pour into him the teachings that they received from veterans before them, Bradley acknowledged feeling a need to not let their teachings go to waste.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility,” Bradley said. “All the things that they have shown me, again, on and off the court. It made me into the man I am today. I came to the Celtics at the age of 19. I was able to learn from the greats.”

And as Bradley makes his way from one table to another on Monday admiring the various pineapple-based projects, there was no mistaking the joy that Bradley was getting out of all this.

That’s because in these young, eager youth who are so full of life and optimism, Bradley knows it wasn’t that long ago when he too was one of them.

And while he now finds himself as a role model and leader to them, he understands all too well that he too must continue to grow and still make the most of opportunities to connect with his mentors and role models.

That’s why he looked forward to the text messages this past season from Kevin Garnett that came his way like once a month, or the texts he would get from Paul Pierce who leaves messages like “good job” or “keep pushing” or “keep up the good work.”

“Those guys put in a lot of work,” said Bradley, a grouping that also included another future Hall of Famer, Ray Allen. “They were great guys. I hope I can be just like them.”

Happy 31st birthday, Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins Game 7 duel

Happy 31st birthday, Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins Game 7 duel

Thirty-one years ago today, the old Boston Garden was the site of one of the great superstar duels the NBA has ever seen.

Larry Bird vs. Dominque Wilkins. Celtics vs. Hawks. Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 7.

On a Sunday afternoon, in the first of a Garden playoff doubleheader (the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers would play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final later that night), the two Hall of Famers staged a one-on-one battle to remember.

Bird and the Celtics came out on top, 118-116. Wilkins finished with 47 points - 12 in the fourth quarter - on 19-for-33 shooting. Bird had 20 of his 34 points in the fourth and was 15-for-24 for the game. And, in an ode to how different a game the NBA was then - each player only hit one 3-pointer. 

Tommy Heinsohn was the CBS analyst for the game with Brent Musburger doing the play-by-play. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers was in Atlanta's backcourt. Heinsohn and Rivers looked back at the game with the voice of the Celtics.

Heinsohn: "Once it started to happen, you just saw the desire of both these players." 

Rivers: "The crowd here was amazing. I gotta tell you, I fell in love with the Celtic crowd in this game."

The Celtics would go on to lose to the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but this game provided a lasting memory from that postseason.

Perhaps Musburger put it best after another late Bird drive and finish: "You are watching what greatness is all about."

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Marcus Smart 'ecstatic' about All-Defensive selection, but wants a championship even more

Marcus Smart 'ecstatic' about All-Defensive selection, but wants a championship even more

Marcus Smart's reaction to being named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team was not all that surprising.

“I was ecstatic,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston in a phone interview. “I’m definitely appreciative of being recognized for what I do defensively. But I’m not in this for awards or accolades. I want to win games, win a championship.”

And that made for a bittersweet time for Smart, happy for his own individual accomplishment but more than willing to trade it in for another round or two of basketball for the Celtics. 

Smart also tweeted his appreciation and his desire for a title rather than individual honors.

With each passing day since their playoff exit, there has been a growing sense of discord surrounding the Celtics' season, which ended with them being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals in just five games by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Smart has been vacationing since the season ended and said he has not heard or paid much attention to the talk surrounding what happened and didn’t happen with the Celtics' season.

In his end-of-the-season interview with the media, Smart didn’t hesitate in defending Kyrie Irving from criticisms that his leadership was a problem for the team. 

“That’s bull[expletive]," Smart said at the time. "Not one of us on this team knows what Kyrie’s been through. Probably a few people in this world know what Kyrie goes through. It was hard for him as well. He was forced into a situation where it was business over the friendships, where he had to come into a situation knowing that this is a group of guys that had something going before I come here, how will I fit in? He didn’t want to disrupt that. And that says a lot.

Smart added, “This is Kyrie Irving we’re talking about. And he’s talking about coming in and disrupting us. We took him in with full arms and we tried to understand it. Like I said, we never really understood. We’re not in his shoes. So that’s just a bull(expletive) statement to say his leadership killed us. There’s four other guys out there, there’s 12, 13 other guys on the team, coaches and everything. So to blame it on one guy is bull[expletive].”

Another heavily talked-about criticism of the Celtics this past season centered around them having too much talent and not enough playing time or prominent roles to go around to keep most of the players happy. 

Smart acknowledged the team’s overflow of depth was among the challenges the players and coaching staff tried to work through, to no avail. 

“We had a lot of talent; we were stacked, one through five,” Smart said. “It just didn’t work.”

As the longest-tenured Celtic, Smart, who was drafted fifth overall in 2014, has been around the organization long enough to know that Danny Ainge, the team’s president of basketball operations, will not stand pat this summer. 

Smart said he has no idea what changes will be made, but Ainge’s track record makes it pretty obvious that the Celtics will have a different look when training camp opens in a few months. 

Smart said his confidence level in Ainge is “real high” when it comes to adding talent,  but said, “That's Danny’s job. That’s for the front office to figure out. But I do believe Danny and those guys will figure out what we need to do to be better next season.”

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