Celtics

Bradley set to return Wednesday vs. Grizzlies

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Bradley set to return Wednesday vs. Grizzlies

WALTHAM Avery Bradley can't walk on air or turn water into wine. So you can save all the talk of him being some sort of basketball savior for the Celtics.

Still, there is no mistaking that his return to the lineup on Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies (19-9) will make the C's a better -- a much better -- team than they are without him.

And his return could not come soon enough with the Celtics riding a season-long losing skid of three games in preparation for a Grizzlies team that is still among the better teams out West despite losing three of their last four games.

If he's healthy enough to play, C's coach Doc Rivers said Bradley will be with the first group.

"Avery's going to start," Rivers said prior to the C's practice on Wednesday afternoon. "We had him markered down -- not penciled down -- before the year that he was going to be a starter."

In terms of what his role will be, Bradley isn't consumed with starting versus coming off the bench.  

"I try not to worry about it," he said. "All you can do is go out and play hard. That's what I'm gonna do. That's how I play. Tomorrow that's what you guys will see."

However, injuries to both shoulders last season resulted in surgery that forced him to miss part of the 2012 playoffs as well as the first 30 games this season.

It was a disappointing finish to what was a breakout season for the former first-round pick of the C's who burst on to the scene as a defensive pest to opponents that was critical in the Celtics becoming a much better team after the all-star break.

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics had an efficiency differential of plus 5.5 prior to the all-star break last season which ranked 10th in the NBA. After the break, the C's more than doubled that to a plus 11.5 which ranked fourth in the NBA.

Part of that bump was Bradley's ability to not only impact the game with his individual defense, but having it trickle down to his teammates.

"He knows his role," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "He plays with a lot of energy. A lot of guys don't like to face a guy like Avery. I believe he's the best defender in the league, hands down.

Rondo added, "Hopefully we all try to step our level of play up when he steps on the court; the intensity he plays with, hopefully is contagious and we all do the same."
 
The impact that Bradley will make on the C's remains to be seen, although it is expected to be significant.

But Celtics coach Doc Rivers, well aware that the pressure isn't coming from Bradley's teammates or the C's, has made a point repeatedly to emphasize that Bradley should not be seen as some Knight on a white horse coming in to save the day.

"I'm anxious to get him back, but I know that he's not Bill Russell. He's Avery Bradley," Rivers said. "But Avery Bradley is going to be important to our team. He is one of those guys that helps change your culture as far as on the floor and how we play and the intensity that he plays. I hope when he comes it helps one or two other guys do that. Other than that, he's been out a long time. To think he's going to play well right off the bat, I don't know if that will happen or not. But he'll play hard right away."

And that in itself might be just what the C's need; a player who plays with great effort and intensity consistently.

"I don't have any expectations of how I'm going to play," Bradley said. "I'm just going to go out there and play hard. Whatever happens, happens. That's all I can control, how hard I can play."

But that effort in many ways is what fuels Bradley's defense which is his strength as a player.

"Defense, I feel it's an effort thing," Bradley said. "If you want to play hard on the defensive end, you have to want to. I obviously want to and that's what I can bring to this team."

Indeed, Bradley's on-the-ball defense has a way of containing or wiping out at least one member of an opposing team's backcourt.

"Unfortunately there are four others on the floor," Rivers said. "Avery's probably top-5 in the league on the ball defense and not getting beat. But if you can stop one of the guards from dribble penetration, it has to help."
 
And the Celtics (14-16) can use all the help they can get right now.

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

BOSTON – As good as someone may look in summer league play, it should never be viewed as a sole barometer for NBA success. 

There have been countless players who dominate the floor this time of year, only to become NBA doormats when the games really count. 

More than anything else, summer league helps teams get a better feel for their bench – a place where most summer leaguers will be if they are even on a roster at all.

And the Celtics must feel pretty good about their second-unit players who were on the floor in Boston’s summer league run.

Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, and Jabari Bird were all reserves (or in the case of Bird, a two-way contract player), who are likely to have opportunities to play more prominent roles this season.

All were viewed as having a significant area in need of improvement heading into the offseason.

Ojeleye was essentially a talented defender who, offensively, was a catch-and-shoot guy who only took corner 3’s last season.

In summer league, Ojeleye put the ball on the floor more than we’ve ever seen in addition to finishing at the rim for lay-ups or dunks.

And Yabusele, who at times looked dazed and confused on the floor, was far more assertive in his decision-making – qualities he needs to display when camp starts in September and he’s competing for minutes off the bench.

Bird was the breakout star for the Celtics this summer, solidifying himself as a player who will be on someone’s NBA roster - if he’s not back in Boston - this season.

The athleticism that has been a hallmark of Bird’s game for years was on full display in Las Vegas. More than anything, he showed a heightened level of attention to detail while being consistent at both ends of the floor – traits he’ll need to display more of if he’s back with the Celtics and wants to compete for minutes off the bench.

So as Celtics fans are impressed with the strong play of Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Bird, keep in mind that all three are reserves who likely won’t be the first option off Boston’s bench this season.

Still, they have all shown skills that at a minimum, give Boston hope that when called upon, they will be ready to step up and contribute at a level greater than what we saw last season.

And as we know with all Brad Stevens-coached teams, players must always stay ready to play regardless of how deep they might be buried on the depth chart.

Ojeleye is a great example of this.

A second-round pick last year, Ojeleye played limited minutes most of the season only to find himself inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup about midway through their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while Yabusele saw sporadic minutes, that was in large part due to him not being effective in the minutes he was allotted. Still, the Yabusele we saw last season wasn’t nearly as mobile, athletic or impactful as the one we saw that helped Boston to a 4-2 summer league record.

Bird, on a two-way contract last season, has done enough to at least warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 15-man roster.

All three players raised the level of expectations for fans, and while it was certainly a good sign, by no means does it alone mean they are ready to make major contributions this season.

A strong showing in summer league play can certainly be part of the puzzle for a Celtics team that heads into the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the NBA Finals.

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Orioles trade Manny Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

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Orioles trade Manny Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

The Dodgers are the winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, acquiring the ex-Orioles slugger in exchange for five prospects.

The prospects heading to Baltimore in the deal per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic are outfielder Yusniel Diaz, third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-handed pitcher Zach Pop, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer, and second baseman Breyvic Valera.

Machado, 26,  is enjoying another stellar season, hitting .315 with 24 home runs at the break. The Dodgers fill the void at shortstop left by Corey Seager, who is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. Machado is set to be a free agent after the season.

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