Basketball Notes

Traveling wouldn't be a bad call

By Gary Washburn
July 31, 2011

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This was supposed to be an important summer for Avery Bradley, especially with the Celtics finishing the postseason on such a disappointing note, looking aged and ragged against the Heat, in desperate need of an infusion of youth.

Bradley sprained his right ankle so badly during a predraft workout that a piece of bone chipped off and required surgery in June 2010. He did not reach full health until deep into the regular season, and by then it was apparent he would not make much of a contribution.

Under normal circumstances, Bradley would have received plenty of work for the Celtics’ summer league entry and at the team’s training facility in Waltham. But he isn’t allowed at the facility, and summer league was canceled. Because teams are not allowed to contact players or their agents, the Celtics have no idea how their former first-round pick is progressing.

Bradley’s agent, former NBA player Mitchell Butler, had a long conversation with team president Danny Ainge about Bradley before the lockout began. And the two formulated a plan for the second-year guard in case the Celtics were not allowed to contact him.

And now those plans may include a stint in Europe because what Bradley needs most is experience. He played just 31 games as a rookie, averaging 1.7 points in just over five minutes per game. His most extensive action came during a stint in the Development League, but an injury to Marquis Daniels mandated Bradley’s return to the Celtics.

“Him missing training camp, and the [injury] situation last year, really put him behind the eight ball,’’ Butler said. “The Celtics really loved the fact that his learning curve was high. Being on a team that experienced, it was hard for him to crack the lineup, so I think that ultimately if it’s the right situation, the money’s decent, and it’s a great place, then [playing overseas is] something that I will have a serious conversation with him about.’’

Bradley doesn’t turn 21 until November, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers is already convinced Bradley is an NBA-caliber defender. But he spent most of his pre-NBA days as a shooting guard, so the transition to point has been arduous. The Celtics could use a capable backup to Rajon Rondo, and plenty of reps for Bradley in the Orlando Summer League would have proven valuable.

But a summer in Seattle also could help Bradley hone his skills. He has been working out with players such as Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, and Aaron Brooks.

Bradley’s importance to the Celtics’ future is unquestioned. They invested a first-round pick in him, hoping he could develop into a standout alongside Rondo.

“He’ll get the necessary reps running up and down, but I would like to put him in a structured situation, as well,’’ Butler said. “Being coached, having to run a team. And that could present itself in a situation in Europe. We’ve got a lot of teams that are interested, [but we need to be cautious] from a standpoint of making sure the money is right because he may end up being there the whole year. This [lockout] may go an entire season.’’

Bradley showed flashes of his potential in the regular-season finale against the Knicks, scoring 20 points on 10-for-16 shooting in 27 minutes.

“I think we’re going to see that same aggressive kid who was relentless in attacking the rim and 100 percent healthy,’’ Butler said. “And we want to put him in a situation where he can run a team. We know he can score the basketball, but we want him to do more than that.’’

Butler left his conversation with Ainge with a seal of approval for an overseas experience. The Celtics realize Bradley needs to expedite the growing process, and a summer of pickup ball may not be sufficient, so Butler continues to comb through offers.

“They were all for it,’’ Butler said of the Celtics. “If it is something we decide to explore, I am sure they will be happy about it. I think they want to see him get the necessary reps because he’s going to be a big part of what they do this season and for years to come.’’

Adrien’s work is never done Jeff Adrien was a Warrior until just moments before the lockout. Golden State waived the former Brookline High School and UConn standout, making him a free agent unable to hook on with another NBA team.

Adrien, a 6-foot-7-inch forward, has spent most of his summer in Los Angeles playing in pickup games. Adrien is a borderline prospect. He went undrafted in 2009 and spent his first pro season in Spain, before playing some last season with the Warriors.

With no commitment from a team for this season, Adrien has decided to a sign a one-year contract with Benetton Treviso in Italy, the same team that signed Celtics second-round draft pick E’Twaun Moore. But while Adrien could earn a good living playing overseas, he has a passion for the NBA, and several teams could use a workmanlike rebounder.

“I’m taking it as soon as the lockout’s over, a team will sign me to whatever type of contract,’’ Adrien said last week before agreeing to the deal with Benetton. “I do have overseas offers, but I just feel like right now my heart is right here in the NBA, and it’s hard not to listen to your heart.’’

Adrien played 23 games with the Warriors, averaging 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in just over eight minutes per game. He is trying to carve a niche, which is difficult without summer league and any potential evaluation from NBA scouts and general managers. He has worked out most of the summer with Pacers All-Star Danny Granger, concentrating on his post game and passing.

He decided to move to Los Angeles because it is a hotbed for summer basketball, and participated in the popular Drew League, which has attracted top NBA talent the past few weeks.

