After missing the past five games with a sprained ankle, Avery Bradley will return to the lineup against Orlando on Sunday afternoon, according to Brad Stevens. Bradley’s return will create a somewhat unique scenario — lineups that include both Bradley and Rajon Rondo on the court at the same time.
How rare is this scenario? Chris Forsberg did the math on ESPN Boston:
The duo has shared the floor in just 51 of 277 potential regular-season games, a mere 18.4 percent of Boston’s total contests during Bradley’s time in the league, according to the NBA’s statistical warehouse. That includes just three games this season and 11 games last year.
Rondo and Bradley were a startlingly good pairing in 2012, when Bradley’s backdoor cuts and incredible pressure defense earned him Ray Allen’s starting slot in the lineup. Bradley has great off-ball timing and instincts, and Rondo — of course — has court vision and passing ability you and I can only dream of. But between Rondo’s ACL and Bradley’s shoulder surgeries (as well as minor bumps and bruises like the ankle injury that sidelined Bradley the past few games), we’ve been robbed of their work together.
“We have great chemistry,” Rondo said yesterday. “We’ve played together for a couple years, especially when he was inserted into the starting lineup. He knows how to get the ball. He knows when to cut. So we have a good feel for each other.”
Stevens, of course, is well aware that his ideal starting backcourt shares significant chemistry.
“It’s really important,” he told reporters yesterday. “They’ve had it before. I think Rajon is still feeling his way back, and still isn’t full-go, obviously because he’s not playing back-to-backs…Hopefully we can string some games together where they are together and playing well and really create some confidence moving forward.”
If there was a way to encase both players in foam armor before they both take the court Sunday, I’m sure the Celtics would endorse it to keep their oft-separated guards safe. As is, it will be good to see them both back out on the court, even if both are a little banged up.
In 33 minutes last night, Vitor Faverani scored 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting for the Red Claws, as Maine knocked off the Delaware 87ers 111-100. According to Stevens, Faverani may play tonight as well as the Red Claws take on the Erie Bayhawks in Maine.
“We’ll be utilize that more and more if we feel like guys are not going to play as many minutes, or haven’t played as many minutes,” Stevens said. “Just to keep them fresh in the game. Vitor went last week, and he can better say it than I, but he had a blast. He really approached it well, he had a great attitude about it, he went after it and played well. Hopefully that continues to be the case.”
For what it’s worth, 5-for-15 against D-League big men isn’t necessarily a very encouraging line. Presumably, the Celtics would like to see something a little more akin to what MarShon Brooks did (29 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting) from Faverani, unless they see something in their Brazilian big man that makes him immune to these type of concerns.
In the hype surrounding Chris Johnson around Boston, you may have forgotten that the Celtics signed a second D-Leaguer to a 10-day contract as well — Vander Blue.
You’d be excused for forgetting. Blue has played just 15 minutes for the team in three appearances and has totaled five points and three rebounds.
But with Bradley’s return, Boston’s need for another shooting guard has plummeted, and since Blue hasn’t jumped off the page, he is headed back down to the D-League.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Stevens said. “Even when he didn’t play, his attitude was great. He worked. In a lot of cases, he was a dominant player today in practice. He’s maximized this for the opportunities that he was given in the game.”
For what it’s worth, this opens up a roster spot for the Celtics. Whether they decide to keep it open or give another D-Leaguer a chance (ahem) remains to be seen.
We don’t have many details, but in this case that’s probably okay: According to Stevens, Gerald Wallace had to leave Boston due to a death in his family. Stevens says he will likely be back in time for Sunday’s game.
We wish him and his family the best.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.