As the Boston Celtics approach their second game of the 2012-13, many questions hang in the balance.
For one, Rajon Rondo's health and impending return remains a major issue for this rebuilding team. On top of that, Jared Sullinger's legal issues, and consequent one-game suspension, serve as a distraction. But the latest piece of Celts' news, regarding Avery Bradley, could be the most damning.
In the same timeframe that brought to light the optioned extension of Sullinger, Marc Stein revealed news that Bradley has not agreed to terms of a four-year extension. That means AB will become a restricted free agent as of next July.
This is tough news for a young team in a bridge year, but look for rookie head coach Brad Stevens to motivate his players like nothing ever happened. Bradley likely wants to test his value this season, given the relatively injury-prone young career he has embarked upon to this point.
In no way, shape or form does this mean that Bradley dislikes the organization, or wants no part of its still-uncertain future. He's just doing the best thing for himself financially and career-wise.
That said, don't be surprised to witness some saltiness among certain teammates during the next couple of weeks. The veterans on the team—especially the ones coming from the blockbuster deal with the Nets—won't blame him one bit. The younger players giving it their all without much experience under their belts might feel a bit differently.
All speculation aside, it seems imperative for Bradley to play at peak level for this Celtics team to even stand a chance to make the 2014 NBA playoffs. His man-to-man defense, when at its best, rivals the greatest on-ball defenders in the history of the game. His offense has also shown signs of greatness, as evidenced by 2012 postseason performances and mid-season bouts last season.
Of course, weaknesses still exist in Bradley's game. While his jump shot has improved, he still has yet to prove that he can be counted on from the perimeter like other top guards. He also plays a bit tentative at the point guard position, which could be the major point of dissent in the eyes of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
In the Celtics' opening game on Wednesday, October 30, in which the squad lost 93-87 to the Toronto Raptors, Bradley posted only eight points on 4-of-13 while dishing four assists in over 31 minutes of play. He turned the ball over four times, while fouling out of the game.
That kind of line makes it difficult to get things done on the financial front.
Nobody can blame Ainge for his inability to cement a long-term contract with Bradley. After a pitiful performance in the Celtics' opening-round loss to the New York Knicks, in which AB even got benched for long periods, ownership likely wants to see what the young guard has to offer this season before they put too many zero's before signing the dotted line.
But still, it could be a huge risk to potentially dismay someone who could play a huge part in a team's future defensively and chemistry-wise.