After the first few days of Lakers training camp, there’s been one name that’s been most frequently brought up: Avery Bradley.
“He’s the guy that everybody’s talking about,” said Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel. “When you’ve got two of the best players in the world competing together and all anybody is talking about is Avery Bradley’s tenaciousness, that speaks volumes about what he’s been able to show in the first couple of days.”
This came as a surprise to some fans, because Bradley has struggled on that end of the floor at times the past few seasons, but it doesn’t seem to shock teammates like Anthony Davis.
“I’ve seen Avery play defense from afar, but to see it every day, the way he gets after it and competes is pretty special. He can really guard the ball,” Davis said.
Bradley hasn’t been the offensive or defensive player he was at his peak since leaving the Boston Celtics, and a big part of that has been due to his injuries that have caused him to miss time, and hampered him while he was on the floor.
Now, Bradley has said at camp that those injuries aren’t an excuse, but it’s worth acknowledging that this is the first time in a while that Avery has gone into training camp feeling 100% healthy. That might quickly become a scary sight for some of the other teams, and has already led to a warning for Lakers guards during camp: Don’t dribble the ball near Bradley.
Another big part of Bradley’s drop in play over the last few years has been his confidence.
“With basketball it’s all about opportunity and confidence, and in those two places I was given the opportunity, but I don’t feel like all the confidence was there,” Bradley said right after he signed in July.
“Memphis just was a lift for me, it was what I needed. First thing they told me was to go out there and play like you played in Boston, and I think that’s what I needed. I needed to just play free and play for my teammates, and go out there and compete every single possession, and that’s what I did.”
With the Celtics, Bradley made two All-Defensive teams and was known around the league as a lockdown defender. He’s shown glimpses of that type of stellar defense with the other three teams he’s played on, but his injuries and confidence got in the way.
If the buzz coming from training camp that Bradley seems like his old self is true, the Lakers may have nabbed one of the most underrated pick-ups in free agency.