Celtics guard Avery Bradley, in an interview with the Mut & Merloni show following his first game of the 2012-13 season, said that he returned from his two shoulder surgeries about a month ahead of his anticipated schedule, and that he feels as if he's ready to play 30-35 minutes a night already.
"I’m in great shape right now," said Bradley. "However many minutes I play, I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can. I feel like everything will work itself out if I continue to play as hard as I am. I’ll continue to come along on the offensive end and I’ll be able to play even harder on the defensive end."
Bradley noted that he is driven to sustain his reputation as one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the NBA.
"It’s just motivation for me," Bradley said of such accolades. "It makes me want to continue to work hard. When people talk about me like that, I want to prove to people that it’s true every night I step on the floor. I’m going to show that I’m a great defender and make it as hard as possible for my opponent.
"Like I tell everybody, I don’t feel like you can have an off defensive game. It’s all effort and heart. I just go out there, on the defensive end, play as hard as I can," he continued. "Every night, you’re not going to have a good offensive game. But if you go out there and give effort on the defensive end, that’s all your coach wants and all your teammates can ask for, and that’s what I try to do every night."
That reputation, in turn, has made Bradley one of the most prominent trade chips on the Celtics roster. As a young player who can impact a game, his name will likely be mentioned in connection with numerous trade rumors as the NBA trading deadline starts to come into view.
Bradley said that he's now accustomed to being a part of that rumor mill, and so he's also become proficient at ignoring it.
"Since my rookie year, it’s been happening, so I know it’s always going to happen," said Bradley. "Every year, your name could be in trade talks. You’ve just got to focus on the games that are coming up and not think about the trade deadline and all those things."
Bradley suggested that he's focused on the business of helping the Celtics recover from their slow start. While he and the team did not want to stumble out of the gates again while relying on the recent history of last year's recovery from similarly poor play early in the season, he acknowledged that there is solace to be taken in that recent turnaround.
"Coming into this year, we didn’t want to think like that. We didn’t want to be the same as last year," said Bradley. "But it looks like that’s how it could be. I definitely feel like we’re going to flip the switch. Going into the second half of this season, I feel like we’re gong to pick it up and start playing Celtic basketball."