Boston Celtics: Brandon Bass
"OK, trades come up, it makes you think about, 'Do they have me in their future plans?' or things of that nature," Bass said. "But even thinking that far [ahead] doesn't even matter, man. It's really all about you just trying to improve as a basketball player. Let the business side, let those people take care of those things."
The Celtics have a logjam at the power forward position and rookie bigs Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani could benefit from additional minutes over the final two months of the season. There's reason to believe Boston would be interested in moving Bass with a goal of adding to their surplus of draft picks or acquiring an expiring deal that could further unclog their cap commitment next season.
Bass is a versatile defender with an economical contract -- he'll enter the final year of his deal next season with a $6.9 million price tag. He could provide a frontcourt boost to a contender without disrupting the chemistry of the locker room.
But Bass knows that his future is out of his hands. Even if the Celtics are willing to move him, they have to find a dance partner. Even if another team desires Bass, the Celtics can set a lofty price tag for his services without an urgency to make a move.
"You can only control what you can control, that's you just trying to come in every day and work hard and be the best player you become," Bass said. "As far as being traded or things of that nature, that's not your job to think about or try to control."
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Jared Sullinger will start at center (matching him up with old friend Kevin Garnett), while Bass will often draw Paul Pierce with the Nets playing him at the power forward spot in recent games. The Nets have won nine of their last 10 games while surging back into the playoff fray in the Eastern Conference.
Kris Humphries will come off the bench for Boston.
"Even with our normal lineup, we’d still be small, relatively," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "We’re going to move Brandon [to the 4] and start Sully at the 5, which we’ve done some early in the year. The biggest thing that I see, [the Nets] just feast on mismatches. And a lot of these guys, when you look at the course of their career, that’s what they’ve done. Deron Williams has always done that, Pierce has done that, Joe Johnson has done that. They’ve really done a good job with that stuff."
The focus of the night, of course, is on Pierce and Garnett's return to Boston. Is Stevens worried about it being a distraction for his team?
"No, guys will be excited to play in games like this when there’s a lot of attention on the game itself," said Stevens. "There's a lot of attention, and rightfully so, on their players, specifically Paul and Kevin and they’ve earned all that. I don’t see it being a negative in any way. I think the tough part about today for us is Brooklyn is playing exceptionally well and they’ve kind of found their groove."
Looking for increased versatility, the Celtics could shift Bass into the starting lineup while shuffling Jared Sullinger, who dislocated a finger on his right hand during Friday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and had the injury taped on Saturday, to a reserve role (or simply make Bass an early sub). The Nets dominated Boston near the basket in the teams' first regular-season meeting in December, but the loss of Lopez has changed the look of Brooklyn's lineup.
What's more, the Nets have won nine of their last 10 games while surging back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference.
"You saw it coming the last time we played them because they were all getting healthy," said Stevens. "Then they lost Lopez, and sometimes when you lose a guy of that magnitude, it’s hard to adjust, at least initially. And I think that’s what it was when they went on a little bit of a slide after we played them.
"But the deal is, they are playing [Paul] Pierce at the 4. So now you’ve got [Alan] Anderson, Pierce, [Joe] Johnson as 2, 3, 4, they are all interchangeable. They all spread the floor and you can play [Shaun] Livingston as a starter as kind of a jack-of-all-trades. You can play [Deron] Williams the majority of the minutes, who is now coming off the bench. Think about that for a second, Deron Williams is coming off the bench on that team -- that’s pretty good. You’ve got Garnett back at the 5, where he’s played a lot the last few years here. I think you’ve got a lot of guys that are really able to take advantage of their matchups by playing a position down. And their bodies would suggest that they are able to play a position down because they are so big and agile anyways."
Boston can negate some of that interchangeability by countering with a lineup that features Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, all alongside Rajon Rondo.
