WALTHAM, Mass. – Avery Bradley had just returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after having had surgery on both shoulders, eager to put his injury-riddled days in the past.
Then-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue had suffered a similar shoulder injury a decade earlier in 2003, so he knew all too well what Bradley was going through.
“I remember Tyronn Lue took me to the side and said, ‘you’re going to struggle,’” Bradley recalled. “When he said it to me, I was like, ‘what is he talking about?’”
The words of Lue, now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, were indeed prophetic. And now that current Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk is back to practicing after having surgery on his right shoulder, Bradley plans to be there for Olynyk the way Lue was there for him.
Bradley, who missed the first 30 games of the 2012-2013 season recovering from the injury, recalls struggling with his shot for the first couple of weeks.
His first game back was Jan. 2, 2013. For the next two weeks, Bradley shot 40.6 percent from the field (28-for-69) and 28.6 percent (8-for-28) on 3s, both below his career averages in those respective categories.
Bradley is hopeful Olynyk doesn’t struggle as much as he did upon his return to the lineup from shoulder surgery.
But just in case, Olynyk knows he has a teammate who literally knows what he’s going through right now in trying to get back on the floor and play good basketball.
“It’s our job as his teammates to help keep him confident in himself,” Bradley said. “I told him, ‘you’re going to have your days when you come in and you might make shots. Then you’ll have your week where you don’t make a shot.’ You just have to stay confident.”
But Bradley admits it’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you’ve had success shooting the ball and now all of a sudden the shots that you normally make in your sleep keep you up at night wondering why they no longer going in.
“It just happens. The muscle memory, you have to get it back,” Bradley said. “It’s just reps; that’s what it took. It took like maybe a good month before my shot felt good again. It’ll probably be the same for Kelly; hopefully not. If it is, I’ll be there to make sure he’s positive and knowing it’s a process and he has to continue to get shots up.”
But there’s more to returning to the game when healthy.
While the body may be ready to go, the mind more often than not hasn’t totally cleansed itself of the injury.
“It’s still in the back of your mind, thinking it’s going to happen again,” Bradley said. “You may not want to drive it to the basket as much or box out the same way or be aggressive. But like I said, we have to give him that confidence and he has to do his work as well, staying in the weight room, making sure he’s strong. We’re here to help.”
And no one is offering the consistent assistance that Bradley has to his injured teammate.
“I’ve taken him to the side like five times already and I told him, ‘I’m here bro. Whatever you need,’” Bradley said. “I’m just happy that he’s back."