AUBURN HILLS – It took Avery Bradley less time than contained in one NBA 24-second possession to dispel any fears Pistons fans might have had about the attitude he’ll carry with him to his new home.
“I told my wife the other day, it’s perfect timing. I feel like we’re rebuilding our team and the city’s rebuilding at the same time,” he said before holding up his new Pistons jersey for a photo opportunity next to his new coach, Stan Van Gundy.
“So it’s perfect. Perfect timing, perfect situation. I feel like it’s our chance to help the city be excited about Detroit basketball now. I feel like in the near future, we have a chance to be a very good team.”
Bradley is leaving the East’s No. 1 seed for a team that just missed the playoffs. But he also understands how dearly the loss of Reggie Jackson – an old AAU adversary – cost the Pistons. And he remembers the eight games the Pistons and Celtics played the last two seasons, Boston holding a 5-3 edge with no game decided by more than seven points and Boston holding a cumulative 836-826 edge.
“There’s not a big gap,” he said.
Bradley was the rare AAU prodigy – ranked among the top 10 players in his 2009 high school graduating class – valued for his defense as much as for his offense even then. Understand that at that age, those in the discussion for McDonald’s All-American status – which, inevitably, means being recruited by Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and handful of other bluebloods and dreams of NBA one-and-done status – identify as scorers 99 times out of 100.
“I’ve always had that mentality,” he said. “Once I reached this level, I understood defense wins games. Whenever you’re able to give effort on the defensive end, it inspires other people. That’s what I look to do all the time.”
Van Gundy, seated a few feet to Bradley’s right, seemed to take on an inspirational glow at those words. Bradley, seven years in the league, knows all about Van Gundy. He kept circling back to how Boston players knew playing Van Gundy teams meant going against a team prepared to the Nth degree.
“I pretty much know everything,” he said about Van Gundy’s characteristics. “One thing I can say is every player I speak to about Stan, all have positive things to say. All told me we’re going to be a perfect fit for each other.”
Jackson flew in from Los Angeles just for Bradley’s press conference.
“I’ve got to see my man, let him know I’m all in with him and let’s get this ball rolling,” Jackson said. “I definitely wanted him to see my face and let him know how important he is to the team and how important he is to me.”
Bradley, a first-team All-Defense honoree in 2015-16 who didn’t make it last season only because he missed about six weeks with an Achilles tendon strain, satisfied the needs Van Gundy identified following last year’s 37-win season.
“We wanted to add as much character as we possibly could, we wanted to add 3-point shooting and we wanted to get more people on the floor who could handle the ball and make plays because we’ve been pretty dependent on Reggie Jackson and our point guards to have to make every single play,” Van Gundy said. “So we wanted to change that and it’s hard to check off all those boxes with one player. But we did that with Avery.”
The question hovering over Bradley’s addition, one unlikely to be determined until next July: How long will he wear No. 22 in Detroit? He’s got one year remaining on a contract that makes him one of the NBA’s great bargains.
“We’ll talk about that when the time comes,” he said. “I do feel this is going to be a great opportunity for me. I feel like this is going to help me grow as a player. Whenever you’re in a place that’s helping you grow and become a better player and a better person, you might want to stay here. I want to reach my full potential as a basketball player and hopefully that can be here.”