Avery Bradley has had ample opportunity to show the world that he is not really as good as he seems to be. It happens for almost every breakout star, from Jeremy Lin to Blake Griffin. Eventually, the holes are revealed and player who seems too good to be true turns out to have some flaws, after all.
Bradley? Bradley is doing entirely the opposite. Other than proving that he is not a pure point guard, which many people assumed a 6-foot-2 guard had to be, Bradley has demonstrated a new aspect to his game with each play the opponent has dared him to make.
Before the Celtics hosted the Magic on Wednesday, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy referenced Bradley, and how the team had devised their game plan for Bradley. Van Gundy explained how the Magic prepared for Bradley's defensive pressure on the ballhandler, his ability to lose defenders on cuts to the hoop and his growing confidence in shooting 3-pointers from the alleys. Van Gundy did not mention Bradley's pull-up jump shot, because that was not believed to be one of Bradley's strengths.
What a difference two days makes.
An incredulous Hawks team watched Bradley drain jumper after jumper on Friday, shooting 4-for-7 from midrange (inside the arc, outside the paint) while scoring a career-high 28 points in a close loss in Atlanta. Whatever it is assumed he cannot do, Bradley has gone out a few days later and done exactly that.
"He's always had the tools, you know, when he came out of Texas," veteran Celtics guard Keyon Dooling said. "He's extremely athletic, he's got his confidence going and he's got the confidence of our coach. He's really carved out a niche on our team. You can talk about the offensive part with Avery, and he's the best perimeter defender in the league.
"If you poll around the league, if you ask point guards who they hate playing against the most, everybody would probably say Avery Bradley. He's a special player."
Increased playing time and increased production have contributed to Bradley gaining some chutzpah within the team, where he once humbly filled his slot at the bottom of the pecking order. Typically, Bradley quietly accepts whatever instruction or order he is given, but when coach Doc Rivers subbed him out of a game this week, Bradley protested.
"He didn't even want to come out one time early in the game, which for him, I thought, was awesome," Rivers said. "He's playing so hard defensively and to do that every night, to play the minutes he's playing and how hard he's playing, that's hard to do."
It seems unrealistic that Bradley can keep up that level of energy for 35 minutes a game, but it once seemed unrealistic he would be anything more than a tough little combo guard a team could stick at the end of its bench. For his next trick, Bradley will prove all the doubters wrong. Again.