In a room full of middle school kids, some too shy to utter a question or raise a hand, Avery Bradley was asked about his early years with the Celtics.
He was drafted at age 19½ and told the kids at the McCormack School in Dorchester that he was mute during his early Celtics years, afraid to be chided by Kevin Garnett, intimidated by Ray Allen, who had played for his hometown Seattle SuperSonics. He even showed Paul Pierce a picture they took together in 2000 when Bradley was 10 and attended Pierce’s basketball camp.
Bradley is now 25 and the senior member of the Celtics. After helping to dedicate a media arts room, he discussed with the kids his blossoming as a player with experience and confidence.
Bradley recalled those days when he was afraid to speak with laughter and revealed that the one moment emerged from his shell was at a practice when he dunked on Pierce and Shaquille O’Neal.
That final slam prompted coach Doc Rivers to stop practice. Bradley said his bashfulness had forever dissipated. He remains a quiet leader, more by example but the coherent theme to the middle-schoolers was maintaining faith in their goals.
For Bradley, his goal remains to be one of the league’s top shooting guards. He has taken another step forward this season, avoiding the injuries that have plagued him in past years, as well as improving on both ends of the court,.
It’s been an interesting few weeks for Bradley. He quietly changed agents, removing Mitchell Butler, who procured his $32 million, four-year contract extension with the Celtics and hiring highly regarded Rob Pelinka, who represents players such as Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Eric Gordon.
For Bradley, who said the change was “private” matter, he said is primary goal is not to improve his brand or increase endorsements. He just wants to play the game and win.
“At the time I just felt like it was best for me,” he said of the agent change. “I play because God blessed me to play this game and that’s what I enjoy doing. Hopefully I can continue to keep playing at this high level and hopefully I can continue to be a better basketball player.”
Bradley said he’d rather lead by example, and he hopes his actions are being noticed by the team’s younger players.
“It’s a blessing to be here and part of an organization like this. I just try to come in every single day and be professional and work as hard as I can,” he said. “I feel like you can’t replace that. I try to let everyone know we’re all a team together from the strength and conditioning [coach] to trainer, I try to respect everybody. When I do little things like that it helps them see the importance of a team. Not just the players, but everybody.
“The other day I did a workout. . . . Terry [Rozier] and those guys didn’t want to come out to the court, and I told them, ‘C’mon man.’ And [they then think to themselves], ‘He’s doing his job and we’ve got to do our job.’ ”
One of those unnoticed actions was a letter Bradley wrote to the family of Jaret Harshman, a 15-year-0ld Celtics fan in Florida who attended the team’s Nov. 29 game in Orlando. Harshman died in a car accident on Dec. 9 on his way to Bible study.
Bradley also added an autographed jersey and will meet with the Harshman family this weekend when the Celtics return to Orlando.
“It meant a lot to me,” Bradley said. “Someone in the Celtics’ organization brought it to my attention and I was just really sad, especially after losing my mom and knowing how young [Jaret] was. It made me care for the family and I prayed for the family and I wanted to anything I could to help to try to put a little smile on their face.”
When asked about meeting the family, Bradley said: “I can’t wait until I get down to Orlando so I get a chance to meet [Harshman’s] dad and little brother. I’m just excited. We’ll probably cry together.
“This is what God blessed me to do, to what to help people out. Without them knowing it, they’re helping me, too.”Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.