Blakely: Credit family values for Bass' NBA success

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Blakely: Credit family values for Bass' NBA success

BOSTON In a couple weeks the NBA calendar will flip over to a new year, a time when most thoughts shift towards the future.

For Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass, the turning of the calendar actually turns back the hands of time to when he was a 9-year-old boy who witnessed the unthinkable - the death of his mother, Aretha Bass.

It was January 6, 1995.

His mother was on the phone, a not-so-unusual sight in the Bass house.

Before he knew anything, she was short of breath, gasping for air.

Not knowing what to do to help her, he did the only thing you could expect a 9-year-old to do in that situation - he ran outside for help, searching for someone, anyone, to call 9-1-1.

But help did not come in time, as Aretha Bass, 32, died of a heart attack.

When you see Bass on the court playing with what coaches like to refer as "high energy," you can thank Aretha Bass for that.

Her death brought home a point that, for young people at least, often goes ignored until it's too late.

"You can't take nothing for granted," he said in an interview with CSNNE.com. "When I'm out there on the court, I don't know if that's going to be my last game or my last minute. So I go hard, all the time."

That type of mindset is exactly what the Celtics desperately need more of heading into the 2011-2012 season which begins on Christmas Day.

"She was definitely a big influence on me and who I am today," Brandon said.

While his mother's death helped him to develop a seize-the-moment mentality, it was his Aunt Estelle Bass who instilled a work ethic in him that is hard to ignore.

Eight is enough

Being the oldest, Brandon took the death of his mother extremely hard, according to his aunt.

Things didn't get better when Brandon and his brother and sister moved in with his father, Charles Joseph.

"He went to stay with his daddy and things weren't working out," Estelle Bass told CSNNE.com in a phone interview.

With five children of her own, Estelle Bass was not in position financially to take in Brandon and his two siblings.

But she did anyway.

"For her to have the courage to bring us in, being as she already had five kids, that alone was a blessing in itself for me, my brother and my little sister," Brandon said.

With another three mouths to feed and care for, Estelle Bass did the only thing that made sense at the time - she got a second job.

"Nobody else in the family wanted them," she said.

After rising early to make sure the kids were off to school and had whatever they needed for the day, she was off to work at a Holiday Inn.

When she finished working there, she would come home and make dinner. She would stay home just long enough to catch her breath before leaving for the night cleaning shift at a nearby bank.

Even with a small house filled with eight kids, she still looked out for other families and friends in the neighborhood, Brandon said.

"She was like the neighborhood mama," he said. "She was always giving what she could, to help others."

And Brandon has adopted a similar approach since he left the neighborhood known as EasyTown ("But nothing comes easy, in EasyTown," Bass says).

"When you come from where I came from, when you reach some type of success, you want to give back and help others that were in the same position you were in," Brandon said. "That's one of the reasons why I help others and give back."

In the summer months, he conducts free basketball camps. And during the fall, he has backpack giveaways.

"Growing up, I didn't have much," says Bass, a soft-spoken man which is in striking contrast to his physically punishing style of play. "Because my Aunt had eight kids growing up. So it was tough on her to make sure we have all that, but we did. I figure if I could go back to my neighborhood, and help mothers out, I think it would be a great thing."

Big decision

Bass' first opportunity to help his Aunt out came in 2004 following an impressive freshman year at LSU in which he averaged 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and was named SEC Freshman of the Year.

Unsure of where he would land in the draft, Bass pulled his name out.

Smart move.

He was even better as a sophomore, earning SEC Player of the Year honors while averaging 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds per game and shooting 56.7 percent from the field.

The pros liked his game, but they weren't sold that it would translate at the next level.

"He was an undersized power forward who was athletic, but had a few knocks against him, too," said one NBA executive who did scout Bass when he was in college. "He couldn't handle the ball too well, and he can't really handle it that much better now. And when he got the ball, he was looking to score all the time. That hasn't really changed, either. When that's your game, and you're undersized for your position, teams are going to want you to prove yourself before they shell out big money for you."

Not a problem.

After two relatively modest seasons with the New Orleans Hornets who selected him in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft, Bass took his game to Dallas.

It was his time with the Mavericks that seemed to establish the foundation for Bass' game today.

"Dallas was a great situation for me," Brandon said. "They gave me a chance to play some, and I made the most of the minutes they gave me."

In his first season with Dallas, he averaged 8.3 points per game while seeing 19.7 minutes of court action a night. Proving it was no fluke, he averaged comparable minutes (19.4) and put up comparable (8.5) scoring numbers the following season.

So when he hit the free agent market in 2009, there were plenty of teams that were interested. He ultimately agreed to a four-year, 16 million deal with the Orlando Magic who traded Bass to Boston in exchange for Glen Davis and Von Wafer.

More than a player

Now a member of the Celtics, Bass is quickly becoming a fan favorite for the very things that have embodied his career - hustle, the ability to score facing the basket, and tough, rugged play around the glass.

In the Celtics' 76-75 preseason win over Toronto, Bass led all Celtics reserves with nine points and five rebounds. He also tallied three steals, which to some degree speaks to how the many questions about his play defensively may not be as big an issue as some think.

You can count Celtics head coach Doc Rivers among those who didn't think much of Bass as a defender when he signed with Orlando.

"I thought by the end of the time when he left (Orlando), he had become one," Rivers said.

Rivers believes that Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy made a point of trying to instill the value of being a good defender, into Bass.

"You have to be a willing participant (to improve defensively)," Rivers said. "And I thought he (Bass) became that."

But ultimately the decision on whether Bass were to become a Celtic came down to Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Ainge has made no secret about how he feels about Bass' game.

But the more you hear Ainge talk about him, the clearer it becomes that his affinity for Brandon goes beyond what he does on the court.

"Brandon is just a real high character, high energy player," Ainge said. "He's a fantastic mid-range shooter; just a real active player with a lot of athleticism and energy.

Ainge added, "We've always admired who he is, as much as what he can do on the court."

And there are many who have come in and out of Brandon's life to help shape him into being a person viewed in such a positive light.

But you need to look no further than the turning of the calendar - January 6, to be precise - to see where Brandon's greatest influence came from.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.