Avery Bradley is continuing to make a name for himself during the Los Angeles Lakers' training camp.
The biggest reason?
The biggest result?
He's quickly working his way back to being an elite defender.
"I'm coming into the season healthy, obviously that's the talent that I can bring to this team," Bradley told reporters. "That's my mindset going into every practice, every single game: defense. That's what wins games, and that's my strength. Like I said, I'm going to try and bring that every single night."
The Lakers signed Bradley this offseason to a two-year, $9.7 million deal, hoping to shore up their backcourt with the departure of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to the New Orleans Pelicans in the trade for Anthony Davis.
For Bradley, though, it was a chance at redemption.
"I felt like this was the situation where I was going to reach my full potential," Bradley said. "No excuse at all, I didn't have the year I wanted to have. A lot of it because of injuries, but I'm healthy now, and I'm looking forward to this opportunity and this situation ... and I'm gonna take advantage of it.
"It's a blessing to be able to be in this position. I'm thankful to be here, and I'm gonna make sure there's no regrets. I'm gonna leave everything out there on the floor."
Bradley knows his role on this Lakers team and that bodes well for their chances at contending for a title.
"I think that's the strength of our team, we have a lot of guys, our team is very deep, and I think it just depends on what lineup coach wants to put out there, and us all buying into our role," Bradley said. "My role is to go out there and play defense at a high level every single night, and that's what I will try to do."
All eyes have been on Davis and LeBron James coming into the season, and rightfully so, but Bradley is making waves and could catapult himself into the conversation for best under-the-radar signing of this summer's free agency class.
"It has been a good camp for me," Bradley said. "I'm happy because I put in a lot of work this summer. But it's not about me, it's about the team, and we're going to see what position coach puts us in, and I'm going to be prepared for whatever position it is."
Increasingly, Bradley is finding that the Lakers may put him in the best position to prove that he's still a top-tier defensive stopper.
"I've seen Avery play defense from afar, but to see it every day the way he gets after it and competes," Davis told Joey Ramirez of NBA.com. "It's pretty special. He can really guard the ball, to the point where Coach [Vogel] said, 'If he's on the ball, just pass it.' He's very special on the defensive end."
Rajon Rondo, who helped mentor Bradley as a rookie for the Boston Celtics, wants the 28-year old guard to continue to bring that hard-nosed defensive mentality to team practices.
"[Rondo] said, 'Make sure you guard me every single practice, so we can get better,'" Bradley said. "That has to be everybody's mentality because we are a team and we want to push each other and we want to bring the best out of each other every single day."
Bradley is somewhat accustomed to Rondo's brand of thinking because it's a holdover from his days in Boston playing with another well-known defender, Kevin Garnett.
"If I took days off, KG was going to cuss me out, so I had to make sure I brought my A-game every single day," Bradley said.
His teammates have definitely noticed that he's not taking any days off.
"If I'm guarding the ball, I know that I have guys behind me who can block shots," Davis added. "It gives everybody the ability to be Avery Bradley in some sense (laughs)."
"Avery Bradley hounds on the ball defensively and off the ball," Danny Green said. "He's tough to get by, tough to get around. … I like the fact that we're more defensive-oriented. Go over that stuff first. That's the more important thing."
If Bradley's performance in practices are any indication, Vogel won't be able to keep him off the floor, especially during crunch time.
"All anybody's talking about is Avery Bradley's tenaciousness," Vogel told NBA.com's Mike Trudell. "That speaks volumes about what he's been able to show in the first couple of days."
Howard and McGree the Biggest Camp Standouts
Anthony Davis has been playing well during the Lakers training camp, but that was the expectation when the team traded for him.
But L.A.'s other big men—Dwight Howard and Javale McGee—are making a huge impression, too.
"Our centers have really impressed me," Vogel told ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "Both Dwight and JaVale. JaVale's performing at a really high level. Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around. We're asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves. He's been an all-business type of guy. It's really helped us to be focused and working on the task at hand."
McGee was a member of the Lakers last season, but the team took a flier on Howard only after DeMarcus Cousins went down with his most recent injury.
That fact isn't lost on the eight-time All Star, who had to come to the realization that he's not viewed as the same player that won three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
"None of those accomplishments, they mean nothing right now," Howard told ESPN last week. "My job is to help this team win. All the stuff that happened in the past doesn't matter at this present time. I just want to stay in the moment, stay focused on what I need to do for this team, to help this team be successful."
Howard's play at the outset of camp has been a revelation and everyone's taken notice.
"Dwight has it on his mind that he wants to help this team win," Davis said. "And whatever that entails, he's going to do it. He wants to have his second run in L.A. be a great one, and he's come in, he goes in the weight room, he gets his treatment and then comes on the court and gets his work in and practices. So he's been about business from day one, and that's all I can ask for for a guy to come in, get his work in and be ready to go."
Vogel hasn't decided on who will be the starter at center just yet, so he's continuing to tinker with the lineup.
But no matter which big he puts into the starting five, Davis believes that both Howard and McGee will be valuable allies in the low post.
"We've been on the same team—me and JaVale or Dwight and I—I think every scrimmage yet," Davis said. "It's the same. It's hard to score. Or JaVale and Dwight [together], it's hard to score against us in the paint. So my role doesn't change. I just don't have to get every blocked shot now and every rebound. We have guys that can do the same thing."
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