BOSTON – Before Monday’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley talked about how hard it was going to be for both him and head coach Brad Stevens to accept his minutes restriction.
The 6-foot-2 guard, returning to the lineup after missing 18 straight games with a right Achilles injury, logged just under 15 minutes (14:58) on Monday while scoring six points on 2-for-4 shooting as well as tallying a game-high three steals.
“I wish I played a little bit more,” Bradley said following the game. “But it felt good to be out there.”
Stevens had similar thoughts on Bradley’s limited return.
“Both Avery and I, we were both like, maybe five more minutes or six more minutes,” Stevens said. “But the plan going in was to play him through that first half, hopefully two good stints, about 15 minutes, and then increase that piece by piece over the next few games.”
Despite the long layoff, Bradley looked very much like the Avery Bradley that was playing at a near All-Star level prior to the injury.
You figure even with the long lay-off, Bradley’s defense was going to be close to where it was earlier this season.
But the fact that he was able to quickly get into a nice shooting rhythm – he made his first shot attempt – was indeed a pleasant surprise to him.
“I’ve been able to just get shots up and I was a little nervous to see how it was going to translate in the game,” Bradley said. “But I felt comfortable out there. I just tried to focus on defense and I told myself if I focus on defense I’ll make shots on the offensive end.”
Prior to the injury, Bradley was averaging 17.7 points per game which was second on the team, along with a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.
With his minutes being limited for at least this first week, there’s no telling how long it will take for Bradley to start posting those numbers again.
But Monday was a great first step in the right direction for a player whose talents will be essential for the Celtics to have the kind of finish to the regular season that they want going into the playoffs.
While building up towards being at the top of his game is certainly a goal Bradley has for himself, patience, trusting the rehabilitation process while maxing out his production with a small window of playing time, are all keys to his recovery.
“I wish it was split up or something in the second half but it is what it is,” said Bradley, referring to his playing time being limited to 15 or so minutes now. “I just have to go out there, no matter how many minutes I get, and play as hard as I can. That has to be my mindset.”