Auburn Hills — It can be tough to gauge how a player will react the first time he goes back to his old stomping grounds. But for someone as calm and collected as Avery Bradley, it should come as no surprise that Stan Van Gundy isn’t sweating it too much.
Bradley spent the first seven years of his career with the Boston Celtics, where he experienced a lot of personal and team success. Monday night will be the first time he’ll face off against his old team when the Pistons head to Boston for a clash between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
“This is the first time he’s been through it,” Van Gundy said Sunday. “He had some very good years in Boston. He was part of some very good teams. But if I had to bet on anybody’s maturity, I’d bet on (Bradley’s).”
The Pistons acquired Bradley and a second-round draft pick in 2019 for Marcus Morris last July.
Bradley, a stout defender, is second on the Pistons in scoring (16.8) and second in 3-pointers made (37).
“It’s nice to be going back,” Bradley said at practice Sunday. “But it’s just another game for me. Being there for seven years was special, but I’m just treating it like any other day.”
Bradley’s former running mate in Boston, Isaiah Thomas, was quite vocal about his displeasure when the Celtics traded him to Cleveland and blew up a core that had finished with the best record in the East and reached the conference finals.
It was a different reaction from Bradley, who said he understood the business of the game.
“I kind of knew it could happen,” he said. “There were (conversations) that me and (Celtics GM) Danny Ainge had. But when it does happen, it kind of catches you off-guard a little bit.
“I think (Thomas) understands it’s a business, as well, but we’re two different people. All I can do is respect the way that he feels and I think he’ll do the same for me. I ended up in a great situation with a great organization, and I’m happy. I have no hard feelings at all.”
When Bradley was traded to the Pistons in July, it wasn’t thought that the Pistons would be near the top of conference standings. But that’s where they are, and a lot of that turnaround can be attributed to Bradley’s presence.
Only four of Boston’s current players are holdovers from the team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals last season. But they’ve still raced out to an 18-3 start this year.
“I’m not (surprised),” Bradley said about the Celtics’ early-season success. “With some of their core guys, they understand what it takes to play team basketball. They’ve made sacrifices. They go out and play hard every night. I believe that’s contagious.”
Van Gundy knows the Pistons will have their hands full on Monday night.
“It’ll be a big challenge all the way around,” he said. “They’re the best defensive team in the league (95.8 opponent average). Offensively, you’re dealing with Kyrie Irving. It’s not an accident that they’re sitting with the record they have. (We’re) playing the best team in the NBA tomorrow.”
The new norm
Of the 12 wins the Pistons have through 18 games, more than half have been comebacks from double-digit deficits, including Friday night’s win Oklahoma City.
“I think it says something about the NBA, I really do,” Van Gundy said Sunday. “It’s every single night. These aren’t rare comebacks. Ten years ago, if you had seven of those games already, it’d be like, ‘Oh my god.’ Now, it’s business as usual.”
Maybe this trend helps to calm Van Gundy, who was criticized during his time in Miami and Orlando as being too high-strung with his players.
“You don’t worry as much about the runs,” he said, when asked if it’s affected the way he coaches. “I think players are starting to get it too. You don’t get complacent with the lead. You don’t put your head down when you’re behind. Play as hard as you can, and at the end of 48 minutes, see where you are.”
Pistons at Celtics
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Monday, TD Garden, Boston
TV / radio: FSD / 97.1 FM
Outlook: The Celtics have the NBA’s best record at 18-3. … Ex-Piston Marcus Morris has started eight of the 11 games in which he has appeared. He is averaging 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 17.2 minutes. Morris has been dealing with a knee issue and did not play in the Celtics’ 108-98 win in Indiana on Saturday night.