BOSTON — The Celtics are in the midst of their busiest stretch of the 2016-17 schedule, but Brad Stevens and his staff are managing the roster with a focus on the long haul.
It is that thought process that led to Al Horford being held out for Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic. The 6-foot-10 big man suffered a groin injury in the closing moments of Friday’s win over the Rockets and is still not at 100 percent yet. Despite working out the last couple days, the team has opted to take a cautious approach with their top big man.
“He feels a lot better the last two days, been getting treatment,” Stevens said. “Went through a workout this morning, actually felt pretty good. But not quite 100 percent. He’ll be probably for tomorrow night. He’ll travel with us. With the stretch that we’re in, combined with it being a muscular injury, I think we wanted to make sure he gets well first.”
Boston will finish out a four games in five nights stretch on Saturday in Milwaukee, making the timing good for the 30-year-old to get some extra rest for a nagging injury.
“It’s not long term,” Stevens said. “He was really sore Wednesday, less sore yesterday. There’s no need for additional testing. He’s pretty close to being ready to play. And we’re not going to play him if it wasn’t close.
The Celtics are keeping that same mindset with shooting guard Avery Bradley who has missed the past week of games after re-aggravating his initial Achilles injury last Monday against the Hornets.
“He’s getting a lot better,” Stevens said of Bradley. “There’s no structural issue, it’s just a matter of soreness and making sure that that Achilles feels really good because, again, not only the Achilles and what that means when you’re playing on a sore Achilles because you compensate for that some, too, and that can lend to other injuries. Especially again when you’re talking about all these games being bang-bang-bang right after each other. That’s the thing about Al. Like, we play tomorrow night, we play Monday night, we play Wednesday. If he aggravates it tonight, he could be out for a while. So just being conservative is probably the right move with those guys.”
Despite the approach, Stevens remains upbeat that Bradley will be back on the floor prior to the All-Star break.
“He hasn’t been doing anything on the court as far as a long workout, but he’s close,” Stevens said. “He’s feeling a lot better, it’s just a matter of getting a chance to get on the court a little bit, practice, or do a couple of hard workouts before he gets back to play. Ultimately, that’ll be his call, along with [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and our medical staff.”
Jaylen Brown will get his second straight start in place of Avery Bradley against the Magic, a shift that keeps Marcus Smart in a sixth man role for the foreseeable future.
“Hey, when Avery comes back, that’s all going to change and when Al comes back that’s all going to change,” Stevens said. “I think, in the meantime, I think it’s good that people play and get a chance to do that and it keeps Marcus, too, coming off the bench in that kinda energizer role that I think we really need. We spent a lot of time talking about he’s going to play 30 minutes anyways and it makes it a little bit easier to manage those minutes and he gives us a good boost.”
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.