Bass had started 36 games this season before recently being shuffled back to a reserve role with Boston utilizing Humphries and Sullinger up front at the start of games. For the month of January, Bass is averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds (just a tick below his season averages), but on only 23.7 minutes per game (four minutes less than his season average). At the start of the year, Bass was anchoring the Boston defense and the Celtics might be looking for a boost there, particularly with Sullinger dinged up and the team coming off a defenseless effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Some more notes from practice:
- BAYLESS DOUBTFUL VS. NETS: Stevens said guard Jerryd Bayless, who has missed the past three games due to a sprained toe in his left foot, went through only catch-and-shoot portions of practice on Saturday and, based on his limited activity, would deem him doubtful to return on Sunday. Bayless remains game-to-game moving forward.
- BRADLEY OBSERVES SESSION: Avery Bradley, who is nursing a sprained right ankle, sat at the makeshift scorer's table, his right leg elevated in a bulky wrap, and observed the end of practice alongside trainer Ed Lacerte. Bradley was expected to miss two weeks after spraining his ankle in a loss to Miami on Tuesday.
- 10-DAYERS IN FOCUS: The Celtics will have to make a decision on whether to bring back Chris Johnson on a second 10-day contract after Sunday's game. Asked about Johnson and fellow 10-dayer Vander Blue, Stevens offered praise for their efforts. "Vander had a good practice today," said Stevens. "We didn’t go live very long, but the part we did go live, he was really good and really aggressive. These days are days that those guys are going to be good because they’re trying to maximize that experience and this opportunity. I thought they both did fine [versus Oklahoma City on Friday]. I think you throw them to the wolves. [Friday] we had a backcourt of [undrafted rookie point guard] Phil [Pressey] and those two guys out there, all at the same time in the fourth quarter against a pretty darn seasoned group, even though [the Thunder] didn’t have their two best players. That was a great experience for them and hopefully they can build on it."
Broadcast video appears to show teammates and assistant coach Jay Larranaga trying to defuse the dust-up. Asked after the game about a potential squabble, first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "Disagreements are part of the game, it’s part of team basketball. But how quickly you move on from there says a lot."
What had both players worked up? It was likely the struggles of Boston's first unit. The starters were minus-7 in plus/minus over 10 minutes together in the first half, allowing the Hawks to chip away at an 18-point advantage that the second unit helped build. When that lead further dissolved at the start of the second half, Stevens pulled his underperforming starters in favor of the second-unit frontcourt featuring Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk.
How bad was Boston's first unit? In 17 minutes of total floor time, Boston's starting five (Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Green, Bass and Jared Sullinger) combined for 5-of-27 shooting (18.5 percent) with only three assists and 18 total points. The group was minus-13 overall. The second unit of Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, Wallace, Humphries and Olynyk was 13-of-20 shooting (65 percent) with 12 assists and 35 points over 13 minutes. That group was plus-15.
Did the sideline tiff prevent Green or Bass from reentering the game? Stevens suggested that he was set to ride the reserves the rest of the way. He leaned on a full reserve unit straight up until 4 ½ minutes to go when Bradley and Crawford checked back in.
This isn't the first time that Stevens has used his reserves for extended stretches late in games. Back in early November, Green sat out the final 15 minutes of a loss in Detroit. Stevens hasn't been afraid to ride hot hands (and send a message in the process). He's often reminded his starters that, if they don't bring their A games, there's a set of reserves eager for their floor time.
The guess here is that any frustrations between players will blow over quickly. The underperformance of the first unit as a whole and figuring out why it happened is where the players should channel any lingering anger.
Bass, who had never averaged an assist per game before arriving in Boston, has seen that helper tally slowly climb. Last season he handed out 84 assists in 81 games, reaching the 1-assist-per-game plateau for the first time, and this season he's already at 44 assists through 30 games for nearly 1.5 assists per contest.
OK, so Rondo doesn't have to worry about Bass stealing his point guard duties while he rehabs, but Bass is taking great pleasure in showing off his passing skills this season.
For the fourth time during the 2013-14 campaign, Bass tied his career high of four assists during Saturday's 103-100 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He added 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, and two blocks (including the late-game swat on Dion Waiters that helped preserve the win).
