Avery Bradley Limited But Still Effective With Bothersome Left Shoulder Injury

Avery Bradley Limited But Still Effective With Bothersome Left Shoulder InjuryWALTHAM, Mass. — Avery Bradley knows all about annoyances, having built his reputation this season on annoying opposing guards with his defense.

He also knows when an annoyance grows into something else, like the considerable pain he feels in his left shoulder whenever his arm pops out of its socket. The recurring injury is not merely annoying for the second-year Celtics guard. For many players, it could be downright debilitating.

"He's just tough," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said at Sunday's practice. "I swear, a lot of people would not be playing. The only reason he is, is because he wants to."

Bradley did not practice Sunday as the Celtics prepared for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers. He attended Monday's morning shootaround, according to a team official, but the Celtics tweeted on their official Twitter account that Bradley was not on the floor. Bradley is a game-time decision for Monday's clash at the TD Garden, where the Celtics will try to snap a 2-2 tie in the series.

Bradley does not deny that the injury is painful and worrisome, but he has tried to ignore the pain and the thought that he could create a long-standing injury. He also insisted that no matter the severity of the injury, he is not playing through greater pain simply because it is the playoffs.

"You as a person want to come back for your teammates, fans and stuff, but at the end of the day you have to do what's best for your team," Bradley said in Philadelphia. "I feel like regular season, playoffs, it doesn't matter. It's all the same."

The shoulder popped out of joint again Friday, and although it popped right back in, Bradley seemed to be favoring it even before he re-injured it on the second-quarter foul. His minutes are down slightly in the second round as the injury has recurred more frequently and as Ray Allen has worked himself back into playing shape.

Bradley has yet to miss a game in the playoffs, yet the Celtics have contemplated the very real possibility that Bradley may not be able to finish the postseason if the issue persists.

"I am concerned that, at some point, he may not be able to anymore," Rivers said. "We don't know what day that is. We don't know if he can finish out and we go all the way and he can play, or if tomorrow could be his last game."

Some of Bradley's teammates, while they appreciate his toughness, are concerned about Bradley making the injury worse.

"He's a guy who wants to be out there," Paul Pierce said. "He wants to win and do things that help the ball club. A lot of young players would probably sit down, be worried about the future of their career in that situation. Avery has to do what's best for him, possibly, in the long run. Hopefully, he doesn't have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he's playing."

The Sixers are clearly aware of the injury and have all but dared Bradley to shoot. Known for his defense, Bradley developed into a dependable offensive threat with his off-ball cuts, midrange jump shot and corner 3-pointers late in the season. Although he shoots right-handed, the shoulder injury affects his left arm and his guide hand. He is 3-for-10 on corner 3s in the series after shooting 20-for-36, or 55.6 percent, from those locations during the regular season.

Bradley has appeared tentative to drive or fill the wings on the fast break, usually opting to fade into the corner behind the 3-point line when Rajon Rondo brings up the ball in transition. More than half of his shots in the regular season came in the paint, but Bradley has taken only 30 shots in the paint out of his 68 total shots in the playoffs.

Bradley is highly unlikely to return to full strength until he gets a rest, but that will not come until he sits out a few games or the Celtics are eliminated. He could end up watching from the bench while his teammates advance in the playoffs or, worse, get bounced. Now, that would be annoying.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame  or send it here.

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