Avery Bradley comes up big

Updated: December 17, 2011, 1:44 AM ET
By Tom Lakin | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Scrimmage or not, Friday's intrasquad game was a big one for second-year Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley.

With 0.8 seconds left on the clock, his Green Team down one and the packed lower bowl of the TD Garden rocking, Bradley answered rookie E'Twaun Moore's go-ahead 3-pointer for the White Team in the game's final second with a sweet fallaway jumper of his own, breaking free of the pack and burying a 20-foot game winner as time ran out. A crowd of season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors rose to its feet, satisfied. It was basketball again at the Garden, finally, and Bradley, who spent much of the 2010-11 season with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League, was the hero.

"It was crazy," Bradley said afterward. "It felt like a game. The fans were amazing. I'm happy that they came and I hope they had a good time, and I hope they enjoyed the show."

[+] EnlargeAvery Bradley
Darren McCollester/Getty ImagesAvery Bradley was the hero Friday, and hopes to carve out a role backing up the man guarding him, Ray Allen.

Bradley struggled early in the open scrimmage, which Celtics head coach Doc Rivers organized in order to give his time-crunched team a semblance of game action before they head to Toronto for an exhibition on Sunday. But as the game wore on, Bradley, who finished with seven points on 2-for-6 shooting, found his rhythm.

"It was a new group so we all had to adjust to each other," Bradley said of his Green Team, which featured Marquis Daniels, JaJuan Johnson, Chris Wilcox, Keyon Dooling and Greg Stiemsma. (On the White Team were Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Jermaine O'Neal, Moore, Rajon Rondo, Gilbert Brown and Michael Sweetney.) "I was kind of going fast at first and kind of got discouraged because we were down. But after a while we just slowed down and we started playing our game, going through our plays, and started scoring."

Rivers echoed his young guard.

"Avery I thought struggled for the first three-fourths [of the scrimmage]," Rivers said after the game. "He's just trying to do too much, going too fast. And that's where you see what we see. But then he does have the ability to get to the basket. And he has an ability to get fouls. That last shot was just a great shot."

As originally scripted, Bradley said the final play was actually supposed to go either to Wilcox or the rookie Johnson.

"It was actually supposed to be a lob," Bradley said. "So I wasn't in it at all -- I was just a decoy. But I was open, [Daniels] passed it to me and I just shot it."

It's that kind of confidence that has Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge excited for Bradley's future.

"Avery is our best athletic perimeter defender," Ainge said before practice Thursday. "He's young without experience, so he has to learn to use that athleticism. But he's also a very intense kid, a little bit like [Delonte] West. He's athletic, strong, and intense, and he has a ton of energy. Once he learns to bridle that energy, he could be one of the best defenders in the league.

"We just gotta give him a chance. He needs game action. You gotta give him a chance to play. But at the same time, just with his athleticism alone, and his energy defensively, he'll help us. He'll make mistakes, but he'll bring something to the table as well that we don't have."

If Bradley can earn it, there's an opportunity available for him to contribute this season as a backup for Allen at the 2. Rivers said Friday that the spot remains open for the taking.

"[It's between] Avery, Sasha [Pavlovic], E'Twaun, Marquis ... Somebody will win it, though. We're going to let them. We tell them, we're honest with them -- there's a spot there and all of you aren't going to play it. It's been a competitive camp because of it."

Asked about the open position, Bradley said he recognizes the opportunity and relishes the chance to compete for it.

"I know everybody's going to be working hard for that position," Bradley said. "I'm gonna come in every day and work hard and do everything Doc tells me to do, and whoever gets the position gets it. But at the end of the day, I'm just gonna come in and I'm always gonna grind and always gonna work hard."

Whether he wins the spot or not, for Bradley and the rest of the Celtics' relative newcomers -- not to mention a spirited bunch of basketball-starved TD Garden fans -- Friday night was one to remember.

"It was exciting," Bradley said, "especially because I never really got a chance to play on our home court [last year]. So it was a good feeling. I had fun out there. Our fans are amazing, and the new guys got to see the atmosphere. And they were like, 'Dang, the fans are like this?' And we're like, 'Yeah, it's like this every single home game.'"

There are 33 of those coming up, the first on Dec. 30 against Detroit. If Friday was any indication, the team -- and the fans -- are ready to get started.

Tom Lakin is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

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