“I’m playing the best basketball of my life right now and it’s unfortunate that not too many people get to see it,’’ he said. “I know there are teams that are interested in me, but right now we can’t talk. It’s just another bump in the road for me.’’

Agents push to decertify Several agents have privately encouraged Players Association executive director Billy Hunter to decertify the union in hopes of using lawsuits to spark a settlement with the owners. This is primarily because many agents are pessimistic about the chances of a season. Several are convinced that the league’s powers have no intention of negotiating a deal.

The sides are scheduled to talk tomorrow for the first time since the lockout began July 1, but it is expected to be a feeling-out session. In other words, they will reemphasize how far apart they are, and agree to meet again later in August.

It is believed by some that many owners are content to cancel the season as a means of completely restructuring the NBA’s financial model. Agents are concerned that owners are relishing the opportunity to bring players to their figurative knees with missed paychecks. Players are not paid during the offseason and checks begin arriving on Nov. 15.

“I can only go by people’s actions,’’ agent Mark Bartelstein said. “And if you see the way there hasn’t been any negotiations with the Players Association, there’s no reason to believe [the owners] really want to get a deal done. They have taken a very, very [stagnant] position and they have kind of stayed there. So based on that, it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.’’

The players are against a hard salary cap and made it clear they will not accept any proposal that would include any version, including the owners’ proposed “flex cap.’’

“So far there hasn’t been much movement at all [on the hard cap],’’ Players Association president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said before the lockout. “They would characterize it in different ways, but essentially they want a hard salary cap. We just don’t see why for the reasons we’ve been given that it’s necessary. We feel teams have shown the ability to be creative and pay the guys they want to pay and not pay the guys they don’t want to pay. We feel that teams should have that opportunity independently.’’

Contracts at risk overseas FIBA, the international basketball governing body, has cleared NBA players to join teams overseas for competition, but with a catch. They will play there at their own risk, meaning if they were to sustain an injury, their NBA contract could be voided. That fact has many highly paid players on long-term contracts pondering the repercussions of heading overseas.

“If an NBA player requests to play for a club of a FIBA-affiliated league, the NBA will not object, but will state that the player will have to return to his NBA team as soon as the lockout ends,’’ FIBA said in a statement. “Consequently, FIBA will deliver a letter of clearance subject to the receipt of a declaration signed by the player, stating that he will return to his NBA team when the lockout is over.’’

FIBA is leaving it up to the NBA clubs to either allow players to play overseas with no restrictions or request that they sign waivers. That sounds like a nice concept, but players and teams are prohibited from having contact during the lockout. NBA clubs could not relay any messages to players heading to Europe or Asia even if they wanted. That’s what makes the proposition risky for established players.

The Players Association is pushing players to pursue overseas opportunities as a means of gaining negotiating power with the owners. But historically, jobs overseas are finite, especially for those expecting high salaries. Besiktas in Turkey is heavily pursuing Kobe Bryant, which could be the biggest European coup of an NBA player in league history.

The sides reportedly were supposed to meet this weekend in Washington, and the club has stated it is willing to meet Bryant’s demands, which could be as much as $1 million per month. Deron Williams will earn $5 million for Besiktas.

Layups Although David Kahn may not have the greatest reputation in his tenure as Minnesota’s general manager, there is no shortage of qualified candidates for the coaching position, including the league’s all-time winningest coach, Don Nelson, well-traveled Larry Brown, and former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who lost out on the Detroit job to Lawrence Frank. The Timberwolves job is the lone remaining opening. It is an attractive job because Kahn, in his own quirky style, has compiled a young and talented team with Ricky Rubio, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson, and rookie Derrick Williams. J.B. Bickerstaff, the coaching candidate Kahn may really want, might not be ready for that job. Bickerstaff joined Kevin McHale’s coaching staff in Houston. So whomever the Timberwolves hire, the job could be a temporary position until Bickerstaff is ready . . . It’s been a full season and still police have no leads on the murder of former NBA center Lorenzen Wright, whose badly decomposed body was found in July 2010 in a wooded area outside of Memphis. He was shot several times and his parents have filed a $2 million lawsuit against two counties for botching the murder investigation. What’s more, the reward for information leading to the arrest is a measly $6,000. If there ever was a time for NBA players to come together for good will it would be now, to increase the reward and show support . . . Keyon Dooling, first vice president of the Players Association executive committee, could be headed to Turkey on a contract with Efes Istanbul, meaning he would have to give up his post if he signs. Dooling has one more year left on his contract with the Bucks. Another NBPA vice president, Maurice Evans, is also considering going to Europe.

Gary Washburn can be reached at Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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