While the Celtics continue to search for cohesion and production from their frontline players, Avery Bradley is getting closer to returning for coach Doc Rivers.
Bradley has been working out before practices and rehabilitating his surgically repaired shoulders, and said before Wednesday’s 104-94 win over the Timberwolves at TD Garden he is close to practicing with the team. Bradley has not played or participated in full-contact workouts since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers.
Bradley underwent surgery on both shoulders to repair a condition that caused them to pop out of their sockets. The Celtics have been cautious with his recovery.
“I feel a lot better,” Bradley said. “I’m just so excited that I’m getting more closer medically. I can’t wait to see my teammates. Every single day I come in, I tell the trainers to have them test me out to see how strong I am.”
Bradley’s rehabilitation consists of swimming, weightlighting, and hours of shooting.
“Doc kind of stays out of [when I would return],” Bradley said. “It’s really up to the trainers and the strength and conditioning coaches and me, to see how I feel. It’s hard for him to determine because I’m such a tough guy and I want to get out there. They put me through a lot of tests because I lie to them sometimes because I want to be back. They’re just protecting me and I want to protect myself because when I come back I want to have no setbacks.
“I feel a lot better. I’m doing pushups now. I try to do them every single day. I feel a lot stronger; it’s like night and day how I feel from two weeks ago.”
Rivers acknowleged he doesn’t inquire about injuries so he sounded stunned about Bradley’s status.
“Is that right? Wow, that’s great to hear,” the coach said. “I’m very happy to hear the news. Honestly, I didn’t know that because I don’t check. I don’t focus on that stuff. With Avery, I just talk to him every day and see how he’s doing. I never really asked.”
Wednesday marked the return to Boston for second-year center Greg Stiemsma, who played a solid rookie season for the Celtics before signing with the Timberwolves. Stiemsma is averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12-plus minutes per game as a reserve.
The Celtics plucked Stiemsma from training camp of Sioux Falls of the NBADL last season and he averaged 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Stiemsma blocked five or more shots in a game four times.
The Timberwolves offered Stiemsma more money and the Boston brass did not want to reach the league’s luxury tax by matching the two-year, $5.2 million contract.
“I felt like it was just a better fit for this season,” he said when asked why he left for Minnesota. “With the way Minnesota’s team was starting to build up, I thought I could be a fit here. Nothing against what I had in Boston, I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I thought it was a better fit here.”
The Timberwolves are filled with big men but playing time has increased for Stiemsma with injuries to Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko.
“I still gotta feel like I got that chip on my shoulder where nothing’s ever going to be given, everything’s got to be taken,” he said. “This whole season has been like that with all the injuries we’ve had. Guys have had to step up. You’re given different opportunities and it’s about how you deal with it.”
Stiemsma was never quite 100 percent last season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a bone bruise in his right foot. He was not able to practice or participate in shootarounds in certain stretches and took the entire summer off to heal. He skipped an opportunity to play with the USA Select team to prepare for this season.
“The second half of the season, my foot was sore,” he said. “Overall it was pretty painful. You guys saw me in the boot. It definitely feels good to be healthy again.”
He had 2 points, 2 blocks, and 2 fouls in 9 minutes Wednesday night.
The Celtics recalled rookie Kris Joseph after a brief stint back with the Red Claws. Joseph spent two games with the Celtics while Rajon Rondo served his suspension. He is likely back to provide depth for Leandro Barbosa, who missed Tuesday’s practice with an illness but suited up Wednesday. Rivers said he did not want play the reserve guard; he played the final 4.2 seconds of the third quarter . . . The Timberwolves were without Kirilenko, who missed the past three games with back spasms. Also, Ricky Rubio, the team’s talented point guard, was working out on the court before the game but there is no timetable for his return from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament . . . In four games for Maine, Fab Melo is averaging 7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots . . . Minnesota’s Kevin Love, a career 81.7-percent free throw shooter, is at 64.9 percent after missing six of 12 Wednesday night.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe