Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bradley, Thomas: Two friends reunited


Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas have been friends since way before they first stepped foot on an NBA basketball court.

The Washington natives who grew up in the same Tacoma neighborhood are now teammates in Boston, trying to push the C's to a playoff berth in April.

Thomas talked about his relationship with Bradley in Steve Bulpett's Boston Herald story about how much he looks forward to playing in Boston alongside his old buddy.

"I've known Avery my whole life," said Thomas. "We played in the same AUU program. We grew up in the same neighborhood. It's good to have a guy like that who's not just your friend but more like a brother. He's had a great career so far and I look forward to working with him." [Boston Herald]

Together, Thomas and Bradley have gotten off to a great offensive start for the Celtics. Even though two games is a small sample size, the two guards are averaging a combined 42 points.

Bradley, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, says Thomas was a much talked about prospect in Washington, even though he was drafted late in the second round in 2011.

"He was an older guy who was the best basketball player in the area, so we looked up to him," said Bradley. [Boston Herald]

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who has been looking at Thomas for the past few years, had a chance to draft Thomas in 2011 but instead drafted shooting guard E'Twaun Moore. At that time, Rajon Rondo was playing a lot for Doc Rivers, so there wasn't minutes to share at point guard. So Ainge went with a shooting guard instead of selecting Thomas.

Although Thomas has so far been coming off the bench, he could be the Celtics' new starting point guard. He is a proven point guard who can pass and score and make key plays in late-game situations.

Last Monday, Thomas drained a free throw to complete a four-point play against the Suns in the last two minutes. He then followed that up with a steal and a layup. Isaiah is also averaging five assists in his first two games with the C's.

Isaiah's ability to hit jumpers off the pick-and-roll forces teams to cover him on the perimeter. This has created space for Bradley's shooting, because teams can't afford to leave Thomas open.

Ainge has been eying Thomas throughout his NBA career, especially last summer when the young guard tested free agency before signing a deal with the Phoenix Suns. Ainge was the first person Thomas received a phone call from on the first day of last year's free agency period.

Acquiring Isaiah Thomas adds a much needed scorer to a promising Celtics backcourt along with Bradley, Marcus Smart and James Young. All four players are still developing their skillsets, while the oldest of the four, Thomas and Bradley, are entering the prime of their careers. They are also on team-friendly contracts, giving Ainge the flexibility to deal them if he ever needed to.

Last summer, Ainge locked Bradley into a four-year $32 million contract, while the Suns signed Thomas to a four-year $27 million deal.

In a shaky Eastern Conference, a Thomas-Bradley combo could blossom into one of the best backcourts, competing against Washington's John Wall/Bradley Beal and Toronto's Kyle Lowry/DeMar Derozan duos. Last season, Thomas was one of a few NBA point guards to average at least 20 points and 6 assists. Not an easy feat in the Western Conference, but is certainly manageable in the east.

"It's a nice blessing," Thomas said. "All of the things (Ainge) said you could tell were genuine. He's wanted me since my days at Washington. I'm just surprised how it happened - So last-minute.

"I fit in with anybody. You have a basketball and a hoop, I'll fit in. It's just different. I was just on a new team five months ago. It's different, it's tough, but at the same time guys are friendly and make it easy."

Thomas will receive a loud ovation tonight at TD Garden when he will make his home debut as a Celtic against the New York Knicks. Ah, the Knicks, expect another impressive performance from the two kids from Tacoma.

Welcome to Boston, Isaiah.

Josue Pavon
Twitter: @Joe_Sway10

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