NEW ORLEANS — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Friday that starting guard Avery Bradley has a "badly sprained elbow" and is unlikely to play during the team's three-game road trip. Beyond that, the timetable for his return remains unclear.
Stevens said Bradley hyperextended his left (non-shooting) elbow during the second quarter of the Celtics' 85-84 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Bradley briefly went to the locker room and returned to the game wearing a protective sleeve. Stevens said Bradley was running on adrenaline.
"When he woke up the next morning," Stevens said, "he was really hurting."
An MRI on Thursday revealed the sprain. By Friday night, Stevens said Bradley had shown some improvement and could meet up with the team in Orlando this weekend, but he said that scenario remained unlikely.
Bradley's absence opened a spot in the starting lineup, and Stevens elected to go with forward Jae Crowder against the Pelicans on Friday night instead of the team's leading scorer, point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Playing 29 minutes, Thomas scored a team-best 27 points in the Celtics' 104-98 win. Crowder had a solid game, too, with 11 points, 9 boards, and 4 steals in 37 minutes.
Thomas has made it clear he would like to start. His reaffirmed that stance before Friday's game, but said he did not have an issue with Stevens's choice.
"As long as we win, I'm good," Thomas said. "I would love to start, but it's not the end of the [world]. I'm going to be ready when my name is called."
Bradley's absence is notable. The 24-year-old is averaging 13.9 points and 2.9 rebounds and is a solid defender.
"Obviously, the biggest thing Avery brings you from an offensive standpoint is the ability to make tough shots and to go on runs that he does shooting the ball," Stevens said. "So whether it's off of dribble handoffs or down-screens, or whatever the case may be in transition, when he gets going, when he gets warm, he's a hard guy to stop."
"He's definitely devastated he's not here," Smart said, "but we want to make sure he's 100 percent and that nothing's really going on too serious."
Forward Kelly Olynyk, who returned Wednesday after missing 18 games with a badly sprained ankle, said that he experienced some typical soreness on Thursday morning, but that he felt good afterward and is now hoping to regain his rhythm.
Against the Jazz, Olynyk had one rebound in seven scoreless minutes. On Friday, Olynyk logged 22 minutes and shot 1 for 8, but also finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Olynyk started the second half in place of Tyler Zeller, as Stevens sought a lineup that could stretch the floor with more outside shooting.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Olynyk said. "Obviously shots didn't fall for me, but I was trying to help the team however I can."
On Thursday, Celtics president of basketball of operations Danny Ainge said the team was on the verge of signing free agent center JaVale McGee. But the deal ultimately fell through because the Celtics were seeking a team option in his contract for next season while McGee's camp wanted a player option. So in the end, it was much ado about nothing, and the Celtics have moved on . . . Marcus Smart celebrated his 21st birthday on Friday, tallying 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. "It felt like forever to get to 21," said Smart.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmels-