ROXBURY, Mass. – There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the longest-tenured member of the Boston Celtics – even if you’re only 25 years old.
Avery Bradley knows that fact as well as anyone, as he heads into his seventh season as a member of the most historic franchise in the sport – three more than any other player on the roster.
Bradley was drafted by the Celtics as an 18-year-old out of Texas seven long years ago. He was a timid, quiet kid who took a good 18 months to make a mark in the league. Since then, he has ridden through all of Boston’s ups and downs, all while becoming one of the most feared defenders in the game, as well as the team’s best shooter.
There is no “C” for captainship stitched onto his jersey, but there might as well be one. Bradley is the unquestioned leader of this team, even though his voice is rarely heard.
Bradley recently described his leadership role to Celtics.com by using one phrase: “Lead by example.”
“I don’t really speak that much,” he said, reluctantly elaborating on his initial three-word phrase of an answer. “I just try to be professional on and off the court, and hopefully everybody follows.”
‘Everybody’ can’t be used in literal terms; he isn’t really talking about everybody. Seasoned vets like Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko already know the ropes of the NBA, and they have all carved out successful, lengthy careers. The rest of the roster, however, is a different story.
Boston is likely to have at least eight players in training camp who are 22 years old or younger. The youngest of the crop, 19-year-old Jaylen Brown, was only 14 years old when Bradley made his NBA debut on Nov. 11, 2010.
None of those youngsters, save 22-year-old Marcus Smart, have found their way in the NBA. In fact, no member of that group, outside of Smart, has logged more than 541 total minutes in their respective careers.
Clearly, these young players need someone to show them the way, and Bradley is the guy to do it. There may be no better source to help mold Boston’s young and talented players. Bradley is as professional as they come, and he is such because he learned from the best of the best when he was a youngster himself.
Rewind to Bradley’s rookie season and you’ll find a roster full of future Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Bradley is and was a smart young man, as he entered every practice, game, film session and general interaction with open eyes and open ears.
“I was just able to listen to them,” Bradley said of his former teammates. “KG and those guys, they told me what I needed to do to be successful and I would listen to those guys because I wanted to be like them. I knew what it would take for me to stick in the NBA, and that was making sure I was always on time and all of those things.”
Now, seven years later, Bradley is the leader who is passing that knowledge along to his younger teammates, and he knows that he must walk the walk if he expects the young guns to follow.
“I can’t preach something that I’m not doing,” he said. “That’s the thing about it – all of my teammates see me being professional, so I hope they’ll do the same.”
They will do so if they want to be successful. Bradley is the example, as he has quietly become the leader of this organization at just 25 years of age.