Informed of his assist-happy night, Bass quipped, "That’s what I do, man." Turning more serious, he added, "I didn’t know that. I don’t really keep up with the stats. But it’s cool to be able to make plays for my teammates. I told Rondo, I’d rather get an assist, a nice assist, versus a dunk. I’ve been dunking my whole life. It feels good to make a play for somebody else."
Bass' work near the basket is generating more opportunities for his teammates. In the first quarter, he drew a double team in the paint before kicking the ball out to Jeff Green for a 3-pointer from above the arc. The two joined forces again soon after, this time with Bass passing to the corner off a double team on the right blocks, for another Green triple.
Bass found Crawford for a 3-pointer in the third quarter, then dished off the drive to feed Humphries for a baseline jumper later in that frame. That's 11 points generated off Bass feeds.
Pretty soon, you're going to have to find him a new nickname.
A month ago you might have been able to needle Bass about his 3-point shooting (he had missed the first 16 of his nine-year career). Now he's made his last two, both against the Cavaliers, and laughed while noting, "There’s just something about Cleveland. They like to see me shoot 3s, so I was able to hit one."
Bass is enjoying getting to show off other aspects of his game this season.
"This year, it’s just a different way," said Bass. "Everything is different. I’ve been able to show different things by everything being different -- different players, different system, and it’s cool that I can succeed in different scenarios. I just want to continue to help my teammates in any way I can, and hopefully lead us to wins."
A handful of postgame notes:
- WALLACE SITS OUT SECOND HALF: Gerald Wallace took a blow to the face in the first half and did not play in the second half. Brad Stevens was a bit cryptic, noting, "He got dinged up in the first half and [trainer] Ed [Lacerte] told me to not play him. Hopefully he’s OK. He looked fine in the locker room after, but we’ll let them figure that out." Later Stevens added, "He got hit in the nose. I don’t know what the prognosis is and I don’t want to speculate." The fear would seemingly be a concussion, but Wallace showed no ill effects in the locker room. He did excuse himself from approaching reporters by noting that he had to go talk to Lacerte. Wallace had two points, two rebounds and two assists over 8:30 in Saturday's win.
- SULLINGER RUNS WITH SECOND UNIT: Stevens tweaked his rotation a bit, subbing Jared Sullinger out early, about seven minutes in with Kris Humphries serving as the first big off the bench. That allowed Stevens to bring Sullinger back for the start of the second quarter to run with a reserve group featuring Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, Wallace and Kelly Olynyk (reuniting a frontcourt trio that has thrived together at times this season). Said Stevens: "That was on purpose. That’s just an attempt to get more scoring in certain lineups, a little bit more balance, so that we can continue with that. And that may have thrown off [Sullinger's] rhythm a little bit, but he’ll get used to it." Sullinger had an up-and-down night, finishing with eight points and three rebounds over 30:41. Asked about his performance, he noted, “I was fine. You know everyone has one of those games where they are just a half a step off, but I got to bounce back." As for running with the second unit, Sullinger added, "It’s my teammates. Regardless of whatever unit it is, we’re just playing hard and we’re plugging away. We share the ball like a team and we just play hard. That’s what the second unit does, that’s what any unit does."
- CRAWFORD'S TERRIBLE TURNOVER: Jordan Crawford had an amazingly bad turnover in the fourth quarter. Running in transition with an eroding 10-point lead and 3 ½ minutes to play, Crawford went behind his back for a little razzle-dazzle before trying to send a little scoop pass to Kris Humphries on the right side. Instead, the ball was about 10 feet off the mark and landed in the first row of seats along the baseline. Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn could be heard bellowing, "That is absolutely ... a NO-NO!" When the broadcast showed a half-confused, half-angry Stevens, Heinsohn added, "I'm with you." For his part, Crawford joked, "I like to have fun out there. I kept the team loose with that turnover, know what I’m saying?"
- GREEN UNCENSORED: Asked if the Cavaliers were easier to attack without suspended Andrew Bynum, Jeff Green said, "He would’ve been a good guy to get a dunk on." Green was just as tough on his own teammate Avery Bradley after the point guard got stuffed by the rim trying to complete a long-distance alley-oop from Jordan Crawford in the second half. "[Bradley] said he didn’t know where he was at when he went up, but that’s him trying to make a play," said Green. "This time, the rim denied him."
