- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics guard Avery Bradley remains on track to make his season debut during Wednesday's visit from the Memphis Grizzlies, but even after seven months on the shelf after undergoing a pair of shoulder surgeries, he's downplaying his impending return.
"Just like any other day," Bradley said before the team's practice on Tuesday. "I'm going to prepare today, we're going to go through practice, go over the plays, make sure I know what's going on. And tomorrow I'm just going to go out there and play as hard as I can, prepare like a regular game day for me."
Bradley, whose season ended in May during an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers, required surgery on each shoulder during his offseason. The Celtics brought him back slowly, but he could be thrust right into the starting lineup for Wednesday's game. That could also hinge on the availability of point guard Rajon Rondo, who is battling a hip bruise that forced him to sit out Tuesday's practice session.
"We're just going by how our practice looks. If [Bradley] looks ready to start, he’ll start, he’s a starter," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But if he doesn’t, we’ll wait. And also, right now, with Rondo and his hip, we don’t even know what Rondo’s going to do. We know we’re not going to practice him today, and not sure if he’ll play tomorrow. That takes on a whole different bit."
Bradley is simply excited about his opportunity to get back on the floor.
"My teammates are excited, I'm excited," he said. "I'm pretty sure the fans are excited. We're just going to go out there and play Celtic basketball tomorrow."
Any returning-to-action jitters for Bradley?
"No, not really," he said. "At first I was -- as I started to get closer and closer. But now I've just been trying to prepare, just focusing more than anything, not getting antsy. Just knowing my dates and where I need to be, when I touched those dates, and that's been my main focus right now."
Many have pegged Bradley as a potential savior for a struggling Boston squad that's lost its familiar brand of defense. Bradley will aid the search for defensive consistency, but he again downplayed his ability to individually right this ship.
"I try not to worry about [expectations]," said Bradley. "All you can do is go out there and play hard and that's what I'm going to do. That's all I know, that's how I play. So just go out there and leave everything out on the floor and tomorrow that's what you guys will see."
Rivers said any increased expectations on the team's third-year guard are merely a media creation.
"We’re not doing that; that’s you guys," Rivers said to reporters. "So, 'No,' would be the answer. I haven't said to our team one time, ‘Guys, when Avery comes back ...' So that’s from outside the gym, that’s not from within the gym."
When a follow-up question asked about how Bradley's on-ball defense could aid the team's ability to limit dribble penetration, Rivers playfully pounced.
"It sounds like you're putting too much on Avery, not me. My gosh," Rivers said with a smile. "He takes away with his guy, unfortunately, there’s four other guys on the floor. Avery’s probably top five in the league in on-ball defense as far as pressure and not getting beat, the problem is there are four other guys on the floor at the same time. But if you can stop one of the guards from dribble penetrating, you're right, it has to help."
Bradley elected to stay home from the recently concluded four-game road trip in order to maximize his on-court time, knowing the team had locked him into a return on Wednesday night.
"I knew I wasn't going to play," said Bradley. "I knew if I went on the trip there would have been pressure to play, so it was just a decision I decided to make. We had our dates already set up and it was for me to come back the 2nd, so I stuck with it, and all I did was stay here and work out every single day so I could prepare for the game tomorrow."
Now he's simply focused on not overdoing it during his first game back.
"There's a possibility it could happen, me going out there, running all over the place, but I try not to worry about it," said Bradley. "Just go out there and play my game."