Avery Bradley was deemed “the savior” of the Celtics since the day it was apparent wins weren’t going to be easy to come by.
He made his return to the court Wednesday night after missing the end of the 2011-12 season as well as the first 30 games of the 2012-13 season and finished with four points, zero rebounds, zero assists, one steal, and three fouls in 20 minutes of playing time during the Celtics’ 93-83 loss to the Grizzlies.
Not exactly “savior” level, but as some believe, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Bradley didn’t ask for this weight to be put on his surgically-repaired shoulders, but nonetheless it has been. And he won’t refuse to carry it. He was playing the best basketball of his career before he went down (again) with a shoulder injury last season, and not coincidentally the Celtics were in the midst of their best basketball of that season.
Can the team and its fans expect the same production again? Not yet. Bradley has just recently begun practicing with the team, a team that aside from the core (minus Ray Allen) is completely different. There are tendencies of new teammates to learn, and new sets to study – and execute – over and over before progress can be seen.
While the box score won’t do it much justice, Bradley’s return to the team was a big step in the right direction.
“Avery was terrific on the ball,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “Avery’s going to help us; you could see that. And that’ll be immediate for us. You know, when we’re struggling for points and needed somebody offensively and Avery will get that too. But you could see him struggling with his shot a little bit. But he’s going to be a big help for us.”
That explains Bradley’s minutes — just 20 in his debut. Boston most likely hopes to get closer to 27-30 minutes out of him eventually, but in his first game back it was clear the defense was there before the offense. They’ll take what they got though.
“He’s going to slowly work his way back, and get his legs in game shape and had a real impact out there for us on both ends of the court,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s just good to really see him out there tonight. He’s been going through a lot, with the surgeries all summer, to finally get a chance in the new year to get back out there, I think he was really anxious and excited to be out there.”
Bradley, who said he didn’t have any issues with the shoulders Wednesday night, was just glad to be back out on the court.
“It felt good to be out there,” Bradley said. “I’m just trying to play as hard as I can, and I feel like everything’s going to come together as a team. I feel like we played hard tonight … On the offensive end, I’ve still got to get a feel. Pick my spots. All that will come though.”
Offense aside, Bradley’s defense is what the team hopes becomes contagious. It also allows fellow guard Jason Terry to permanently anchor the second unit and provide the offense it so sorely misses.
“It was good, this is how the team was supposed to be built,” Terry said. “It’s what we expected coming into the season, so now it’s finally here. Now there’s an adjustment to be made. You hate to feel like there’s always an adjustment period, but that’s what the season’s about. It’s about finding your way and finding your rhythm, and once you get that, you can go forward.”