Sources told Marc Stein of ESPN.com earlier this week that Boston had offered a package of Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass and a 2015 first-round pick for Rockets center Omer Asik, but Houston had turned down the deal.
Now, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has backed away for any trade talks for Asik. Despite the constant rumblings before talks died down, the trade rumors didn’t faze Lee.
“I didn’t put too much emphasis on it,” Lee said, “Like I said, it’s all rumors until it happens. So when it happens, that’s when I start thinking and worrying about it. Nothing happened, so I was focused on Detroit and went out there and played that game. Now we’re focused on Washington.”
Bass remained fairly quiet on the subject, telling reporters at first, “I never heard anything about that,” when asked about the potential Houston deal.
Later, he commented on how he deals with rumors when they pop up.
“All those things are a part of the business. There’s no hard feelings against anyone, nobody. That’s just business. When anything goes down about anything, that part of it is not my business. I’m supposed to go out here every day and compete and try to get better,” Bass said.
Jared Sullinger, for one, was happy to see the rumors subside, as he felt it put both Lee and Bass in a tough spot earlier this week.
“I think our guys handled it well,” Sullinger said. “I thought it was kind of unfair. Pregame they had to answer questions about trade rumors, after the game [reporters] didn’t care if the Pistons won or we lost, they asked about the trade rumors. I thought it was unfair on them, constantly getting that brought up to them. But they handled it well. I thought that was them being a pro's pro.”
Coach Brad Stevens also used the rumors as an opportunity to open a dialogue with his players and try to avoid having trade talk hang over a roster vulnerable to deals during the next couple months.
“Here’s what I told them today and I think it’s important,” Stevens explained, “I’m not going to talk to them about anything that is a rumor. But if I know something, my door is always open. They can come in and I’ll tell them straight up what I know, but the bottom line is, we live in a world that every day because of technology, we can better clutter our mind.”
Stevens continued: “The deal is, you can’t play basketball without a clear mind. And so you’ve got to do your best to control what you can, clear your mind, and not get too overly concerned about things that are not confirmed by people in the position that are ultimately going to make decisions.”
Lee acknowledged that with no guarantee this team will stay together, they have to make the best of it in the present.
“That’s the NBA,” Lee said. “We look at it as here today, gone tomorrow. You just have to be professional, and go out and do your job, night in and night out. Then while you’re here you gotta keep that chemistry going and keep doing your job.”
Here are a few other leftover notes from practice:
- EARLY WAKE-UP CALL: With three of Boston’s next four games starting at 1 p.m., Stevens indicated there would be no major change with his team’s preparation for the early start. “Zero [changes]. Can’t have a shootaround [at the team's practice facility], but we’ll walk through at [the Garden]. I’ve always liked afternoon games. It’s something that you gotta be ready to go, because it’s an earlier tip. ... Noon is not early in the real world. It shouldn’t be a problem to get up at noon and play a basketball game. We practice every day at 11 or noon, so 1 o’clock should be late.”
- WIZARDS A TOUGH CHALLENGE: After a tough loss against the Pistons on Tuesday night, the Celtics turn their attention tomorrow afternoon to an improved Wizards squad. After a letdown following the first quarter against Detroit, Gerald Wallace knows his team has to step up the intensity for the entire contest. “We gotta play 48 minutes,” Wallace explained, “I think the third quarter has been our enemy the last couple games. We’ve had slow starts in the third quarter. We gotta come out and start the second half on a good note. We know they have pretty good bigs in Nene and [Marcin] Gortat. They have one of the best point guards in the league in John Wall. And they have some great 3-point shooters on their perimeter wing. We gotta control them in transition, keep those guys off the 3-point line, and make them play in a half-court set.”
