Down goes AveryMORE:Stage set for Clippers, Celtics

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Down goes AveryMORE:Stage set for Clippers, Celtics

The news out of Brooklyn this afternoon (via Adrian Wojnarowski's Twitter accountvia a multi-zillion dollar mansion in Moscow) is that the Nets have fired Avery Johnson.

Johnson becomes the second NBA coach to be fired this season (joining Mike Brown). He's also the second coach in three years whose firing has coincided with an unhappy Deron Williams (joining Jerry Sloan). In Johnson's absence, the Nets have named PJ Carliesimo the interim coach (all but eliminating any chance of them signing Latrell Sprewell), but like the Lakers did earlier this year, you can expect Brooklyn to do an extensive search for a more permanent head man and you can also expect to hear all the same names (Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Stan Van Gundy, Whoopi Goldberg) for a possible replacement.

So what does this mean for the Celtics? Well, one of their major rivals in the conference and (more importantly, for now) the division, is in flux. Even more so than they were during their recent stretch of mediocrity. With Johnson's firing, and the Sixers recent slide (although they have picked up two impressive wins recently against Memphis and Atlanta), the Celtics are suddenly the second most stable team in the Atlantic. And we'll see how the return of Amare Stoudemire and the loss of Raymond Felton affects the Knicks. Who knows? The Celtics might once again find themselves in the drivers seat and then mayb WOAH. OK, pump the brakes now. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But let's take a moment and make note of the fact that the Celtics are suddenly trending upwards while the rest of the division's hit a speed bump.

We'll check back in after this west coast trip.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – When you look at Avery Bradley’s growth this season, seeing the tremendous strides he has made offensively is clear.

But at the heart of Bradley’s game remains a desire to dominate a matchup as a defender, something that was alive and well on Monday as he made his return to the floor after missing the four previous games with an Achilles strain.

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Bradley’s defense would prove instrumental in Boston’s 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

He was 2-for-9 from the field and played nearly 33 minutes against Hornets which is just a couple minutes under his season average of court time.

Usually he’s responsible for providing a boost at both ends of the floor.

But considering his long lay-off, it was clear early on that he was locked in defensively more so than looking to get back on track shooting the ball.

“You take any type of games off in this league, your rhythm and all that you gotta get it back,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.

Even though his shots weren’t falling, Bradley was on top of his game defensively while guarding 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum who is six inches taller but never was a factor on Monday.

Batum finished with eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he got out of Bradley in his return to action.

“I thought he (Bradley) was great,” Stevens told CSNNE.com. “He did everything we needed him to do. We knew there would be a little bit of rust (shooting the ball), but that’s part of you playing your way back into it.”

As far as Bradley’s stifling defense on Batum, Stevens said, “You have to do that against Batum. I thought Avery did a really good job of that. It’s a hard matchup no matter what way you go. Batum, giving up inches to him. He (Bradley) was there on the catch all night.”

And as Bradley gradually gets back into a flow, he’ll regain the form offensively that made him one of the NBA’s better two-way players this season.