Saturday, February 1, 2014
Practice: Rondo/Bradley tandem in focus
By Chris Forsberg
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Just how rare has a Boston Celtics backcourt featuring Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo been over the past four seasons?
The duo has shared the floor in just 51 of 277 potential regular-season games, a mere 18.4 percent of Boston's total contests during Bradley's time in the league, according to the NBA's statistical warehouse. That includes just three games this season and 11 games last year.
The Celtics will get a rare glimpse of what they hope might be their backcourt of the future when Bradley returns to the starting lineup Sunday against the Orlando Magic.
Bradley has missed the past five games because of a sprained ankle. His stint on the shelf came right after Rondo returned from missing nearly a full year because of a torn ACL. The duo briefly crossed paths in January of last year after Bradley missed the first 30 games of the season because of double shoulder surgeries, only for Rondo to be lost for the season at the end of that month.
While the Rondo-Bradley lineup has shown intriguing glimpses, especially stretching into the playoffs during the 2011-12 season when Bradley supplanted Ray Allen in the starting lineup, we've yet to see an extended regular-season stretch with this pairing. So what's the potential for that tandem?
"I think they can be really good," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "The thing that is good about them is that they can both defend 1s or 2s, because they’re both strong and long and agile guys, so you have a little bit of flexibility in the backcourt. And then Avery, obviously, running off screens, scoring off screens, is certainly more comfortable at the 2 than the 1 [and] fits better with a guy like Rondo. They just haven’t had a lot of time to play together. It’s pretty remarkable when you think about the fact that they've been on the same team for  games last year, 48 this year, and the number of minutes they've actually played together is pretty low."
How low? The Bradley/Rondo tandem has logged a mere 748 regular-season minutes together, including 43 this season and 250 last year. Their 451 minutes together during the 2011-12 regular season is the biggest sample size available, and the duo put up some sexy numbers (including a defensive rating of 88 when paired together), but clearly a lot has changed since that point.
The Celtics don't expect the Bradley/Rondo combo to be some sort of magic elixir that turns around their season, but as they gauge what the future will look like, how the pair operates together could dictate a lot about how Boston will proceed this summer. Bradley is set to become a restricted free agent and interest around the league could run up his price tag, while Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season and the Celtics have already approached him about a contract extension that might help the team put premium pieces around him moving forward.
- OLYNYK PIGS OUT: After some post-practice shooting drills Saturday, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Phil Pressey played a game of Pig. Pressey knocked out Humphries with a seated sideline heave, but Olynyk prevailed with a half-court bomb (see video above).
- NO OFF-DAYS FOR HUMP: Asked about being held out of practice Friday, Humphries said, "A day off? No, [team trainer Ed Lacerte] wanted to hold me out because I was dealing with some swelling in my knee. So just some treatment, lifting some weights, rode the bike." And while Humphries admitted bumps and bruises linger a bit longer for veterans, he stressed that a day off for practice is rare for him. "You don’t recover as fast when you've played 10 years," Humphries said. "People like to joke and stuff, but I've practiced a lot, OK? You gotta get Rondo off my back."
- WALLACE STILL UNCERTAIN: Gerald Wallace, who left the team recently because of a death in his family, sounds uncertain to play Sunday versus the Magic. "Gerald is home [in Alabama], so he’s supposed to fly back tomorrow," Stevens said. "He’s obviously had a tough time, as any of us would. Certainly, first and foremost, I want to make sure he’s OK. I’m a lot less concerned about whether he plays in one game or not."
- YOU (WERE) MY BOY, BLUE: The Celtics will not immediately retain the services of guard Vander Blue, whose 10-day contract expired Friday night. Blue scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting with four assists and five turnovers over 25 minutes in an appearance for the Maine Red Claws during Friday's 111-100 win over the Delaware 87ers. Ironically, Blue could be right back with Delaware, who owned his rights when Boston added him to the roster in need of guard options. A healthier backcourt has diminished the Celtics' need for depth there. Said Stevens of throwing Blue into the fire in Washington after the team initially signed him last month: "It’s not really fair to somebody to call them up and have them drive 2 ½ hours day of game and play in an NBA game. That’s just not really fair to a young guy, to put him in the spot like that. But he did a pretty good job. He just got better as his 10 days went on." Later Stevens added: "I think he’s got a good future and a potential future in the league. I hope that everything works out well for him."