By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) – For the second straight season, it’s been a challenging year for Avery Bradley. Back in 2012-13, the guard was hampered by offseason shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the start of the regular season and limited his production once he did return to the floor.

This year began on a happier note for the fourth-year guard, as Bradley shined throughout the first half of the year. He was posting career-best in both points (14.3) and rebounds (3.9) per game, until the injury bug hit yet again. This time, it was the right ankle. Bradley sprained it all the way back on January 21st during a road tilt in Miami.

After returning briefly for three games, following a couple weeks of rest to heal the sprain, the ankle flared up again. After a closer inspection, Boston’s training staff found that the sprain had turned into a bone bruise, keeping one of Boston’s top scorers out of action since February 9th.

All in all, Bradley’s missed 16 of Boston’s last 19 games over the past two months, and the team has gone 5-11 in his absence. There are signs of hope on the horizon for the key member of Boston’s backcourt. Brad Stevens said today at practice that Bradley could return to the floor for good late next week.

“Ed Lacerte [the team trainer] just told me Friday is a possibility, but we’ll see. I don’t want to say with any certainty on Friday or not. It doesn’t look like Tuesday or Wednesday he would play, but hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later,” Stevens said.

Bradley could be of great use Friday night, as the Celtics face off with the Phoenix Suns, who sport one of the top backcourts in the Western Conference with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

In the midst of a contract year, the desire for Bradley to get back onto the floor is strong. The veteran guard is also wise enough to know the Celtics’ medical staff has his best intentions at heart in being cautious with his return.

“I ended up coming back too early,” Bradley acknowledged of his first return from the injury back in February, “and kind of made it worse. That’s all it is. We’re just nursing it and taking our time so it doesn’t happen again. Because you know when you have one ankle sprain, you’re more likely to have another one right after.”

Brad Stevens echoed that philosophy as well from his training staff.

“They’re trying to get him back as quickly as possible,” Stevens said. “But you always want to be careful whenever you have an injury that’s basically reoccurred. It sounds like the second look they got at it in the MRI, he was going to be out a little bit longer. I think his timeline’s about what I thought when I got that report from the second MRI. But he’s progressed nicely. I think we’re as careful and conservative as we would be with anybody.”

With just 20 games remaining in the regular season, time is of the essence right now for the Celtics in evaluating the future of Bradley. Despite falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, they have to decide how much the guard is worth to them, once Bradley hits restricted free agency this summer.

With less than a fourth of the season remaining, it’s up to Bradley to prove to the franchise he’s worth keeping around at a higher price as the team continues their rebuild.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.


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