- CHRISTMAS BREAK: The Celtics will have their first Christmas Day off since the 2007-08 season. Stevens reflected on having some extra downtime this week around the holiday. “I certainly would love for the Celtics to be playing on Christmas Day, but I don’t think anybody in this building is going to mind being with their family and taking the day for the real reason of why we’re doing it and spending time together,” Stevens said.
The play drawn up by coach Brad Stevens with Boston down a point with 17.7 seconds remaining had fizzled and Bass essentially dribbled 13 seconds off the clock before trying to back down Greg Monroe for a final shot. Stevens thought better of what he saw and called a timeout to reset his team for the final play.
"I wanted to take a shot," said Bass. 'I wanted to let the clock run out and will us to win. That’s all."
Even with a man nicknamed No-Pass Bass, it's clear that the final sequence wasn't drawn up for Bass and probably for the best as he appeared to lose control of the ball when he finally got into the paint right before Stevens' timeout.
Bass was off the floor when Jeff Green tried to lift Boston to victory at the buzzer. Afterwards, Bass lamented the team's missed opportunities. But it was his future, not the past that reporters were focused on.
Asked if he pays attention to trade rumors, Bass answered, "No, I don't."
Pressed on if he knew specifically what a reporter was alluding to -- a rumored swap that would send Bass and Courtney Lee to Houston in exchange for Omer Asik -- Bass smiled and said, "No, I don't."
Asked another reporter, "Are you lying?"
"No, I’m not," said Bass.
Aside from the questionable late-game decision, Bass was his typical self on Wednesday night. He chipped in 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds over 28 minutes. He started fast, throwing down an alley-oop from Jordan Crawford as part of Boston's first-quarter outburst.
But like rest of Boston's bigs, Detroit bottled Bass up a bit in the second half. He had as many turnovers (2) as points after the intermission and was minus-8 in plus/minus for the final two quarters.
Bass said Wednesday's loss was tough to swallow, but he was looking ahead to a future that he suggested still had him in a green jersey.
"All we can do is come back to practice, regroup, and try to be better on Saturday [against the Wizards]," said Bass.
Bass loves living under the radar, but his contributions shouldn't. Boston is quietly on the fringe of being a top-10 defense (11th in defensive rating, but 10th in points allowed per possession) despite a sub-.500 record, and a good chunk of the success on that side of the ball is a product of Bass.
Among Boston's 11 regulars, Bass owns the best defensive rating on the team as the Celtics allow 98.1 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court. That's three points below the team's season average (101.1) and that rating spikes to 105.8 when Bass is off the floor.
Bass isn't a great rebounder and he often gives up size at the power forward position, but his athleticism gives Boston the flexibility to switch him in many situations and he is strong enough to joust with even the NBA's biggest bodies.
Bass also tops the team in points allowed per possession, giving up 0.694 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. That ranks him in the 90th percentile among all NBA players, but narrow it down to those with at least 150 possessions defended and Bass ranks fifth in the NBA behind only Roy Hibbert, Tiago Splitter, Serge Ibaka and Chris Paul.
Here's the more impressive number: Opponents score against Bass on a mere 32.1 percent of total possessions. Bass is exceptional at limiting his shooting fouls (only 3.6 percent of total possessions defended), which drives his score percentage down. Only Splitter (31.9 percent) has better numbers of those over the 150-possessions threshold. Opponents are shooting just 34.6 percent overall against Bass this season.
For the season, Bass is averaging 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 blocks over 28.8 minutes per game. His Player Efficiency Rating is the league average (15), but that's as high as his PER has been since joining Boston (for his career, it peaked at 16.5 during the 2009-10 season in Orlando). The knock on Bass always will be his rebounding, but he's doing a serviceable job on the defensive glass (grabbing 15.7 percent of available defensive caroms). His total rebound rate of 11 percent is poor for a power forward, but his career average is a mere 12.2. The Celtics need to keep a rebounding presence beside him to mask that deficiency.
The only other glaring downside with Bass at the moment is that the Celtics' offense has sputtered with him on the floor. The team owns an offensive rating of 93.5 in his 549 minutes of court time, but that's still only 3 ½ points worse than the team's anemic season average. Bass has struggled a bit with his jumper this season, finding more success running the floor in transition or even in the post, where he's made a concerted effort to be a more consistent presence.
