Ready or not, here comes Larry Bird. He's back on the Boston Celtics' roster.

Nine days after he made discouraging statements about prospects for his return this season, Bird, sidelined for the last 76 games, was activated Sunday for the playoffs.It's unlikely he'll be able to play in the first round starting Friday at Detroit. It's also unlikely the Celtics will survive that best-of-five series against the team with the NBA's best record.

But if they do, club officials hope Bird can provide help in subsequent rounds.

Bird, who underwent surgery on both heels Nov. 19, took the roster spot of backup forward Ronnie Grandison, who had been with the club all season. NBA teams were required to finalize their playoff rosters by midnight Sunday.

The Celtics announced the moves after the team clinched a playoff berth for the 10th straight year with a 120-110 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, the final day of the regular season.

On April 14, Bird was pessimistic.

"I don't think if I go out there right now I can really help the team," he said then.

The star forward, who won most valuable player awards three times during the regular season and twice in the playoffs, had surgery more than five months ago to remove bone spurs on both heels that were irritating his Achilles' tendons. Dr. Arnold Scheller, the team physician who participated in the surgery, estimated Bird would be sidelined 31/2 to 4 months.

He scrimmaged with the Celtics on March 6 for the first time after the operation. After additional scrimmages March 7 and 9, he returned to the sidelines because of swelling and discomfort, primarily in his right heel.

He said on April 14 that the condition of his feet had improved but "if I went out there now and really pushed it hard it (the swelling) would probably flare up again.

"I tried to come back in March and I couldn't," he added. "If it flares up on me, I'm pulling out because there's no way I'm jeopardizing the next two or three years."