ORLANDO — Celtics guard Avery Bradley has improved considerably after spraining his elbow last week and is in position to return when Boston faces the Memphis Grizzlies at TD Garden on Wednesday, coach Brad Stevens said. Bradley will not be with the team for its game against the Miami Heat on Monday.
Bradley, who is averaging 13.9 points and 2.9 rebounds this season, suffered the injury in the first half of the Celtics' game against the Utah Jazz last Wednesday. He returned in the second half, but an MRI on Thursday revealed the sprain.
Jae Crowder has started in place of Bradley, with Evan Turner sliding into the backcourt from his small forward spot. Before the Celtics' 103-98 loss to the Magic on Sunday, Stevens praised the versatility of the 6-foot-6-inch Crowder, who was acquired from Dallas as part of the Rajon Rondo trade in December.
"He's been great at adapting to whatever we need," Stevens said. "I think he's played everything from the 2 [shooting guard] to the 5 [center] for us. Not many people are gonna be asked to do that, but he's done it well. We need him to continue to be kind of a jack-of-all-trades for us, because our depth isn't what it was."
Isaiah Thomas has made it clear that he would like to become a starter, but Stevens did not want to disturb Boston's thriving second unit. Thomas came off the bench and erupted for 27 points in the Celtics' 104-98 win over New Orleans on Friday.
He had 21 points and nine assists against the Magic.
Celtics forward Brandon Bass continued his strong recent play in the loss to the Magic, registering 19 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, and 5 assists.
"I thought I was just playing my normal game, starting on the defensive end playing with energy," Bass said. "I just wish we could have got the win and I had numbers like that."
On Friday, Stevens praised Bass after the forward slowed Pelicans star Anthony Davis during the second half Friday night. Bass says he was focused on forcing Davis into taking contested jump shots.
"Since I was a kid growing up in the park, I always took pride in defense," Bass said. "It started when I was little and always wanted to guard the best players at all positions, from point guard to the center spot. I always wanted to get a stop. I took a lot of pride in that."
Bass, who is in his 10th season, believes his work ethic and determination as a defender have allowed him to last.
"I just think it's the reason I'm still in the NBA," he said, "just having that competitive spirit and trying to help any way I can."
Bass has held opponents to 44.8 percent shooting this year, 1 percent below their season average.
Team in synch
Several Celtics have pointed to the team's chemistry as a big reason for its improved play in recent weeks.
Thomas, for one, said this is the first time since college that he has been a part of a group this close.
Stevens said the players are still getting to know each other after months of constant change, but he added that their high character is no accident.
"In the last year and a half," Stevens said, "one of the things we're really trying to do is make sure this is a group that plays the game the right way, plays the game for each other and commits to one another, and works the right way off the court and in practice.
"And I like the vibe we have. I like where we're headed."
The Magic game Sunday was without question the second-hottest ticket in town.
Two hours before tip-off, the streets surrounding the Amway Center were filled with purple-clad fans en route to Orlando City SC's debut match as members of Major League Soccer.