The question with Bass is whether his future is in Boston. He's got one more season left at reasonable money ($6.9 million). That'd be easier for the Celtics to stomach if they didn't have a logjam at the power forward spot. Earlier this season, Bass briefly lost his starting job when coach Brad Stevens went with what most perceive as the frontcourt of the future in second-year center Jared Sullinger and rookie forward Kelly Olynyk. When Olynyk sprained his ankle after two games, Bass rejoined the starting lineup and is making his case to stick there.
At only 28, Bass is still young by NBA standards, but elderly on this young Celtics squad. A contender looking for a boost at the trade deadline might be able to snag Bass for the right combination of future assets (all without muddying their own books much).
The Celtics will miss Bass' steady contributions and hard-hat demeanor if he ever departs. The team brought him in to replace Glen Davis two seasons ago, and might have sacrificed a tiny bit of talent while eliminating a lot of headaches. He's well-respected in the locker room, sharing a tight bond with team leaders, including Rajon Rondo.
Bass just does his job and does it well, which is easy to forget. The team's performance with him on the floor keeps reminding us.
Bass started the first 12 games of the season before coach Brad Stevens shuffled the Olynyk/Jared Sullinger combo onto the first unit earlier this week. Bass will start up front with Sullinger, while Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green round out the starting 5.
Bass is averaging 10.6 points and 4.7 rebounds over 27.9 minutes per game. During his time in Boston, he has posted far better numbers as a starter while struggling in reserve roles.
Stevens suggested to reporters in Atlanta before Saturday's game that Olynyk could miss a couple weeks due to the sprained ankle, which could keep Bass back with the starting group for a bit.
After all, Bass doesn't fit the typical anchor mold. He's not 7 feet (he's generously listed at 6-foot-8). He's not particularly vocal (certainly not to Garnett's amp-on-11 level). And because he's often paired with some inexperienced frontcourt players, few believed Bass could perform to that level.
It has been only five games -- and Boston has just one victory -- but Bradley's prediction looks sage at the moment.
Bass is allowing a minuscule 0.528 points per play (28 points on 53 possessions), according to individual defensive data logged by Synergy Sports. Consider this: Of players with more than 40 possessions defended entering Thursday's action, Bass ranked first in the NBA at that mark (out of 120 qualifiers). What's more, opponents are scoring on a mere 22.6 percent of total possessions again him, the best mark in the league by nearly 3 percent.
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But Garnett's reverb lingers here as reporters have frequently asked these new-look Celtics how the team will possibly replace Garnett's vocal presence that anchored Boston's defense over the past six seasons.
Fortunately for Ainge, Bradley had a solution for replacing KG's wall of sound: Crank up the (Brandon) Bass.
"[Bass is] a great defender, believe it or not," said Bradley, a member of the NBA's all-defensive second team last season. "He picked up a lot of stuff from KG and he helps everybody out. He's like the vet for the bigs and he's been talking them through everything [early in camp]."
During his two seasons in Boston, advanced statistics suggest Bass truly has been a spectacular individual defender. Consider these defensive numbers logged by Synergy Sports: Bass allowed 0.673 points per play during the 2011-12 season, ranking him second in the NBA (three spots ahead of Garnett at 0.694 ppp) among players with at least 200 possessions defended. Last season, despite a fluctuating role, Bass allowed 0.756 points per play, ranking fifth among players with at least 500 possessions defended (five spots in front of Garnett at 0.765).
Now, that's not to say Bass was more important than Garnett, whose own number was likely hurt by his desire to contest anything near him, often covering for teammates' missed rotations. But Bass was tasked with covering bigger power forwards and centers much of the season -- then some of the league's top small forwards in the playoffs -- over the past two seasons and has answered the challenge each time.
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Q: Why is everyone sleeping on Brandon Bass? All this talk about who is going to play power forward and no one ever seems to focus on the guy that's held down that position for the last two years. -- Leandro (Costa Mesa, Calif.)
