As John wrote earlier today, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Jet & KG were all absent from today’s workout. So who kept things organized while the vets & head coach were away? As Chris Forsberg tells us, it was none other than “Zero Tolerance”:
Rajon Rondo is off rehabbing an ACL injury and the practice floor featured nearly as many newcomers (4) as guys who started the season with the team (5).
In fact, of the nine players on the floor, the average age was roughly 26.2, with 30-year-old Chris Wilcox and 29-year-old Shavlik Randolph the elder statesmen of the bunch. So where does the leadership come from at that point?
The youngest guy in the pack, of course, in 22-year-old Avery Bradley.
I absolutely love the leadership role that AB has taken. Now granted, we all know that the vocal leader on defense is KG, but as far as leading by example goes, Bradley’s tenacity and unbridled energy has been contagious:
Having taken on more responsibilities since Rondo went down, particularly as the first-unit ball-handler, Bradley has ascended to a key role as the team’s first-string quarterback. What’s more, his infectious defensive intensity has essentially made him a leader by example.
“His defense speaks loud,” said assistant coach Armond Hill, tasked with running Sunday’s skeleton session. “He steps on the floor and guys know that he’s going to be picking up [the opposing ball-handler full court]. So if he’s going to pick up, then everyone has to pick up. That’s good. Our defense goes to another level, especially if he gets a steal or something like that. It brings everyone together more.”
Bradley saves most of his vocality for screaming out defensive instructions (though his voice might never be as loud or as expletive-filled as that of Garnett). In a locker room dominated by veteran voices like Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo, it’s Bradley’s on-court play that speaks loudest.
And it’s not just the defense that has benefited from Bradley’s play. Boston’s offensive rating, which is based on points per 100 possessions, is at 102.6 with AB on the floor. That’s over two points above the C’s season average. But as Bradley said during his rehab, he wants Celtics fans to leave the arena “in awe” of his defense. Friday night most definitely had some fans doing just that:
Bradley’s defensive exploits are well documented (and hammered home by his latest hounding of Golden State’s Steph Curry the other night, where only shooting fouls diminished a stellar effort against a ruthless scorer). On a team that’s been ravaged by injuries, there’s a strong case to be made that Bradley is the most important remaining element beyond Pierce and Garnett.
And if this team is going to accomplish anything this season, it’s likely going to be in large part because of Bradley’s quiet leadership.
You can see exactly what kind of difference Avery makes on both sides of the ball with NBA.com’s incredible new “Stats” feature.