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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Bass flies high under the radar

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

There is maybe no greater intangible with Brandon Bass than his attitude. Dude just doesn't care.

We should clarify: Bass doesn't care about the things that most NBA players tend to fret over ad nauseam, like being a starter or an All-Star. Or the more familiar lament, being paid like a starter and an All-Star.

Brandon Bass
Despite playing 2.6 minutes less per game this season, Brandon Bass is still averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.

No, if that sort of stuff bugs Bass, he doesn't wear it on his sleeve (like, say, his predecessor Glen Davis, did). Bass is the guy who opted out of the final year of his contract this summer and was poised to chase a hefty payday in free agency, but returned to Boston for a modest raise with a three-year, $19.4 million deal before anyone else had a chance to lure him away.

For Bass, Boston was a good fit for his development while he was still able to blend into the Big Three scenery. What's more, chasing a championship was more important to him than a few extra bucks.

Bass returned to essentially find his starting job -- the one he earned in the middle of last season while helping Boston turn around its season -- was not guaranteed. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the team would operate with a transitional starting lineup that would create at least a three-man rotation at the power forward spot depending on the matchup. Bass downplayed all the hype and kept his focus on helping the team.

And that's where Brandon Bass cares. On the court, he cares immensely, and it shows in his gritty play.

An undersized power forward, he roams in a land of giants and holds his own with a relentless motor and some spring-like hops. And despite all the noise at the start of the 2012-13 season, you look up after seven games and Bass is quietly producing.

Despite playing 2.6 minutes less per game this season, Bass is still averaging 10.4 points (down a bucket from a season ago) and 6.1 rebounds (no drop-off) per contest. His field goal percentage (49) has rebounded toward his career average (this after shooting 47.9 percent last season) and he's shooting 92 percent at the charity stripe.

Dig deeper and Bass is averaging 1.043 points per play, which ranks him in the 83rd percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. Bass has quietly accounted for 9.8 percent of Boston's offensive plays (only Jason Terry at 10.6 percent and the Big Three are in front of him).

Bass is thriving in transition, creating easy opportunities for himself by hustling to the offensive end (even as he has made a concerted effort to attack the defensive glass).

That effort was exemplified during Monday's win over the Bulls with a stellar second-quarter sequence in which Bass blocked a Carlos Boozer fadeaway, chased down the loose ball to start a breakaway, then still hustled up the court to register a tip-in when Leandro Barbosa's layup spun off the rim.

Bass quietly knocked down 5 of 6 shots he took in Chicago, including a trio of his trademark pick-and-pop jumpers. Add in six free throws and he finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds over 34 minutes. Heck, he even added three assists -- not bad for a guy playfully nicknamed No-Pass Bass.

"[Bass] was awesome," said Rivers. "That's the Bass we need every night. I told him, it doesn't matter if his shot is going in or not. When you play with that intensity defensively, good things are always going to happen."

Brandon Bass
Bass' late-game dunk helped seal the Celtics' 101-95 win over the Bulls on Monday.

With the Celtics looking to put the Bulls away late, Rondo found Bass all alone under the basket for a wide-open dunk to seal the victory.

How in the world did the Bulls lose him? Well, that's just the way it goes for Bass.

The NBA lost Bass on Tuesday when it left him off the All-Star ballot. Teammate Jeff Green instead joined Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as options in the Eastern Conference frontcourt.

Chances are Bass will shrug it off. If it eats at him, he'll take it out on an opponent. Bass can take solace in the fact that he's playing some inspired ball and he's a primary reason why the Celtics are starting to make strides after an 0-2 start.

Bass' offensive rebounding percentage has skyrocketed (9.8 percent, up from 6.3 a season ago) and his total rebound percentage is up to 13 percent (up 1.5 points from last season). His offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is a career-high 119.

On the defensive side, Bass is still trying to clean up his numbers. Early in the season, Rivers experimented with keeping Bass on the floor with rookie Jared Sullinger, but opponents feasted on the undersized lineup. Bass had some of the best individual numbers in the league by season's end last season while spending increased time on the floor with Kevin Garnett.

And it is Bass who has been on the floor to close games recently. He might not care about that either, but Rivers certainly does, and it's telling that Bass is the guy the Celtics are leaning on in key situations.