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Saturday, February 1, 2014
Practice: Rondo/Bradley tandem in focus

By Chris Forsberg

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Just how rare has a Boston Celtics backcourt featuring Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo been over the past four seasons?

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.

The Celtics will get a rare glimpse of what they hope might be their backcourt of the future when Bradley returns to the starting lineup Sunday against the Orlando Magic.

Bradley has missed the past five games because of a sprained ankle. His stint on the shelf came right after Rondo returned from missing nearly a full year because of a torn ACL. The duo briefly crossed paths in January of last year after Bradley missed the first 30 games of the season because of double shoulder surgeries, only for Rondo to be lost for the season at the end of that month.

While the Rondo-Bradley lineup has shown intriguing glimpses, especially stretching into the playoffs during the 2011-12 season when Bradley supplanted Ray Allen in the starting lineup, we've yet to see an extended regular-season stretch with this pairing. So what's the potential for that tandem?

"I think they can be really good," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "The thing that is good about them is that they can both defend 1s or 2s, because they’re both strong and long and agile guys, so you have a little bit of flexibility in the backcourt. And then Avery, obviously, running off screens, scoring off screens, is certainly more comfortable at the 2 than the 1 [and] fits better with a guy like Rondo. They just haven’t had a lot of time to play together. It’s pretty remarkable when you think about the fact that they've been on the same team for [81] games last year, 48 this year, and the number of minutes they've actually played together is pretty low."

How low? The Bradley/Rondo tandem has logged a mere 748 regular-season minutes together, including 43 this season and 250 last year. Their 451 minutes together during the 2011-12 regular season is the biggest sample size available, and the duo put up some sexy numbers (including a defensive rating of 88 when paired together), but clearly a lot has changed since that point.

The Celtics don't expect the Bradley/Rondo combo to be some sort of magic elixir that turns around their season, but as they gauge what the future will look like, how the pair operates together could dictate a lot about how Boston will proceed this summer. Bradley is set to become a restricted free agent and interest around the league could run up his price tag, while Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season and the Celtics have already approached him about a contract extension that might help the team put premium pieces around him moving forward.