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Brandon Bass can add firepower in a reserve role.WALTHAM, Mass. -- True to his training-camp word, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers experimented with a different starting lineup in Saturday's victory over the Washington Wizards, inserting rookie Jared Sullinger in place of Brandon Bass.
Though the Celtics captured their first win of the season with Sullinger joining Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce along the front line, there's no guarantee it'll remain that way. Opponent matchups should dictate Rivers' choice, as he elected for the more athletic Bass in Boston's first two games against the Heat and Bucks, before Washington's size helped push Sullinger into the first five.
But the thinking is that a bench role might help unleash Bass a bit more, particularly on the offensive end. Whereas he'd frequently defer to the likes of Pierce, Garnett, and Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, he could serve as more of a focal point for the second unit.
"That was one of the other reasons we wanted Jared in the lineup, because Brandon's another scorer in a lot of ways, and now you have too many in your starting lineup," Rivers said after Saturday's win. "And we felt Brandon can now come in and score with the second unit. He got a ton of wide-open shots tonight, he just didn't make them. But I think that helped him too, knowing that when you come in with that group, you're going to get shots."
The shots Rivers is talking about aren't just the typical elbow jumpers that have become a trademark of Bass' game. Bass has shown, both in the preseason and the regular season, a renewed commitment to attacking the basket at times and getting ahead of the defense on the break for easier looks at the rim. If his role is revamped for the long-term, utilizing his strength and athleticism will help him score without plays being run for him.
"I think for me to grow here, I've got to be more active," Bass said after Monday's practice. "Like I said, we've got a lot of options. Doc said it's Rondo, Paul, and Kevin, and Jeff [Green] they're going to go through, so I have to be more active in everything, on both ends of the ball."
Bringing Bass off the bench would lessen the restrictions he faces when he starts. While Sullinger serves as something of a specialist with the first five, through his rebounding, primarily, Bass can take his solid all-around game and apply it to the reserve units. Through three games he's been one of the Celtics' best rebounders, and he'll look to be an impact player on the defensive end when Garnett is on the bench -- something Boston is in dire need of. Rivers has praised Bass' defensive ability in the past, and though he's at his best alongside Garnett (who isn't?), he said he'll look to make strides without KG on the floor.
"I want to be the cornerstone of that, absolutely," Bass said, before adding that in order to do that, he'll have to remain active on the defensive end and initiate communication among his teammates.
Figuring out how to utilize Bass is just the next installment of the ongoing development process the Celtics are working through right now, but it's an adjustment Boston is hoping will benefit both player and team.