Avery Bradley returns on Wednesday for the Celtics and could be the spark they need
The Boston Celtics are struggling in 2012-2013. As the schedule turns from 2012 to 2013, the Boston Celtics are two games below .500 and their troubles are highlighted by a post-Christmas west-coast swing where they lost three games to the Warriors, the Clippers and the Kings by an average of 21 points a game. To put it in perspective, in the Big Three 2.0 era, the Celtics only lost eleven games by 18 or more. In one week, they lost three of them. Things aren’t exactly rosy in Boston when it comes to the Boston Celtics.
This team won’t make excuses. They have never been a team known to make excuses. Talk to Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce or coach Doc Rivers and they would all say that this basketball team isn’t very good right now and their record reflects that. One of the biggest reasons for their struggles has been inconsistency and that starts with their starting line-ups. Unlike in previous seasons, the 2012-13 edition of the Boston Celtics has been unable to settle on a starting line-up, throwing guys like Jason Collins and Jason Terry into the line-up at non-injury related points in the season. Both guys were expected to come off the bench or, especially in Jason Collins case, barely expected to see the basketball court at all. When the Celtics lost long-time guard Ray Allen to free-agency, inconsistency in the starting line-up could have been expected, but the Celtics had a guy to step in and be the starting two guard for the Boston Celtics. In fact, in 2011-12, whenever this guy was on the court, the Boston Celtics were a better team. They went 20-9 when he started last year and were the best defense in the NBA, allowing an average of 92.9 points per 100 possessions.
The guy I am talking about is Boston Celtics two-guard Avery Bradley. Bradley came into the line-up last year when Ray Allen was battling ankle problems and was an immediate spark for the Boston Celtics for all the reasons that I already mentioned. In addition, he was an above-average spot-up shooter as well as a quality off-ball cutter to give Celtics point-guard Rajon Rondo extra-options in the half-court set. He was vital for the Celtics last season and there is a thought, based on his defense and extra depth he provided, that the Celtics may have gotten past the Miami Heat had Bradley been healthy.
Wednesday night, Avery Bradley sees the court for the first time in 2012-13 after recovery from off-season shoulder surgery. For a struggling Boston Celtics, he is the first step towards hopefully righting the ship. For one, he finally allows Celtics coach Doc Rivers to settle on a rotation. Courtney Lee never panned out as this teams starting two-guard while waiting for Bradley’s return. This caused shuffling and forced Jason Terry, the expected sixth man, to be thrust into the starting line-up. No longer will this be the case. Bradley will take his starting role, Terry will go back to the bench and Lee will shift further down the depth chart. The sooner that Doc Rivers settles on his starting front-court the the sooner that the Boston Celtics can establish a consistent starting line-up and start developing chemistry between their units.
Bradley also improves a defensive unit that has not been “Celtics” caliber in 2012-13. His energy and tenacity shuts down most teams best guards and limits the amount of lane penetration that attacks players like Garnett and Jarrod Sullinger. This should help the Boston Celtics. On the dark side of things, Bradley’s return allows the Celtics to properly evaluate where they stand as a team. If Bradley comes back and the Celtics improve, then perhaps minor moves to improve the front-court should be made to make this team a contender. If things go poorly, however, then perhaps full-scale changes need to be made. Obviously, that’s the doomsday scenario and not preferred.
I also don’t see this being the case. I see Bradley coming back, taking a little bit to get back into the swing of things before ultimately being a huge spark for a Celtics’ team that needs a big one sooner rather than later.