WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It's easy to see how Avery Bradley can fly under the radar.
Dressed in a basic black cap and polo shirt with clean, white Yeezy Boosts on his feet, the biggest casualty of the Gordon Hayward summer sweepstakes stood intently on the sidelines as his young campers powered through a series of defensive drills.
"This is Avery Bradley's camp...we play defense here!" shouted one of the coaches at the Avery Bradley Skills Academy presented by G2 Athletics, a Vancouver-based training academy "designed to discover the potential in all basketball players," according to its website.
"Don't let your feet touch; that's how you end up on Shaqtin' a Fool!"
Defense, hard work and a low-key nature have pretty much defined Bradley's seven-year pro career. Last season, the Tacoma, Washington, native posted his best season, setting career highs in points (16.3), rebounds (6.1) and assists (2.2) per game for the Eastern Conference top-seeded Boston Celtics.
However, despite reaching the conference finals, the Celtics pulled off one of the biggest offseason moves, signing an All-Star in Hayward away from the Utah Jazz. As a result, Bradley, 26, was traded to the Pistons, who are coming off a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs.
How did Bradley learn of his fate? An ill-timed flight and a flurry of text messages. "I just read one text like 'Are you happy?' or something like that, and I can't remember who it was from," he recalls.
"So, I instantly Googled my name and it said Detroit."
Near the end of the second day of his camp at Collingwood School in West Vancouver, Bradley (who becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018) spoke to Bleacher Report about his summer, his love for coaching today's youth and his move from Beantown to the Motor City.
Bleacher Report: Basketball and trades aside, tell me about your summer. Any vacations?
Avery Bradley: I haven't actually gotten a chance to take a vacation this summer. I'm going to take my first one toward the end of this month. But I love to fish—that's a hobby of mine. I fish in the Caribbean; I usually fish in Grenada every single summer, so this is the first summer I haven't and probably won't get a chance to, either. I'll just relax when I go out of the country. But that's it; I'm just a homebody. I work out, come home. That's it (laughs).
B/R: Watching the camp, I'm noticing a lot of defensive drills, which isn't surprising coming from you.
AB: I have it set up like that because I feel like most kids just want to shoot the step-back threes. They want to play like [Stephen] Curry and all those guys, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think it starts at the defensive end. Defense not only wins games; it's what gets you on the floor at every level you play at. Once you get to high school and get to college, if you don't play defense, you won't play. And I just want to put an emphasis on that.
B/R: What is the most important lesson you want to give these kids today?
AB: The most important thing with me is consistency. Making sure they can do these drills and actually apply it to their everyday basketball workouts. Over three days, you can't change how a kid plays. It's going to take them—for us to give them all the drills and tools—and for them to actually go outside of this camp and work on those drills to improve on their shots, improve on their certain techniques that they use.
When I was a high school player, I wasn't ranked high. I would come into the gym and I would do my form shooting—which I taught those guys—and I would make 100 jumpers. I wasn't a good shooter, but I perfected my shot, and I ended up getting the No. 1 player in the nation coming out of Tacoma, Wash. I never thought that could happen, but that was a blessing, and it all started here with all these drills I am showing these kids.
B/R: Why come up to Vancouver? Was it because of partnering with G2 Athletics, or because this was an extension of the Northwest?
AB: Yeah, it's an extension to the Northwest, and we wanted to collaborate with Gabe [Gibbs, camp co-organizer and founder of G2 Athletics]. It's always been a dream of mine. I always come up here. And I was like, 'Basketball is big in Vancouver; man, people love basketball.' And I told myself that I wanted to do a camp up here one day. Originally it started where I wanted to do camps everywhere I had stops at Washington, Nevada, Texas and Boston. And we did that; we knocked all those places off. Then we started expanding. We did Grenada, Trinidad; we wanted to do here.
I'm here all day, man. This is what I do because it's a passion of mine. I want to help kids and I've been blessed with this talent from God, and I feel like I'm supposed to be giving back helping kids, teaching them everything I know.
B/R: Last year, the Celtics took a big step forward making the ECF. Describe how close the team bond was this last season.
AB: The bond of the team was pretty close. We didn't add a lot of additions to the team last year. We kind of had the same team we had the year before, so we were close. We knew each other's games, which I think is important. It is important at every level, but especially in the NBA.
When you are able to perfect your systems, I feel like that's why Doc Rivers was able to be so successful because our training camp was just going through plays. The team was already set, we had our core group of guys and we just needed to get into shape—that was the biggest thing for our training camp. I think it started to become like that by Brad's [Stevens] third or second year. First year was kind of tough, because we had new guys coming in and out all of the time. Once you are able to get a set roster, it really helps a lot.
B/R: The injury to Isaiah Thomas in the ECF was obviously a big blow. Do you think at full strength you guys could have stolen that series?