A: You mean the guy that's started at power forward in 108 of Boston's 147 (73.5 percent) regular-season games the past two seasons? The guy who Doc Rivers tasked with defending the opposing team's best player (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony) in the Celtics' final playoff series the past two years? The lunchpail forward that quietly goes about his business -- the sort that typically endears himself to a Boston fan base that grows tired of the opposite (right, Glen Davis?) -- and with largely positive results?
And, in typical Bass fashion, he just sorta shrugs it all off. Down at summer league in Orlando, he was asked about how he envisioned his role with the team this season and offered, "I haven’t really thought about my role. I just think that I’m going to come in being the best Brandon Bass I can be, and that’s all I can take care of."
What's easy to forget is that the best Bass is a pretty good commodity. Certainly his stat lines were aided by being paired in a frontcourt with Kevin Garnett, masking some bad rotations or creating additional space to work in at the other end of the floor. But Bass really came on strong at the end of the 2013-14 season when Garnett was sidelined by injury. That carried over into the postseason where Rivers suggested that Bass played a "perfect" game early in the series against the Knicks.
Fair or not, things are a bit muddy at the moment for Bass. In a way, he sort of has to remind everyone what he brings. He has to prove again that he can be a capable defender (especially without the Garnett safety net). Last season, Bass allowed a mere 0.756 points per play, ranking in the 91st percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. Of those with at least 500 plays defended, Bass ranked fifth in the NBA in points allowed per play (the six spots behind him: Marc Gasol, Larry Sanders, Dwight Howard, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Garnett, and Tony Allen -- that's some pretty good company).
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Which player won't make the opening-day roster?
We couldn't even pose this question before the Celtics (sort of) answered it. Boston traded second-year center Fab Melo to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday along with cash considerations to bring back the nonguaranteed contract of Donte Greene. Barring any additional offseason moves, it's likely that Boston will waive Greene and save $1 million in salary, dipping them below the luxury tax line -- something that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stressed his team in transition desires to do in order to help avoid looming repeater penalties in future seasons.
The Celtics currently have 14 guaranteed contracts on the roster, but we'll still pose the question as part of our summer series: Who won't be here when the regular season begins?
The guess here? Jordan Crawford. The Celtics cleared a little bit of their frontcourt logjam by dealing away Melo, but there's still a surplus of shooting guards. Crawford became expendable when Boston brought back MarShon Brooks as part of the blockbuster swap with the Brooklyn Nets.
With the uncertainty surrounding Rajon Rondo and his recovery from a torn ACL, there's a line of thinking that Crawford and his passing skills could hold value as a ballhandling guard should Rondo not be ready for the start of the season. But, ultimately, the question is whether Boston sees a long-term future with 24-year-old Crawford (who is due $2.1 million this season and is pegged for a $3.2 million qualifying offer next season). At the moment, it's hard to see where he fits.
Alas, it takes two to tango and Boston needs to find a home for Crawford. Acquired at the trade deadline, Crawford averaged 9.1 points and 2.5 assists over 21.6 minutes per game in 27 appearances for Boston. He appeared in five playoff games, but his most memorable moment might have been barking at Carmelo Anthony after a Game 5 win in New York.
Votes were split among our panelists, with 36.3 percent suggesting that Boston will make no further moves (at least before the start of the season). Crawford was the most popular player predicted to move, garnering 27.2 percent of the vote. Three other players: Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries received at least one vote apiece as well.
While there was much more roster uncertainty last summer, at least in terms of the amount of unrestricted free agents, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was adamant that re-signing Kevin Garnett was Plan A, and the team was able to hit the ground running when Garnett inked a three-year extension before the start of free agency.
This year? You can believe Ainge when he says he's not really sure which direction the team is headed. An early playoff exit makes it an extra long crawl to the NBA draft later this month, which serves as the sort of unofficial start of roster construction for the 2013-14 season.
