C's want to stay big when Bradley returns

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Avery Bradley could be back as soon as this four-game road trip.WALTHAM, Mass. -- When Avery Bradley is healthy enough to return to game action -- and Doc Rivers suggested on Sunday that could happen as early as this upcoming four-game road trip -- it's assumed he'll eventually resume his role as starting shooting guard, allowing Jason Terry to slide back to his preferred bench spot.

But will there be a further trickle-down effect? Would Rivers reinsert Brandon Bass at starting forward or stick with the recent change that has seen the Celtics go big with Jason Collins at center and Kevin Garnett at power forward?

"I probably would like to stay big," Rivers said. "But I think, again, that lineup will be a lineup we’ll use a lot -- the Jason [Collins] lineup. But there will be nights when we will start Brandon against certain lineups."

The Celtics played some of their best basketball last season with the Bradley-Bass combo in the starting lineup. But Boston decision-makers like the idea of limiting the wear and tear on Garnett by pairing him with Collins and bringing Bass' scoring punch off the pine.

"I like Collins in the starting lineup, protect KG a little bit," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last week during on Boston sports radio WEEI. "They're both very smart, savvy, defensive players, and we should get a little more punch off the bench that way."

While Bradley had said last week that he's targeting a Jan. 2 return to action, Rivers wouldn't rule out the possibility that his return could come sooner -- as early as Tuesday's Christmas battle with the Nets -- if Bradley gains medical clearance.

"I think there’s a chance [he'll play on the upcoming trip], but I don’t know what the chances are," Rivers said. "I haven’t talked to anybody. The fact that he went through, again, today’s practice great ... I don’t know, I just try to stay out of that. Because he’s close and I don’t want anyone feeling like I’m pressuring them -- Avery or, more importantly, the doctors. Because Avery wants to play. I guarantee he wants to play the next game. But that’s something that I try to stay away from."

Rivers was asked if Bradley appeared game ready from what he'd seen in practice.

"He could play, there’s no doubt," Rivers said. "He’s ready to play. I don’t know about the healing part of it. Does it take those extra two weeks? He had two surgeries, and I think that’s what we forget. The first surgery was on one day, the second one was a lot later. And that’s the shoulder that still needs to heal. Now, if you can go through a practice, the way we’ve gone, especially today, can he play in a game? He might be able to. But maybe it’s still too early. I don’t know the answer."

As for what Bradley has shown on the floor, Rivers noted, "It’s just too early. I think he’s just trying to catch his wind right now. I don’t see anything except for I see Avery being a great defender right now."

Bradley closed Sunday's practice working as point guard with the second unit. The Celtics could ease him back into the rotation by bringing him off the bench when he returns to game action, then making the swap with Terry once comfortable.