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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Avery Bradley makes return to Celtics lineup

Avery Bradley, who returned after missing 19 of the past 22 games, lost control of the ball in the first half.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Avery Bradley, who returned after missing 19 of the past 22 games, lost control of the ball in the first half.

Avery Bradley used to tape his ankles before games, practices, shootarounds, etc., but this season, the Celtics guard decided to stop.

“More than anything, I just didn’t want to tape anymore,” he said Friday.

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But then Bradley sprained his right ankle against the Heat in mid-January, tried to return too soon after a five-game absence and aggravated his sprain, which kept him sidelined for 19 of the past 22 games entering Friday.

“As a result of me not taping, I injured myself,” Bradley said before he returned to action in the Celtics’ 87-80 loss to the Suns at TD Garden.

Though Bradley has started 43 games this season, coach Brad Stevens elected to bring him off the bench and play him limited minutes as the guard shakes off the rust after having not played or practiced for weeks.

Bradley, who is taping his ankles again, played 17 minutes, scoring 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

“I feel fine,” he said after. “It’s a little sore, but I’m going to ice and I’ll feel fine tomorrow.”

Bradley described his shot as “rusty” but said his ankle didn’t limit him.

“No problem,” he said. “Confident in it, I tried not to think about it. Don’t want to restrict my game at all.”

But how long until he regains his rhythm?

“It’s hard to say — it may be one game, it may be two games,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Said Stevens, “I thought [Bradley] was good. I thought he did a lot of good things, played hard, played with effort. I also thought he looked a little rusty in the first stint, better in the second. Hopefully he continues to shakes that rust off and gets a little bit of momentum going.”

Whether because of his ankle or his shoulders, injuries have hindered Bradley’s career, which is in its fourth season.

Entering Friday, the 23-year-old former Texas standout has played only 191 of a possible 294 regular-season games since being drafted in 2010.

Bradley hadn’t played since Feb. 9 and said being sidelined was tough, “especially because we haven’t been playing the way we could be playing. We haven’t been winning a lot of games.”

Bradley hasn’t been able to practice much but said he’s hopeful his conditioning won’t be far behind.

“He got in a good workout with our strength and conditioning people and he did all that he could,” Stevens said. “But now it’s just a little bit of trial by fire coming back. Hopefully it will be like riding a bike, he’ll come right back into it.”

Rondo will rest

Since returning to action in January, Rajon Rondo hasn’t played on the tail end of a back-to-back set, instead sitting out the second game to rest his surgically repaired right knee.

There has been a question of whether Rondo would play in the second game at all this season, but Stevens said Rondo probably wouldn’t.

“As I’ve looked at the schedule, that has been my best guess,” Stevens said. “I don’t know that it’s 100 percent that that will be the case. But the way that he has felt the day after games has again just been general soreness and he is getting back into a nice rhythm right now and I think the biggest thing is building on that as we move forward.”

Stevens added, “If he wakes up and he feels great one day, there’s nothing precluding him from saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to give it a run tonight.’ But it would be him, the trainers, and everybody else getting together and saying it.”

The Celtics have four back-to-backs sets left, meaning that Rondo might only play in 13 of the team’s final 17 games, potentially sitting out March 17 at Dallas, March 31 at Chicago, April 5 at Detroit, and April 12 at Cleveland.

Regional rivalry

The Celtics and Knicks don’t much care for each other.

That fact was driven home again when Celtics president Rich Gotham said that with legendary coach Phil Jackson likely joining the Knicks’ front office, “It’ll give us just one more reason to not like the Knicks.”

Gotham made his comments during a recent HuffPost Live conversation.

The Knicks then announced Friday that they’ll hold a news conference Tuesday for a “major announcement,” presumably to introduce Jackson.

“In Boston we like to have good reasons to not like the New York teams, particularly the Knicks, if you’re the Celtics,” Gotham said.

“Phil, he’s the guy who is the challenger to Red Auerbach’s record for most titles won as a coach, so bring it on. Give us a little more fuel for the rivalry . . . Having a guy like Phil around, it’s all good fun for us because he’s one of our nemeses.”

Jackson won 11 titles as a coach and two as a player. Auerbach won nine as a coach and seven as an executive.

Nets forward Paul Pierce, who spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, was asked Friday for his reaction to Jackson joining the Knicks.

“I don’t talk about the Knicks,” Pierce said, according to the New York Daily News. “No Knicks questions. Ever.”

Luck charms?

The Celtics debuted their St. Patrick’s Day sleeved uniforms, which they’ll also wear Sunday at New Orleans and Monday at Dallas. The jerseys, designed by Adidas, are green with gold lettering and numbering. The Bulls also are wearing special uniforms this year . . . Butler University’s official mascot Blue III, also known as Trip, visited Stevens at the Garden as the famous bulldog continued his tour of the East Coast.

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com Follow him on Twitter@BaxterHolmes.
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