Bulpett: Bond runs deep between Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas

April 18, 2017 GMT

Avery Bradley says his feelings don’t matter, but you could tell those feelings were running deep Sunday night at the Garden.

Behind his stoic expression, anyone who’s been around him for any length of time could tell he was hurting — not only for his friend, Isaiah Thomas, but out of frustration as he searched for something he could do to ease the situation.

Then Bradley hit two 3-pointers in the first four minutes against the Bulls, and loosened up, as if hitting upon the notion that, yeah, this is what I can do for my friend right now.

“Of course,” said Bradley as the Celtics met yesterday in the wake of the 106-102 Game 1 loss to Chicago. “Of course. You just want to do something.”

It is here where we should make a slight correction. Two paragraphs ago, we called Thomas Bradley’s “friend.” But it’s more than that. So when it was learned that Isaiah’s sister, Chyna, had passed away in a car accident Saturday morning, it was a severe loss for Bradley, as well.

“We’re family,” Bradley said. “We’re from Tacoma, and that’s a really small place for us.”

Earlier in front of a media crowd, he had told the tale of their bond, reciting it as he did when Thomas joined the Celts.

“I mean, me and Isaiah have known each other since we were kids, since we were 12, 11 years old, so we’re just family,” Bradley said. “No matter what goes on, we’re always going to have each other’s back, and we’re always going to be there for one another. I think he knows that, and I know the same about him. We’re always going to support each other.

“Not to say our teammates aren’t going to support us, as well, but we’re family so it’s different. I’m going to be there for him, no matter what. I’m just happy to be a part of his life. He’s a special person, a special player, and I know that as this playoff series continues, Isaiah’s going to continue to play well, and I’m going to continue to support him, and he’s going to play for his sister.”

As Bradley was leaving the practice floor, he further explained their connection.

“Isaiah’s best friend back home and my best friend back home are brothers,” he said. “So it’s not just a basketball thing. We know each other.”

What Avery Bradley knows right now is that he wants things to be different tonight when the Celtics try to even the series. He would take the same 3-for-4, 8-point first quarter, but he’d like to follow through and score more than just six points the rest of the way. He’d like to keep doing what he can do for Thomas, and do it better.

“I think you’ll probably see a little different chemistry from us,” Bradley said. “We know how each other plays, and I want to play for his sister, as well. I want to play hard for him, so that’s what I’m going to do. Every game.

“The second half, I didn’t really shoot the ball, so I have to do a better job myself. We know what we have to do, and I feel like the opportunities for me in the second half are going to be a lot different next game, and I’m going to be able to help our team out.”

In terms of things being said and things being done, Bradley is a far bigger fan of the latter. He does not speak with much volume, and, again, while his face isn’t always expressive, he isn’t afraid of his emotions, either.

“It was draining,” he said of Game 1. “You know, I said it last night: we just were playing for Isaiah, playing for each other. We know that it’s tough times right now, but I feel like it’s better to, you know, show with your actions than with your words, especially after a loss.

“You know, we can say whatever to him, but I think our actions really let him know that we care for him. It’s just a sanctuary, being on the basketball court, so for us to be able to make him feel happy and make him feel like we have his back, I feel like as brothers that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

And as for the change in tone around the Celtics with Thomas not so much his vocal self, Bradley and his mates had no trouble hearing Isaiah’s 33 points and usual effort.

“He’s doing it by his actions,” Avery said. “Isaiah’s coming out, he’s playing hard, and it takes a lot of balls for somebody to go through that and still be able to come out and perform at a high level. And even though he wasn’t screaming or the usual Isaiah, he still went out there and fought hard, and it made us want to fight harder for him. We just made some mistakes that are fixable, and we have a chance to do it (tonight).”

Bradley and Thomas have had conversations since getting the news, but they have been few.

“I just think it’s respect, respectful to just be there for him,” Bradley said. “And if he wants to talk, you talk. If not, you’re just there to support him. That’s the most important thing for him right now, just support.”

The problem for Bradley — and anyone close to a person who suffers a great loss — is that the desire to do more can be overwhelming.

Avery nodded.

“But this is really not about me,” he said. “It’s about him and his family. Whoever else’s feelings — mine, anybody — it’s on the back burner. It’s all about Isaiah. That’s all I care about. I care about his feelings, and that’s really it. My feelings don’t matter.”

But Avery Bradley has those feelings, and tonight he’ll try to express them on the floor in one of the only avenues available to him.