As training camp dawns upon us, All About 18 turns its attention to the Celtics’ incumbent starting 4, Brandon Bass. Acquired in December 2011 for Big Baby Davis and Von Wafer, the hulking Bass debuted on Christmas Day in high gear for Boston with 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench (second only to Rondo’s 31-point, 13-assist, 5-board effort) in a 104-106 opening day road loss to New York. The 6’8”, 250-lb. LSU product then proceeded to score in double figures in 18 of his next 24 outings to average an excellent 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in reserve.
Come February, however, a knee injury sidelined Bass for seven games but rather than slowing down upon his return, he actually seemed stronger and better. Starting in place of the (perpetually) injured Jermaine O’Neal after the All-Star break, Brandon finished the regular season with a flourish as he contributed 13.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg over the final 34 games.
At this point, Bass had the Celtics faithful feeling pretty good about the trade as his consistency and steady demeanor were welcome departures from the enigmatic and moody Big Baby. But then the playoffs began and doubt emerged as Bass submitted uneven performances early on. Appearing hesitant to launch his signature elbow jumper during the first round vs. Atlanta, questions arose about Bass’ chutzpah on the playoff stage as he struggled noticeably (only 9.2 ppg on 41% shooting and 5.8 rpg). It didn’t help that Baby – starting in place of an injured Dwight Howard in the first round vs. Indiana – had turned in remarkable playoff numbers in comparison (19.0 points and 9.2 boards), albeit in a losing effort.
But Bass turned it around. In Game 5 of the second round vs. Philadelphia, he grew into his role and scored a season-high 27 points as the C’s won handily, 101-85, and took a pivotal 3-2 series lead. He upped his figures in the second round to 14.0 ppg (on 47% shooting) and 4.6 rpg, as Boston advanced to the Eastern finals.
Against the Heat, however, Bass appeared to wilt anew as his numbers dropped to 6.7 ppg (on 39% shooting) and 5.3 rpg in the first three games, as Boston trailed the series 1-2. But in the next four games, Bass came alive and boosted his averages to 12.3 ppg (on 56% shooting) and 5.8 rpg as he helped the C’s rally back into the series and come within a heartbeat of the NBA Finals. Bass’ Game 7 performance was particularly noteworthy as he scored 10 points during a three-minute, second quarter stretch in which Boston built and fortified a seven-point first-half lead.
This year, Bass enters camp with a better grasp of his role in the Celtics’ scheme of things and should be in an even better position to contribute. He’s already shown his resiliency and responsiveness in the face of adversity and should be tougher and wiser this time around, as he girds for a solid run at #18.