Doc Rivers wasted no time in re-inserting Avery Bradley back into the starting lineup Wednesday night (Jan. 2) against the Memphis Grizzlies.
As usual, Bradley’s impact could not be discerned from a casual glance at the stat sheet. Bradley scored just four points, but his defense looked to be top notch, and that is what we’ve come to expect from the 22-year-old budding star.
The Celtics are a better team with Bradley on the court, but against the Memphis Grizzlies little went right. The C’s lost the game by 1o points, and even with Bradley on the court the Celtics were -12 in point differential.
It’s a small sample size, but Celtics fans must already be wondering if his return can remedy the woes that have plagued the team through the first third of the NBA season. They must re-integrate Bradley into the offense and hope that his return helps team chemistry, rather than the inverse. He’s not a demanding player offensively, and his impact is made without commanding a lot of attention offensively.
In theory, his game changing impact should be felt without him detracting from the offensive needs of Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or any of the other C’s main offensive threats.
But it will take time.
Bradley couldn’t reverse their fortune against a tough Grizzlies team that has gone 20-9 so far and been one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Bradley’s ball hounding should pay dividends. He did come up with a nice steal in the loss, and last season he averaged 0.7 steals per game in 21 minutes of play. But it doesn’t all even show up in steals. Bradley’s ball pressure creates difficult situations on the perimeter for opposing teams, and coupled with Rajon Rondo he helps create effective traps which hinder the development of opponents’ offensive schemes.
So before C’s fans start getting down that Bradley didn’t change the game in his 19 minutes on Wednesday night, let’s consider the fact that it was his first game in about eight months, and the long road to full recovery is just under way.