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Celtics notebook: Avery Bradley takes solace in mates’ success but injured guard itching to return

February 16, 2017 GMT

Avery Bradley paused for a long moment yesterday when asked if his ongoing absence was easier to handle because of how well the Celtics have played over the last 18 games.

“They’ve been playing well,” Bradley said before his mates defeated the 76ers, 116-108, last night at the Garden. “I don’t want to mess anything up but, selfishly, I do wish I was playing, it’s just part of it. Wish I could be around the guys but they have been playing well, I’m happy with how they’ve been playing. I’ve just been rooting those guys on and hopefully we can continue to play that same way and, when I’m added, hopefully I can help us out even more.”

Bradley missed his 18th game over a 19-game stretch last night due to his recovery from a strained right Achilles, and will also miss tonight’s game in Chicago. The hope of all concerned is that Bradley will be ready by next Thursday in Toronto, when the Celtics return from the All-Star break.

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Bradley can at least say that he’s encouraged by how he feels, and that the pain is “completely gone.”

“I’m feeling really good. I wish I could be back now, but I just have to do whatever is smartest at the moment,” he said. “The medical staff thinks it’s smarter for me to just wait until after the All-Star break.”

Bradley has had several false positives, including his return four games after suffering the injury, only for the soreness to flare up. Two returns to practice produced the same reaction.

“Just dealing with the pain,” he said. “We just made the decision for me to play and I probably should have just sat out. You live and you learn. Now I’m just being smart about it so I can be prepared to play at a high level for this team.

“They just want to be smarter about it. We don’t want any more setbacks,” Bradley added. “You could play a game and then miss another game, it’s just not very smart. And it doesn’t make me look good playing some games then sitting out the next game. It just made sense to just sit it out and make sure I get it strong enough so I’m able to play the rest of the year.”

To this point Bradley has had a minimum of actual basketball activity.

“I really haven’t done much. I’ve been doing more so conditioning and strengthening, upper body and lower body, just making sure I’m strong enough for when I do return,” he said. “Now we’re getting the basketball stuff in, so I’m hoping over All-Star (break) I can play some basketball and be ready for the first game.”

In the meantime, Bradley has managed to enjoy some good basketball. The C’s have now won 11 of their last 12 games.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Bradley said. “Brad (Stevens) and the coaching staff, they’ve been doing a great job of making sure we’re focused and prepared for every single game and the guys are going out there, executing the game plan, and playing team basketball.”

No Love for Al

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There will be quite an alignment of stars on the Eastern Conference bench this weekend, with Stevens and his staff in charge of coaching the likes of LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and, the most recent addition, Carmelo Anthony.

The Knicks forward was added last night as a replacement for Cleveland’s Kevin Love, who is out about six weeks after knee surgery.

But don’t expect Stevens to spend much time with his white board.

“The game is for the players,” he said. “Coaches get a good seat. That’s the way I look at it.”

Al Horford had been under consideration to make his fifth All-Star team, though the nod went to Anthony.

Horford also has his eyes on something else.

“The people who know me understand that it’s always good to be recognized, but we’re playing for bigger things here, and we have really good rhythm as a group right now,” he said.

Rival takes notice

Count Sixers coach Brett Brown among those with appreciation for all of the ways Horford impacts a game.

“You can’t even put a price tag on that,” Brown said. “So what he does to a locker room. What he does from an experience perspective, then you take the unusual skill package he has where he can bring you out, he can stretch the court.”