BOSTON Brandon Bass came to Boston with a well-earned reputation for doing many things well - being a good defender wasn't one of them.
Don't expect Bass to get any votes for a spot on the NBA's all-defensive team this year.
But there's little doubt that his much-improved play defensively has been among the reasons for Boston's improved play coming out of the all-star break.
He came into Tuesday's game having tallied a career-high four blocked shots in Boston's overtime win against the New York Knicks on Sunday.
With Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out with a wrist injury, Bass has been inserted in the starting lineup.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Bass' improved play defensively has indeed been aided by being surrounded by the likes of Kevin Garnett.
"I didn't put Kevin at the 5 (center) and Brandon at the 4 (power forward) to make Brandon a better defensive player," Rivers said. "But it has because playing more minutes with Kevin has helped him."
More than anything, Bass' pride has driven him to step his game up defensively.
He's in the starting lineup with a foursome that have won an NBA title, so they've already proven what they can do in terms of helping the C's be successful.
"If I didn't step up, I'd be like the weak link," Bass told CSNNE.com. "I have a lot pride; it starts with that, pride. If you got pride, and are a willing defender, and you could be a great defender. I'm trying to get better everyday defensively, and still help where I can on offense."
Bass' improved play defensively hasn't been a smooth progression.
As tough as Rivers can be on his players when it comes to defense, the Big Four he says, are even tougher.
"If you're not doing what you're supposed to do, you're probably going to hear it from one of the four," Rivers said. "And I think that has been very good for Brandon."