With Bradley Gone, New Generation of Celtics Basketball Officially Starts
With the Boston Celtics trading guard Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, this move officially signals the very end of one of the most exciting eras of Celtics basketball. The former longest tenured Celtic, is now gone.
Boston saw the 6’2” guard grow up right before its eyes. They remember watching the best game of his rookie season: April 4th, 2011 against the New York Knicks. Bradley scored 20 points, going 10-16 from the field and had two steals. You could see the NBA talent out of the young, 19 year-old Texas product. He played 26 minutes (14 minutes was his season high before this game) that night and you could just tell the kid was hungry. Making baseline cuts to the basket, playing excellent on-ball defense, and recording those two steals. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew right then that Bradley had a bright future in the NBA.
That went on to be true, as Rivers made the decision to start Bradley over Ray Allen during the 2012 Celtics playoff run. He was known only for his defense then, with the grit beaming out of his play style every night he was on the court: true Celtics pride. He was the perfect Celtic and that’s why he stuck around for as long as he did.
Then Ray Allen left for the Miami Heat, and it was now Bradley’s starting job to lose. Spoiler alert: he never lost it once. Yes, when he was injured for a stretch during the 2016 season he did come off the bench, but in the most important games the Celtics had in recent memory, Bradley was on the court, in the starting lineup, putting his Celtic blood, sweat, and tears into each game, every position, and never backing down from any one player in the league.
After Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded in 2013, Rajon Rondo and Bradley were the only ones left from the “Big 3” era of Celtics basketball. When Rondo was traded to Dallas, it was just Avery left. No one else. Bradley learned from those NBA veterans. He learned how to win and he saw what it meant to be a Celtic. He carried that culture into this new age of Celtics basketball, labelled as young, fierce, and hungry.
He was always asked to cover the other team’s best player: LeBron, Kyrie, Steph, Kawhi; you name any player in the league and AB had him on lock. He was never afraid of the moment,
“I love the challenge,” Bradley told MassLive.com’s Tom Westerholm. “I love going up against the best players. I don’t care who it is… Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I’m licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That’s how I think.”
Marcus Smart is now the longest tenured Celtic on the team (approaching his fourth season). Three years is not that long, and now when you compare the Celtics 2013 roster with the new 2017 one, there is not a single player left. Not even Head Coach Brad Stevens has been around as long as Bradley was. The green, having acquired max free agents Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, and trading for MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas, are changing and growing. There are new faces with new ways of doing things, but “being a Celtic” still means the same and will always remain true to anyone who puts on the jersey and walks the parquet floor.
The NBA is a business, and we saw that with this trade. The Celtics had to make a decision and still have many more to ponder. Thomas’ contract situation now sits right front of them. Danny Ainge is still looking for another max player to come team up with IT, Horford, and Hayward to finally round out the roster to be able to beat the Cavaliers, and anyone in the wild, wild West.
Change is good and it’s how life works. Celtic fans will miss Bradley dearly, but this move makes salary cap sense. But how about as a pure basketball move? Well, it’s a wait and see game in Boston. With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, now known as, “7-11,” ready to ascend into Celtic greatness within the next couple of years, and Hayward, IT, and Horford ready to go to battle with any team in the NBA right now, this is that new era of Celtics basketball. It is fun, thrilling, and of course emotional. What combines all three of those things? A roller coaster. Yes, the ride has just begun, Boston. Just wait, the rise to the top is still slowly moving along. But soon, maybe even sooner than people first thought, the Celtics will be right back in it. In it to win it. Nothing more, nothing less.