AB: I can say I wish we had a better opportunity. But you know, the Cavs are a good team. I don't want to take anything away from them. ... Playing the way we know we could have played, I felt like we started to get to even when Isaiah went down—I still feel like we had a chance. Even Game 4 we had a chance to win. I think we were up by 20. So, we had opportunities; they're just a good team. So, I hope with Detroit now, we have a chance to do the same thing.
B/R: With the Celtics' flexibility, there were rumors going into the draft and free agency involving big names to Boston. Did you think it was a possibility they might move you?
AB: Yeah, I knew it would be a hard decision. I was open to it, though. I knew if I didn't sign this summer that it was going to be a possibility that I could be moved because it's beneficial for both parties, you know, for Avery Bradley and the Celtics.
At the end of the day, I want to do what's best for me, and they have to do what's best for them. They felt like it would be a better opportunity for me somewhere else to give me a chance to not only continue to grow my game but for me to have an opportunity to take care of my family.
B/R: How did you find out?
AB: (Pause) I actually think it was a text from my wife. I was actually on the plane going to my friend's wedding. I had like an hour left in my flight and I'm like, 'Let me check my phone and make sure my wife and family are OK.' Because I had an early flight, I left at like 5 a.m. from Austin[, Texas], and I turned it on and my phone went crazy. So, I'm like, 'Ah man.' I knew exactly what was going on.
B/R: So, did you have any idea where?
AB: I just read one text like 'Are you happy?' or something like that, and I can't remember who it was from. So, I instantly Googled my name and it said Detroit. So, by the time I landed, I called Stan [Van Gundy, Pistons head coach], and you still feel nervous a little bit. But instantly I still, it was almost like, I was happy. I felt like I was getting more of an opportunity instantly. I was like 'I'm going to a new situation' that I felt was going to be great for me and give me a chance to show other parts of my game.
B/R: So, it didn’t hurt a little bit? It didn't change your perception of loyalty in the NBA?
AB: Not from me because you know, I'm eight years in the NBA and it's the business, man. Anything is possible, anything can happen at any time. ... I wasn't shocked that it happened, you know what I mean? I knew it was a possibility; it was something that we spoke about. Obviously, you can't read the future and know what team, but I knew I was going somewhere.
B/R: A lot of people think that it was a lot to give up you and Kelly Olynyk even though Gordon Hayward is a great player. How did your teammates react?
AB: I think they were a little disappointed, but they also know it's a business too. You just have to move on, wish the best for your teammate and move on. It was really hard for me when the Big Three [Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen] left. And then [Rajon] Rondo left, and then I'm like 'What?' And then Jeff Green left. I'm like, 'Man, this is it.' But you know, I just wanted the best for them, and I was like, 'Man, this is what happens...now I just have to take full advantage of this opportunity.'
B/R: So, fresh start in Detroit. New arena and new teammates with a lot of young talent. What are your feelings for this upcoming year?
AB: I feel like anything is possible. Where we're able to buy into what Stan is trying to do, we have a lot of talent. If we're able to put that all together and everybody buys in, we can have a special year. Especially with a coach like Stan Van Gundy; he's special and he really knows his stuff.
I want to help bring more leadership to help this team and just bring that hard-working mentality to the team, and I feel like if I'm able to accomplish that, I feel like anything is possible for our team this year.
B/R: Everybody knows about your defense, but you also showed a lot of offensive skills last year especially when Isaiah went out. Do you think this is your coming-out year, maybe even a potential All-Star year?
AB: We'll see, man. I mean for me, I do. I will call myself—my friends don't like it...a lot of people close to me don't like it—but I don't like to say stuff like that. But honestly, I'm confident in myself. I mean, I basically averaged 18 points this year and I needed to be really efficient while doing that on a championship-caliber team—a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. I feel, it can be possible for me this year and I worked on my game, so I will be prepared for that opportunity. You'll see this year, man!
B/R: The East seems wide-open now. Are you going into next season with playoff aspirations?
AB: Of course! That should be every team's goal is the playoffs. And after playoffs, you want to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, and after that you want to get to the championship, so we're looking to making the playoffs and making it as far as we can after that.
B/R: Walking into the TD Garden next year [Nov. 27], what is that feeling going to be like since that is the only NBA home you have had?
AB: This is what I do, man. This is my job. I'm prepared, I'm a professional, and I'm just going to go out there and play my game and do what I do. It's going to be nice to be back. I know that it's hard for a lot of the fans to see me back in a different uniform—with a different number too. But I'm excited. I'm ready for it.
B/R: And why the number 22?
AB: I can't tell anybody. It was just something that was special to me and aligned with a lot of things that are going on in my life right now. And I just felt like it was a perfect number for me and fit me perfect at the time that I picked it.