By: Will Burchfield
Avery Bradley has played for some special coaches during his basketball career, including Rick Barnes at the University of Texas and Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens in Boston.
But no one quite like Stan Van Gundy.
“I understand he’s an amazing coach,” said Bradley. “I always wanted to have an opportunity to play for someone like him, someone that always holds you accountable, pushes you. Not to take anything away from Brad Stevens or Doc Rivers — those are two great coaches — but I feel like this is a coach that is able to push me every day and help me reach my full potential.
“As NBA players we should wanna maximize our games, and I feel like he’s gonna give me a chance to do that.”
Bradley, introduced by the Pistons on Thursday after being acquired last week, is already regarded as one of the best two-way guards in the NBA. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds last season for the Celtics and earned a first-team all-defensive selection the season before that.
“And I think the other thing you notice when you’re looking at Avery’s career,” said Van Gundy, “is he’s been at this for seven years and he’s gotten better every single year.”
It speaks to Bradley’s efficiency and steadily improving shooting stroke that in his two full seasons playing alongside the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas, he managed over 15.5 points per game.
Just how high is his ceiling in Detroit?
“Look, I think he’s an All-Star-capable guy because he plays both ends of the floor,” said Van Gundy. “You’re talking about a guy who was first-team all-defense and has averaged over 16 points a game playing with a guy in the backcourt that was a prolific scorer. His opportunities weren’t numerous and he was still able to get it done because he’s so efficient. So I wouldn’t put a ceiling on him. I think he’s the type of guy who will just continue to get better.”
Van Gundy expects Avery to assume a bigger offensive role with the Pistons.
“I think he’ll get more opportunities, certainly, and I think we already have some ideas on what we wanna do. But you always learn guys more as you’re with them, so I think as the season goes on and we evolve we’ll just get better and better,” he said.
Avery shot 39 percent beyond the arc last season, which would have ranked first on the Pistons. He also has the ability to break down the defense and attack the rim. Van Gundy is eager to see what he and a healthy Reggie Jackson can accomplish side by side.
“We think now, with these two guys, we’ve got one of the best backcourts in the league, and we’ll be expecting a lot out of Avery,” said Van Gundy. “We’re really looking forward to his play on the court and his leadership.”
When Avery got the call that he had been traded to Detroit after seven years in Boston, he smiled.
“A lot of people probably would have been sad, but it was an amazing feeling for me. I knew it was a new chapter, a great opportunity,” he said.
He talked about the opportunity to play alongside “a ton of good players,” Jackson and Andre Drummond in particular. He touched on the excitement of playing in a new arena in a rebuilding city. Then he brought things back to his new coach — “Coach Stan,” he called him — and talked about a perfect fit.
“Every player that I spoke to about Stan had positive things to say and told me that we’re gonna be a perfect fit for one another. All he expects from us as players is for us to go out there and play as hard as we can and play for one another and do our jobs. That’s what makes good teams, players that understand their role and do it at a high level every single night,” said Bradley.
Bradley, no doubt, is Van Gundy’s kind of player. A stout defender, a strong shooter and an endlessly hard-working teammate. The two are bound to mesh well.
Just as Van Gundy declined to put a ceiling on Bradley, Bradley placed no limit on himself.
“I don’t put a ceiling on anything. The reason I say that is because you wanna improve every single day, and I feel like I’m going to do that,” he said. “Not to sound cocky or anything, but it’s been proven every single year I’ve worked on my game hard.”