BOSTON Before the preseason finale on Sunday against the Sixers, Avery Bradley stood behind the three-point line in front of the Celtics bench and took shots.
Shot. Swish. Shot. Swish. Shot. Swish.
It may not seem like a big deal, but for the third-year guard recovering from not one, but two offseason shoulder surgeries, it's a big step in the right direction.
Bradley has been taking shots every other day for three weeks and can feel the improvement from when he started. He's getting back to where he was prior to the surgeries and the basketball-less summer that followed.
"My legs are starting to get tired because I'm not used to working out doing those hard work outs, but I'm getting there," Bradley said. "My condition is up, I'm in the gym twice a day. I'm trying to do everything I can to come back stronger."
Bradley weighs in at 192 pounds the most he's weighed ever. The problem, though, is that it's not muscle. Bradley says the medication he was previously on made him lose his appetite (he weighed around 180 pounds at one point). Now off the meds, he's back to eating again, and starting to build muscle tone.
"Eating right, working out every day Now I've been eating a lot better and I feel a lot better. I feel a lot stronger. I felt weak during the summer; I couldn't do anything."
Bradley says the team is still aiming for a mid-December return. While he's cleared to shoot, he's not cleared for contact and hasn't done any weightlifting. Building up arm strength is the next step.
"I can't put any weight on my shoulders right now," he said, admitting that lifting dumbbells was too much.
Bradley had come into his own alongside Rajon Rondo in the second half of last season. The improvement in his game was a major factor in the decision to bring Ray Allen off the bench. Even when Bradley initially separated his shoulder, it was hard for him to sit out.
"The adrenaline, and not only that but not wanting to let your teammates down there was a mix of that that's why I kept playing," he said. "But it hurt really bad. It got to the point where I couldn't do it anymore because you just pull one of my shoulders, just pull it out."
Now, the shoulders are on the mend and Bradley is eager to get back on the court with his teammates. His role upon return is yet to be determined, but it's not something he's worried about.
"It's up to Doc, It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I just have to be ready for my team. If I'm starting, I'm starting. If I'm not, I'm not. I just have to be prepared for what Doc wants me to do, and I'm going to. Like I tell everybody, I'm going to come back stronger than last year."
Until then, the Celtics will benefit from being extremely deep at the guard position. The competition is fierce, and watching it unfold from the sideline is obviously frustrating. But Bradley is keeping a positive attitude about it.
"It's definitely hard not being able to start the season out with your teammates and show them what you've worked on during the summer. I didn't have a chance to do those things. So it was hard for me but I'm a firm believer in everything happens for a reason so I think that maybe this helps me get stronger."