Ainge: Bradley 'getting closer' to return

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Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI Thursday, and addressed the recovery time of injured guard Avery Bradley, as well as any lingering fallout from Rajon Rondo's recent two-game suspension.

Though he didn't want to commit firmly to the timetable, Ainge suggested Bradley could return after the Celtics' post-Christmas West Coast trip, which concludes on Dec. 30 against the Sacramento Kings. Additionally, Ainge said the team will consider sending Bradley up to Portland, Maine, to play in a handful of rehab games with the Red Claws before he returns.

"I think our timetable is to get him back probably after the West Coast trip," Ainge said. "I mean, that's hopeful. I hate doing timetables, but we are getting closer, and he is looking good. We'd like to get him practicing, and we're going to contemplate the possibility of some rehab games in Portland, maybe one or two. Maybe none. But we'll be really careful with Avery."

According to that timeline, the earliest Bradley might see game action this season would be Jan. 2 at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Prior to Wednesday's win over the Timberwolves, Bradley said he was "one or two weeks" away from practicing, but head coach Doc Rivers said during a radio interview Thursday morning that Bradley is still "a ways away." Ainge's timeline seems to be a more conservative one, as the team has no plans of rushing Bradley back onto the floor.

"[Avery] just turned 22 years old last week, and coming off an injury, we can't put too much on Avery Bradley's plate," Ainge told WEEI. "But, Avery's defense and presence does make a difference. I mean, his energy, athleticism, passion for the game is contagious. And it does inspire his teammates, it inspires the crowd, and everybody else is exposed more when Avery's on the court, because he's the difference in guys who are playing hard and guys who aren't."

Ainge also touched on Rajon Rondo mindset after his two-game suspension. While Rondo was largely dismissive of the incident to the public, Ainge said he had a different attitude around the team.

"You know, [Rondo's] not going to treat the world the same as he does [the team]," Ainge said. "He's a pretty private guy. But, yeah, Rondo, he was humbled in that he felt he disappointed his teammates and let them down. He was really excited after we got the win against Portland and he was hoping like crazy we could beat Milwaukee and he wouldn't have felt so bad. But he felt like he let his teammates down.

"I think that he's not thrilled with how it all came down and things that were said. I don't think he feels like he did as wrong as it was led to believe. But, he does feel bad that he knows he put himself in that position. Rondo's a very smart kid, and he's stubborn, too, as you guys know. But, he knows when he's hurting the team."

Rondo raised some eyebrows when he said, with a straightforward, "No," that he didn't learn any sort of lesson from the suspension. Ainge, though, said Rondo understands he can't continue to suffer those types of incidents.

"I think he does understand all that, yeah," Ainge said. "But that doesn't mean... He knows that he should not be suspended, and he knows that he should be with the team and he knows what the rules in the league are. And that doesn't mean he's going to have perfect behavior from here on out, but I think he is maturing."