Rookie Avery Bradley walked into the Celtics' locker room after an intense pregame warm-up and glanced up at the countdown clock trying to figure out exactly how much time he had left before the team's pregame huddle. He turned away looking frustrated that his NBA debut wouldn't come for one more hour.
You can understand the 19-year-old being antsy. It had been 210 days (or 18,057,600 seconds, but who's counting?) since he last played in a meaningful game (Texas' 81-80 loss to Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament on March 18).
And after spending the past three-plus months sidelined because of offseason ankle surgery, he was champing at the bit to show the coaching staff what they landed with the 19th overall pick in June's draft. Bradley finally participated in contact drills during Saturday's practice, but still wasn't able to play in Sunday's exhibition game against the Raptors.
Finally, he got the thumbs-up Tuesday and chipped in two points, three rebounds and an assist in nearly 12 minutes of action.
"It just felt good to be out there again," Bradley said after icing an ankle that tightened up on him from inactivity in the second half. He's optimistic it will be OK on Wednesday, but the Celtics have exercised extreme caution in regard to player health.
"I haven't been on the court playing in a game in a long time, since my last game at Texas. It felt real good being out there."
Bradley checked in for his first game action with 1:38 to play in the first quarter. He grabbed a defensive rebound just before the quarter expired, but got more involved in the second period. After missing a couple of jumpers, he hit a mid-range attempt with 8:57 to play in the half for his first NBA bucket.
It was the only shot he hit on six attempts, but Bradley proved, true to his predraft reputation, to be most impressive on the defensive side of the ball.
"Avery played great in the first half, you can see what he can do with ball pressure. It's amazing," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But in the second half, I thought he got tired, No. 1. And I thought his ankle stiffened up, that's why we had to put Nate [Robinson] in. We didn't want to take [Bradley] out, but he couldn't have survived.
"I was happy. He's going to be a really good player."
Said Bradley: "One thing I really take pride in is playing defense. That's because I may not have the offense down yet, but I feel like you can never have a bad offensive game if you're out there and giving all you've got [defensively]."
Bradley always appears cool and collected, if not a bit shy, but admitted teammates told him to calm down as his juices were flowing early on. Bradley is eager to build off this effort, but is also taking a wait-and-see approach with the ankle, especially with three games in the next four days.
"Especially when I stop moving, it tightens up on me," said Bradley. "I iced it after the game and we'll see how it feels [Wednesday]."
LOOSE BALLS: LASME DRAWS HIGH PRAISE; ROLE REVERSAL FOR RESERVES
Doc singles out Lasme, again: The first name Rivers brought up in his postgame confab with reporters: Camp invitee Stephane Lasme, who continues to make a strong push for the final roster spot. Lasme chipped in six points (making all three shots he attempted), while adding three rebounds, two blocked shots and an assist over 28 minutes of floor time. "Lasme, he's playing terrific for us," said Rivers. "I'm really happy with what he does. He can play the 4; he can play the 3. He has a pretty good basketball IQ. I thought he was terrific."
Battle for the final spot: In that competition for roster spot No. 15, Von Wafer started in the makeshift lineup and registered 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting (making his first 3-pointer in green) over a whopping 39 minutes of play. His biggest strength was driving to the basket, but he finished with only one assist, indicating he's not generating much scoring off those drives. He did get to the foul line for five attempts, but a couple came on defensive 3-second violations by the 76ers where he was the assigned shooter.
No shame in loss: Rivers didn't lament his team's inability to maintain a 12-point, third-quarter lead in falling for the first time this preseason. "It reminded me of the olden days in some ways," said Rivers. "You can win for three quarters, but it's the fourth quarter that really comes back because they have their guys in who can make plays. We just didn't really make any offensive plays. I thought our energy kind of went down in that one stretch [in the third quarter]. But I was really happy. The first two quarters, even midway through the third, we were playing terrific. The ball was moving -- a lot of good stuff."
Role reversal: The Celtics trotted out a starting lineup of Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Wafer and Nate Robinson. While neither Ray Allen nor Rajon Rondo was scheduled to play, the duo dressed for the game (in case of emergency) and, before tip-off, took the spots typically assumed by the reserves for pregame handshakes as Tuesday's “starters” took the floor.
No dice: Daniels was the final Celtic starter introduced and, as he came down the line of teammates, Robinson playfully motioned for him to do the “dice shoot” that captain Paul Pierce typically does (and Daniels assists with) during normal player intros. Daniels just smiled and threw a couple of high-5s instead.
Turkey talk: Being Philadelphia, there was naturally a fair amount of Allen Iverson chatter with reports he might sign a one-year deal to play in Turkey this season. “We were talking about that today,” said Rivers. “I don’t know, it’s a tough one. He’s a great player -- a great guard -- now you see him struggling. I’m not concerned for him basketball-wise. I just hope that, whatever is going on off the court for him, has settled down and he’s doing better. For me, that’s what I always worry about with any of my guys. I want to see them do well -- do well in life, do well after basketball.” Rivers said he hadn’t talked with Iverson recently, but had chatted with his former coach Larry Brown, and relayed that those two had been in constant contact regarding Iverson’s future.