WALTHAM You know Ray Allen is going to be back in the Boston Celtics lineup at some point, with the only real question -- besides when -- is: Will he start, or will he come off the bench behind Avery Bradley?
Celtics coach Doc Rivers put all those questions to bed following a rare practice, indicating that Allen would likely be back in the starting lineup on Wednesday against San Antonio.
Rivers was pleased that Allen made it through Tuesday's practice, but he was quick to add, "that still doesn't mean he'll play tomorrow. Because the practice could affect his ankle and he can't practice tomorrow. Right now, he's playing."
Allen said he had a cortisone shot prior to Sunday's game against Miami and, "had all day to let it maneuver through my body. I came in today and felt like I had two new wheels."
A healthy Allen certainly makes the Celtics a deeper team, which is important this time of year. But his return comes at a time when the C's are playing their best basketball of the year. And the man that replaced him, Avery Bradley, has been an instrumental figure in the Celtics' strong play of late.
Now that Allen is on the verge of returning, Bradley goes back to being a guy that the C's look to for bench support. It'll be worth keeping an eye on whether the transition will be a relatively smooth one for both players.
More important than the transition is whether the Celtics can continue on their winning ways now that they are positioned atop the Atlantic Division with less than a month left in the regular season.
"Whatever we need to do as a team, the effort that I've seen over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks, has been great," Allen said. "That's all we need to make sure we keep up. Whatever combinations we work out there, we're all good enough and professional enough to understand it. But when we're out there playing . . . we're at a point in the season where everybody knows who each other are."
Still, having missed so many games due to his right ankle injury, Tuesday's practice should go far in helping them re-establish timing within that first unit.
"You can see it," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "Whenever somebody got hurt and they come in, sometimes things . . . you're kind of off because you're used to playing every other day and then you go from playing every other day to sitting for five or six games, so definitely a practice is much-needed."
If there's a player to keep an eye on with Allen coming back to the lineup -- besides Allen -- it is Rajon Rondo.
Rondo was asked following Tuesday's practice how Allen's return to the starting lineup -- and Bradley's benching -- would affect his game.
"It's hard to say," Rondo said. "They're two different type of players. It doesn't matter really. As long as guys play hard, that's what it's about."