Avery Bradley’s defensive prowess is well-known throughout the NBA. He often sets up shop inside opposing guards’ heads and throws them so far off their game, that the ripple effect can swing games in Boston’s favor.
He also gets burned from time to time. That’s going to happen in the NBA. But when it does, Bradley isn’t deterred. Because he understands that to be successful as a defender, you have to accept the occasional toasting.
In a chat with fans on Boston.com today, Bradley offered his simply stated defensive philosophy when asked how he became such a good defender.
Make sure you stay low. Move your feet. The main thing is don’t be afraid to be embarrassed.
That’s a critical mentality that goes back to the debate about being dunked on.
To make it in the NBA, or any other pro sport (hell, any profession for that matter), you must have that same mentality. Whether it’s defending a guard on the perimeter, challenging a dunk, or going up for one, a player can’t listen to any of the voices that might say “ooooh…. careful here, this might make you look bad.”
The safe route might help you avoid a day of Twitter ridicule (or “Twittercule” (c) 2013, John Karalis) but it won’t make you much of a player. Backing off a player for fear that he’ll cross you over will help you avoid getting your ankles busted, but at that point the only way you could make him more comfortable would be to offer a shoulder massage.
The NBA lacks more Bradley-esque defenders because too few people have that mentality. Too few players are willing to put it out there, risk the occasional YouTube clip, and get up in someone’s face. It’s an image thing. Defense isn’t sexy.
“I can play defense. I like offense, but I can play defense.”
Are there two quotes that encapsulate players better than the Bradley and Young quotes? There is no player in the NBA more in love with offense than Young. And there is no way in hell he’s going to burn his legs on D, much less get in the way of someone who could make him the wrong kind of highlight, when he’s got three’s to jack up on the other end of the floor.
Bradley is Bradley because he has no fear. It’s a necessary mentality to be the pit bull that he is. He is a rare talent in the NBA simply because he focuses his energy in ways other players won’t.
Embarrassment is all in your own head. The social media barbs don’t matter if you don’t care about them. The “not top 10″ highlights don’t mean squat if you have the ability to tune it out. And Bradley’s ability to let that stuff slide is what makes him so great at his job.
It won’t always work out on the floor for Avery Bradley. But moving on quickly from bad plays without letting it linger upstairs is the key to him making great plays later on.