Bradley will continue to see gradual increase in playing time

Bradley will continue to see gradual increase in playing time

Slowly but surely, Avery Bradley will get back to playing his usual 30-plus minutes a night.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will continue playing with a minutes restriction, but look for his playing time to gradually increase in the coming days.

“It’s a long plan of day-to-day progression,” Stevens told reporters earlier on Friday. “That’s why he’s able to start at 14 or 15 minutes and come in and play the next game at 20, 21 (minutes), today a little bit more … and we’ll go from there.”

Two games into his return from an Achilles injury that kept him out for the previous 18, Bradley has shown no signs of rust.

That feeds into the narrative that Bradley could have played earlier, but the Celtics and their medical staff took an overly cautious approach to getting him back on the floor.

“It was smart of me to listen to them and follow our game plan,” said Bradley, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with the injury and re-aggravated it which led to him missing the next 18 in a row. “The first time I came back it was a miscommunication between all of us. This time I feel good and I’m glad to be back on the court.”

So are the Celtics, who are a different – a better team – with their all-NBA Defensive First Team guard healthy enough to play.

The job he did defensively in the closing minutes against Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving was arguably the difference in Boston pulling out a 103-99 victory.

“He’s the best,” said Bradley, referring to Irving’s ball-handling skills and the challenge he presents to a defender. “I try to make every move hard on him. I tried to force him into a few moves; I was able to do that. He’s still a very good player. It’s definitely hard to guard somebody like that. I feel I like my chances going up against anybody if I’m locked in like that.”

And part of being locked in is being healthy enough to lock up defenders, which is why Boston took its sweet time in bringing him back when they felt he was absolutely ready to play without having any setbacks.

“It’s the right thing to do when you’re coming back from a long-term absence,” Stevens said. “And we need to make sure, especially because it did take a while, that he doesn’t have any setbacks right now.”

This season, Bradley is averaging 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range - all career highs.

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

NBC Sports Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

1:25 - With half of the Celtics roster on the shelf, we’ve been able to see just how great a scorer Jayson Tatum can be. A. Sherrod Blakely, Mike Girardi and Trenni Kusnierek discuss how Tatum compares to Celtics legend, Paul Pierce.

5:35 - The NFL Competition Committee is giving it their best shot at modifying the ‘catch rule’ and Tom Curran, Kyle Draper and Hardy try to wrap their heads around the proposed changes.

11:02 - The Bruins clinched a playoff berth despite losing to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Joe Haggerty joins Tom Giles to break down the game, which included another goal by Ryan Donato and a questionable call on a high hit on David Krejci.

Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday


Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday

The second opinion on Kyrie Irving’s sore left knee will be done on Thursday, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.

Irving, who has missed the last four games, is expected to decide between having a surgical procedure performed to help alleviate some of the soreness, or continue to manage it with rest.


During the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap injury which was the beginning of Irving’s left knee issues.

While Irving has had soreness of some form during various stretches of play this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen him making progress recently.

“That knee is still sore,” Stevens said. “He’s worked really hard to manage it throughout the entire season. He’s had some pretty good days recently. I’m encouraged by the big picture.”

But Stevens has made it clear that he supports Irving getting a second opinion, adding that Irving’s absence is due to the knee being too sore for him to play at a level he’s accustomed to.

“He’s out because of knee soreness, not because we’re choosing to rest him,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. Again, we want him to feel 110 percent. He wants to feel 110 percent. Obviously, we’re fortunate we created a cushion early on in the year with playoffs and everything else. This is not one of those situations where we’re choosing to rest someone; it’s because he has a sore knee.”