There's not much pressure on you when you're a 19-year-old kid drafted by a defending conference champion stacked with future Hall of Famers at every position. If you make a contribution, great; if not, the show will go on.
Avery Bradley is on easy street. But that doesn't mean the former Texas Longhorn isn't working hard to make an impact on the 2010-11 Celtics.
Bradley was selected with Boston's first pick in this summer's draft, going No. 19 overall; later the C's took Luke Harangody, a four-year member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with the No. 52 pick of the night. Harangody went on to dominate the Orlando summer league for the Celtics, leading the squad in both points (16.6 per game) and rebounds (6.8); Bradley was forced to sit.
Just eight days after draft night, on Friday, July 2, Bradley had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his ailing left ankle. He had just signed a new rookie-scale deal with the Celtics, but he wasn't able to take the floor with his new teammates. While most of the C's youngsters headed south for the summer, Bradley stuck around Boston.
"It's really tough," Bradley said earlier this week in an ESPN.com interview. "You kind of feel like you're behind. So I try to do as much as I can — lift weights — so I can at least be out there with other people. I'm still in shape. But it's definitely tough not being able to play and show your coaches and teammates what you got."
Bradley has been in Boston for the last two months, but he hasn't been able to get on the court and play. At an appearance at the NBA's rookie photo shoot earlier this week, at the MSG Training Facility in Tarrytown, N.Y., he finally got a chance to don Celtic green. He liked it.
"It's the first time I've put on basketball shoes in a while," Bradley said. "But it's the first time I've put on the jersey, and it feels good to have 'Boston' and my name on the back. It's cool."
Bradley's on the right track toward reaching full strength and being read to go when the season starts. He's taking things slow with the most serious injury of his young career, not taking any unnecessary risks. But when the time comes, he'll be ready to get back out there.
"We're hoping two weeks [or] a week and a half, I should be back," Bradley said. "I can run and do everything now, but I need to just let injuries like this heal and just take their time. So that's what we're doing now. We're hoping a week and a half, I'll be back."
Assuming he's at 100 percent when the Celtics hit the ground running this season, he should have a role in Doc Rivers' rotation right away.
He's got the speed and the defensive prowess to be a solid role player on the Celtics' bench. He may well be the best defender in this rookie class — and since the Celtics both drafted Bradley and worked out a new deal for Nate Robinson this summer, they'll be able to mix and match at the backup guard positions.
When Doc wants offense, he's got Nate. When he wants D, he's got the new kid.
Assuming Bradley's healthy, he's going to be asked to do a lot right away. And he can't shy away from that challenge.
The Celtics are a great team with or without the newcomer Avery Bradley. But if he's around and he's healthy, he'll find a way to make the team even better.
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