CHICAGO — Avery Bradley’s return to practice Monday at United Center comes at a perfect time for a team struggling to find consistency and with a void at shooting guard.
Not only did Bradley practice issue-free Monday after missing the first 23 games following double shoulder surgery, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the starting shooting guard slot is available if he can unseat Courtney Lee.
“Yeah (but) he’s got to get it,” Rivers said of Bradley eventually returning to the starting lineup. “But he’ll have to earn that and get it but I think on paper, it looks better. But you have to wait and see how it works once he gets back.”
Rivers said before practice that Lee will remain the team’s starter at shooting guard because Jason Terry boosts the bench with his scoring.
“I want Jason off the bench. You could see how well he’s playing now. He’s comfortable there,” Rivers said. “We’re just keep starting Courtney or whoever. I like Jason off the bench. I don’t think it helps the starting lineup right now but you put him on the starting lineup and then our bench struggles. It’s one or the other.
“Honestly, Jason and Courtney are really great in the second unit together. They really move the ball. The last three or four games our second unit has really come in and made runs for us.”
Bradley last played in an NBA game on May 18 when he re-injured his shoulder during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He under went surgery on both shoulders. once in June and the other in July.
He had been working out informally for the past few weeks but went through some personal workouts with player development coach Keyon Dooling on Saturday and was cleared by head trainer Ed Lacerte through a text message.
“I’ve really been looking forward to it,” he said before practice. “I’m just excited to get out there and feel like I’m part of the team again. I can do everything, no restrictions right now. I just gotta see how it goes (Monday). Having to be patient has been hard for me but I feel like it’s all going to pay off now. I feel like I came back stronger than I have ever been.”
Rivers will welcome the team’s best defender back.
“We’ve got to be a better defensive team,” the coach said. “Avery’s going to help us but he ain’t the savior. But he’s absolutely going to take a lot of pressure off the guys. He’s going to do what he does defensively. Having said that, other guys have to join in.”