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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Avery Bradley returns in loss

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Celtics had both Avery Bradley (shoulders) and Rajon Rondo (hip) in the starting lineup for Wednesday's 93-83 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Bradley made his 2012-13 season debut after undergoing a pair of shoulder surgeries while being shelved the past seven months and played just under 20 minutes, scoring four points.

Rondo is battling a hip bruise that caused him to sit out a game last week. He played almost 40 minutes, finishing with 11 points and 10 assists.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers expected Boston's defense to get a jolt from Bradley's return, but continued to downplay the "savior" notion that some outside the Boston locker room have promoted.

Bradley's defense wasn't perfect, but watching Memphis point guard Mike Conley (game-high 23 points) attack the basket whenever the player in front of him wasn't wearing No. 0 spoke to Bradley's on-court impact. He finished minus-12 overall, but even Rivers absolved him from much of Boston's first-unit struggles.

More than anything, the Celtics expressed a satisfaction in being as close to whole as they've been all season long with Bradley back on the floor. There's optimism he can help fix some of what's ailing the Boston defense, even if it didn't happen in one night.

"Avery was terrific on the ball," said Rivers. "Avery's going to help us; you could see that. And that'll be immediate for us. When we were struggling for points and needed somebody offensively -- and Avery will get that too -- you could see him struggling with his shot a little bit. But he's going to be a big help for us."

Bradley underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries during his offseason and has been rehabbing the past seven months as Boston brought him back slowly with the goal of avoiding any setbacks.

"I felt great out there," he said. "I got a little winded. There was a little bit of adrenaline just running up and down the court, but it felt good to be out there. I just tried to play as hard as I can and I feel like everything's going to come together as a team. I feel like we played hard tonight. ...

"On the offensive end, I've still got to get a feel, pick my spots. All that will come, though. Like I said, my main focus is just to go out there and play hard. I feel like everything else will work itself out if I do that."

And how did his shoulders hold up?

"No pain at all," he said. "I'm fine."