Bradley's defensive secret: 'I don't care about getting embarrassed'

by
Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley carries a reputation of being one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, and the Boston Celtics guard credits a lack of shame for his prowess at that end of the court.

"I love the challenge," he said Friday, according to Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. "I love going up against the best players. I don't care who it is. I don't care about getting embarrassed. I don't care.

"Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I'm licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That's how I think."

That mentality has earned Bradley two All-Defensive team nods - second team in 2012-13 and first last season. And that attitude is one the 25-year-old's had for a while.

He recounted one of his first NBA games, when he was tasked with defending future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. The wise Kevin Garnett, who was Bradley's teammate at the time, cautioned the rookie against applying his usual full-court pressure on Kidd because the savvy vet might make him look silly. Undeterred, the former first-round pick did it anyway.

"I picked him up full court twice and ripped him twice in a row," Bradley recalled. "Their coach called timeout, and he started cussing me out like, 'You don't ever pick me up like that, young boy.' I'm like 'Man, what did I do?'"

Bradley didn't take Kidd's advice to stop picking him - or anyone else - up like that. He's completely embraced the "defensive stopper" tag.

"I'm going to play rough," Bradley said. "I'm going to pick up the entire game. I'm not going to back down. You can cross me, I can fall, I don't care. That's just me, that's who I am."

Boston had the fourth-best defensive efficiency rating in 2015-16, thanks in part to Brad Stevens' hustle- and effort-based system as well as the team personnel. The Celtics boast solid defenders in Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart, and further bolstered that group this offseason with the addition of Al Horford.

"We could have a top one, two, or three defensive unit," Bradley said.