Bradley Continues to Battle Shoulder Woes

Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett

Avery Bradley heads for the sideline after his left shoulder popped out again during Game 4 against the Sixers. Bradley did not practice with the team on Sunday.
Drew Hallowell/NBAE/Getty

WALTHAM, Mass. - Avery Bradley didn’t talk to reporters before Sunday’s practice, and he didn't participate in it either, but his pesky left shoulder has yet to force him to miss a playoff game.

Bradley was on the trainer’s table getting treatment Sunday afternoon while his teammates were chatting with the media and getting shots up before practice, but when he has talked to reporters previously, he’s said he tries not to think about his shoulder.

Of course, that was before the shoulder appeared to dislocate itself during Friday’s Game 4 vs. the Sixers, which is unofficially believed to be the fourth time the shoulder has popped out of socket for the guard. It’s become clear that the problem isn’t going away, and while Bradley may have to start thinking about offseason surgery, right now he’s just concentrating on being available for postseason play.

“It came out and it went right back in,” Doc Rivers said of Bradley’s most recent episode with the shoulder. “It’s crazy. It’s a tough thing what he’s going through. A lot of players would not be playing, I will say that.”

That point hasn't been lost on Bradley's teammates, who appreciate his toughness at a time when they need him the most.

"It just shows who he is. A guy who wants to be out there, a guy who wants to win and do anything he can to help this ball club. A lot young players would probably sit down and worry about their future," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce, who knows all about playing in pain. "Hopefully he doesn't have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he's playing. I think it's a fine line between the two."

The joint has been troublesome for Bradley over the last three weeks, and Bradley also left Game 2 against the Sixers in the second quarter with the same injury. He returned in the fourth quarter of that game after a trip to the locker room with trainer Ed Lacerte and team physician Brian McKeon.

Prior to the shoulder issues, Bradley had become a key cog for the Celtics, as his on-the-ball defense and off-the-ball cutting bring dimensions to the Celtics’ game plan that a hobbled Ray Allen (ankle) doesn’t normally provide. But just as the Celtics had come to rely on the second-year guard, the injury has made him unpredictable in the playoffs. At any moment the shoulder could come out again, and it could eventually get to the point where he’s unable to participate.

“I am concerned that at some point, he may not be able to (play) anymore,” Rivers said. “We don’t know what day that is. Tomorrow could be his last day. You really don’t know.”

When he’s been on the floor, Bradley’s been limited at times. He’s unable to harass Philadelphia’s guards with the usual zeal he brings on the defensive end, and has just two steals over his last seven postseason games dating back to the Hawks series. Offensively, Bradley’s been far more reluctant to take open shots or attack the basket, knowing that awkward movements or too much contact could result in another painful and potentially more severe dislocation.

“Offensively he’s been on and off. They’ve been leaving him, they’ve been sagging the paint. They understand what’s going on with his shoulder too,” Rivers said. “That’s the one thing you do see with his shoulder, he doesn’t want to drive as much. Those are the two or three times it’s gone out is when he’s taken the hit, and you don’t blame him, but we do need to get him cutting again.”

For now, Rivers may have to settle for just having him on the floor. Bradley is a "game-time decision" for Game 5, but provided his shoulder’s in socket, he will likely be in the lineup.