Bass emerging as a major player for Celtics

Bass emerging as a major player for Celtics
December 7, 2013, 4:45 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. —  When Brad Stevens took the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics and began poring over video from last season, one of the first tapes he saw was Boston's first round playoff series against the New York Knicks.

Among the things that jumped out at him?

Brandon Bass' defense.

Specifically his defense on Carmelo Anthony which was surprisingly solid considering 1) Anthony is one of the league's elite scorers and 2) Bass has been for years considered a less-than-stellar defender.

That series gave Stevens insight into how to best utilize Bass this season.

And the result has been Bass emerging as a major cog in how this team functions,  providing the kind of presence at both ends of the floor that has been critical to Boston (9-12) remaining among the league's top scoring defenses as well as helping them keep pace with other playoff hopefuls in the East.

For Stevens, the success Bass' overall game has experienced this season begins at the defensive end of the floor.

"It goes back to what you see first and it was his defense," Stevens said. "That's what stood out to me first; his versatility and how good he was defensively."

Although Bass has often been criticized for being a poor defender, there aren't many players whose defense will shine when paired in the frontcourt with players like Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard - both Defensive Player of the Year award winners who were also teammates of Bass.

"I think that previously I showed I could do a variety of different things," Bass told on Saturday after practice. "But you get on teams where they have 'that' and they need 'this' from you. I seem to get into a role and that's what you see from me. I'm a guy who works on his game. I just think any position I'm put in, I will find a way to be successful."

Gerald Wallace, a better-than-average defender throughout his NBA career, finds a kindred spirit with Bass when it comes to defense.

"He's very aggressive, offensively and defensively," Wallace said. "He plays hard, he plays every possession. He does everything he can to try and help the team win."

And with that desire, at least this season, comes an opportunity to take his game to another level.

As much as Bass has learned from playing with Garnett and Paul Pierce (both in Brooklyn now), he knew as long as they were around he would never have a serious shot of showcasing all of his talents.

And when he looks at his fellow Celtics teammates, he sees them all being in that same predicament.

"This is the year for everybody to make a name for themselves versus just being a role player," Bass said. "The sky's the limit. Every night, somebody different is the Paul (Pierce) or the KG or the (Rajon) Rondo since he's injured right now. It's a great opportunity for everybody."

And few players are cashing in on it the way Bass has.

While there are others with better stats, teammates are starting to warm to the idea that Bass and what he brings to the floor statistically as well as when it comes to intangibles, may very well be the most important contribution to this team's success.

Second-year forward Jared Sullinger was recently asked about the team's steadily improving defense this season.

He mentioned three keys, and Bass' play was one of them.

"Brandon really as far as the bigs standpoint, really took on that (leadership) role of talking to us and teaching us defensive principles," Sullinger said.

Bass said his approach to helping teammates is no different than what he knows has worked for him.

"You definitely have to simplify," Bass said. "With things being so new and the new coach, you could mess yourself up mentally if you try to do too much or think too much. I try to simplify things, do the smart and intangible-type things and let everything else come."

That approach has helped fuel a Celtics team that's coming on strong with wins in five of their last seven games.

And as you break down the factors that have led to Boston's turnaround, ignoring Bass' contributions is impossible to do.

The time he put into improving in the offseason as well as in-season, has a lot to do with his play now.

But he also credits Stevens for having the faith and confidence in him that he could not just play, but help lead the Celtics during this transition period that finds them atop the Atlantic Division despite being three games below-.500.

"It's great that you have a coach that when he sees something that looks good and you're doing something that's positive, he wants to feed that," Bass said. "I like that about him."

Before the season began, the Celtics appeared to be a team that would launch a lot of 3s and not try to score while attacking the paint that much.

But as Boston began to feed the bigs in the post, they began to have some success and so now the Celtics have made establishing an interior game a priority.

"He does that with Sully," said Bass, referring to teammate Jared Sullinger. "He gets his post-game going. And now coach demands that we play inside-out. I just think that's big for us."

The same can be said for Bass' play which, like the Celtics win total, is on the rise.

And while Bass knows he has played a major part in the team's success, he refuses to allow such talk to go to his head.

He appreciates the attention, but he's mindful that his success can not come about without his teammates, and vice versa.

Said Bass: "Just like coach said, we have to have humility and be the hungrier team each and every night and give ourselves a chance."

Which means Stevens may call upon his 6-foot-8 big man to play a variety of roles which includes being more of a low-post scoring option - something that has not been asked of or required from Bass in the past.

Whatever the assignment, Stevens won't hesitate to put Bass in that particular role.

"He's a great person, an easy person to coach," Stevens said. "I don't worry how he (Bass) takes things. He has shown me nothing but that he's not only willing, but eager and excited to do it."