Over the next month, we'll hear an endless amount of speculation about which direction the Celtics might be leaning -- like the out-of-town report this week that suggested the Celtics were ready to buy out Paul Pierce -- but the truth of the matter is that it's a fluid situation, and all Ainge can do at this point is gather information about potential moves and be ready to activate his plan of choice when the moment arrives.
There seems to be four main scenarios in play this offseason:
- Keep the band together: Minimal changes, bank on health
- Goodbye, captain: Roster tweaked with Pierce departure
- Out with the old: Moving on without both KG and Pierce
- Complete teardown: Extreme makeover: Celtics edition
Over the next four days, we'll take a closer look at each possible option, gauge the potential for it to occur, determine some moves that might go along with it, and debate whether it's the best course of attack. First up: We're putting the band back together.
Player: Brandon Bass
2012-13 averages: 8.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 27.6 mpg, 48.6 FG%, 86 FT%
2012-13 salary: $6 million
Season highlight: With Kevin Garnett sitting out an extended stretch late in the regular season due to left ankle inflammation, Bass took his game to another level and it spilled into the postseason. Tasked with defending Carmelo Anthony in an opening-round series against the Knicks, Bass used his combination of size and athleticism to make everything difficult for a player who finished third in the league's MVP voting. Anthony often got his points, but not without a high shot volume. Rivers went so far as to suggest that Bass played a "perfect" game early in the series and Bass kept his focus on the defensive end.
Season lowlight: Slow out of the gates, Bass got bumped from the starting lineup for short stretches in the first half of the season. Twice rookie Jared Sullinger took his spot -- including just three games into the season, then again in February before a back injury ended Sullinger's campaign -- and Jason Collins, who would be shipped out at the February trade deadline, took over a starting role for a stretch in late December. The soft-spoken Bass endured it all, including another shuffle to the bench when Jason Terry got moved to a starting role for one game in the playoffs to add additional ball-handling to the lineup.
Final grade: B-
Teacher's notes: The 2012-13 season probably didn't play out like Bass expected, a healthy return for Jeff Green and the arrival of Sullinger muddied up the power forward spot a bit (along with Rivers' desire to take some of the wear and tear off Garnett by pairing him with a pure center like Collins at times). Bass, a consummate professional, rode the playing time wave and still powered through some rocky waters early in the year. Here's what we liked about Bass' season: According to Synergy Sports defensive data, he allowed 0.756 points per play, which ranked him in the 91st percentile among all league defenders. Narrow that list to all players with at least 600 total possessions defended, and Bass ranked third in the league behind only David West and Kendrick Perkins (and one spot ahead of Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol). No one is suggesting Bass deserved All-Defensive consideration, but he did an excellent job of limiting opponents and making things difficult (either using his athleticism away from the basket, or his strength to battle with those bigger than him). And his offensive numbers were not that bad, either (0.954 points per play, 71st percentile). But here's a few things we didn't like: Bass' rebound rate was a career-worst 11.2 percent (including a mere 15.2 percent on the defensive glass); his turnover rate spiked (10.9 percent); and he never quite found a way to become a consistent offensive threat, particularly without Rajon Rondo on the floor, as his shots per game fell 3.4 shots from last season. The plus-minus numbers don't help his cause as the Celtics were plus-160 without Bass on the floor; minus-178 when he was. We saw the impact player that Bass can be at the end of the season, but he needs to bring that consistently -- all while finding a way to still get his shots -- in order to maximize his talent.
What's next?: Bass will earn $6.5 million next season, a somewhat economical number if he remains a starter, but it's a bit more daunting if Sullinger can return to starter form after back surgery. Bass has never really thrived in a bench role and clearly benefits from extended floor time. With the starting unit, he's been able to thrive while focusing on his defensive efforts. Off the bench, it might be more imperative to get him going again offensively (at least if Boston's bench struggles to put points on the board as much as it did for most of this past season). If the Celtics are confident in Sullinger's long-term health, it might make Bass a potential trade asset this offseason, but his versatility -- and his shut-his-mouth-and-do-his-job mentality -- is quite a luxury for Rivers.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Bass' 2012-13 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
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