Pistons ‘expecting a lot’ from Avery Bradley

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Avery Bradley shows off his new No. 22 jersey with Stan Van Gundy on Thursday.

Auburn Hills — When Avery Bradley found out he was being traded from the Boston Celtics to the Pistons, he had an atypical response.

He smiled.

Pistons president Stan Van Gundy said this week that the decision to trade Marcus Morris was difficult — but getting Bradley in return was well worth it.

For both Van Gundy and Bradley, it was time for a change, and Bradley is bringing that mindset with him to help become one of the leaders on and off the court for the Pistons.

“There were a lot people who would have been sad but it was an amazing feeling for me. It was a new chapter for me and a great opportunity to play with a lot of great players like Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond,” Bradley said. “Not only that, but to play for someone like coach Stan. I understand he is an amazing coach.

“I always wanted to play for someone like him, who always hold you accountable and pushes you — not to take anything away from Brad Stevens or Doc Rivers. Those are two great coaches, but this is a coach who is able to push me every single day and help me reach my full potential.”

Bradley, 26, played all seven of his seasons with the Celtics and was their second-leading scorer last season, at 16.3 points, adding 6.1 rebounds and hitting 39 percent on 3-pointers. He’s widely respected as one of the best two-way guards in the NBA, known for his defense.

Paired with Reggie Jackson — who flew from California to Detroit for the news conference — Van Gundy is anticipating an upgrade with his guard tandem, after they parted ways with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who went to the Los Angeles Lakers this week.

“With these two, we have one of the best backcourts in the league and we’ll be expecting a lot out of Avery on the offensive end of the floor,” Van Gundy said. “He can guard either guard position and we’re looking forward to his play on the court, his leadership and welcoming him and his family here to Detroit.”

With the Celtics’ pursuit of Gordon Hayward and their fluctuating salary structure, Bradley became the odd man out, with just one year left on his contract at $8.8 million, with a hefty raise likely coming next summer, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The timing is right for Bradley to latch on to a new culture with the Pistons and become one of their centerpieces — if he chooses.

“I want to lead by example and everybody to have that same mindset,” Bradley said.

“The sky’s the limit for our team if we’re able to play that way.”

The key will be defense, where the Pistons improved last year but still struggled at times. With Bradley, Van Gundy adds one of the best defending guards around. He’s hoping that energy and enthusiasm on that end of the court can spread.

“I hope so. That’s something God’s blessed me with from a young age; I’ve always had that mentality,” Bradley said. “At this level, I understand that defense wins game; whenever you’re able to give all your effort on the defensive end, it inspires people and that’s what I look to do all the time … I want to bring that every single game and have my teammates have that same mentality as I do. I want us to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, because we have the personnel to be able to do that. It’s just the mindset and being willing to follow the coaches and make sure we’re all buying in to what we need to do.”

It’s a time of change for Bradley, who said he hasn’t visited the city of Detroit, but got his first look on Thursday. He rushed back home to be with his wife, who is expected their third child in the coming days.

He’s smiling at the opportunity with the Pistons and the chance to bring a new attitude to the team with his energy and enthusiasm.

He said he sees it as an opportunity to improve himself and grow as a player, all in a different setting.

“I told my wife the other day: it’s perfect timing. We’re rebuilding our team and the city is rebuilding at the same time,” he said. “It’s perfect. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing or a more perfect situation.

“It’s our chance to help the city be excited about Detroit basketball, because in the near future, we have a chance to be a very good team.”

“As NBA players, if we want to play this game, we should maximize our games and I feel like he’s going to give me a chance to do that,” Bradley said. “I hope you guys are excited about what I’m going to bring to this city because I’m going to leave everything out there on the floor.

“I hope I can bring a different style and be nasty. That’s what we want: to bring a championship back to Detroit.”