Blakely: Brandon Bass 'true star' vs. Cavaliers

Blakely: Brandon Bass 'true star' vs. Cavaliers
December 28, 2013, 5:45 pm
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BOSTON — A little more than a week ago, Boston's Brandon Bass seemed on his way out of town with the Celtics reportedly on the verge of sending him to Houston in a multi-player deal that would have netted them Omer Asik.

It seemed a cruel but predictable punishment for a player who has made tremendous strides in terms of his overall play and leadership.

Not only has that helped the Celtics (13-18) remain competitive, but it has also increased his potential trade value.

But then the Rockets abruptly pulled out of trade talks involving Asik, and since then have gone about trying to piece together what has been a fractured relationship with the 7-footer who still wants to be traded.

Meanwhile, Bass has sported a "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?" attitude when asked about trade speculation.

Bass knows this league well enough to know that being traded is rarely about who you are, but what you do relative to the contract you're working under.

And once again, Bass proved to be more than worth his $6.45 million salary in helping the Celtics hold on for a 103-100 win over Cleveland on Saturday afternoon that snapped a three-game losing skid.

Bass had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. He also had a pair of blocked shots, the last being the most impressive and impacting one of the day.

Cleveland's Dion Waiters drove down the baseline and Bass swatted away Waiters' attempt, with his left hand. The ball wound up in the hands of Jeff Green as Boston held on for the win.

It's easy to praise Bass' play when you look at the game-saving block in the game's final seconds.

But that play was a just a more high profile sample of the kind of game - scratch that; kind of season - Bass has been having for the Celtics.

Don't get it twisted.

Bass won't get any Defensive Player of the Year votes this year, mind you.

But there is no mistaking his defense has been the difference between winning and losing in a number of games for Boston (13-17) this season.

And he does it the only way he knows how to: hustle.

Whether it's an offensive rebound, a loose ball on the floor or getting the ball on the block which forces the defense to collapse on him, Bass is making his mark every game for Boston.

He's making a lot of the right decisions on the floor, and that's giving the Celtics better opportunities to win.

While others such as Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley get plenty of praise for the job they do, Bass continues to push forward by doing all the little things that no one else wants to do or is capable of doing.

That blocked shot of Waiters at the end?

The only reason it came to be was because Waiters, like so many others, made the mistake of seeing Bass as a weak link defensively that's vulnerable to being exploited.

And Bass once again proved him wrong.

There were plenty of story lines to follow after Boston's hard-earned win on Saturday.

For starters, there was Green's strong first half in which he scored 15 of his 19 points; Jordan Crawford's balanced act of 19 points, five rebounds and five assists; and of course Avery Bradley's 18 points and eight rebounds which included a pair of put-back baskets late in the game.

But the true star of this game was Bass.

To see him not just contribute to this team's success, but doing so as a big-time defensive player speaks volumes as to how far his game has come since he has been in Boston.

He has said many times how special he views his status with this team.

"They count on me to make plays defensively," Bass told earlier this season. "I take pride in my teammates and the coaching staff believing in me like that; I take that responsibility very seriously."

Known as a pick-and-pop shooter offensively and a liability on defense, Bass has developed into a solid man-to-man and help-side defender who has been a major factor in Boston having a top-10 scoring defense most of this season.

He has had moments in the past, like when he guarded LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in the playoffs, when he shown the potential to be an elite defender.

But those times have been few and far between, in part because opportunities to be that kind of defender have come sparingly.

However, offseason moves which included trading away Kevin Garnett while adding young bigs such as Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani, have forced Bass into the role of being this team's defensive anchor.

That's why for Saturday's game to end the way it did, with him making a game-winning play defensively, means more to him than having a big scoring night.

"I just wanted to get the stop," Bass told Comcast SportsNet's Abby Chin moments after the Celtics win. "You live for moments like this."

And that's why the Celtics will need to think long and hard when it comes to potentially trading away Bass who has established himself as this team's defensive foundation.

He doesn't have great size being just 6-foot-9.

But he plays with the kind of defensive passion and energy that gives him a shot at holding his own against any player.

And that versatility has not gone unnoticed by his teammates who have come to expect Bass to come up with big plays defensively when the game is on the line.

"Brandon is special," said Celtics forward Jared Sullinger. "He is a special type of player. I mean he can guard one (point guard) through five (center) and I mean he takes defense seriously. So, with somebody like Brandon it increases the level of intensity on defense."