Brandon Bass Opts for Free Agency But Celtics Remain First Choice

Brandon Bass Opts for Free Agency But Celtics Remain First ChoiceThis is the right Brandon Bass has earned for himself.

Bass, whom the Celtics acquired to bolster their bench and who instead emerged as an important member of their starting lineup, will test free agency. He will leave money on the table in the form of a $4.25 million player option in hopes of landing a larger, multi-year deal — preferably with the Celtics.

The move is hardly a surprise, given that Bass played himself out of the option year tacked on to the end of the four-year, $16 million contract he signed via the mid-level exception with the Orlando Magic in 2009. But Bass' camp planned not to opt-in even before his breakout 2011-12 campaign.

"We've always thought of him as a starter," Tony Dutt, Bass' agent, said Thursday. "I represent Rashard Lewis, and when he went to Orlando, the plan there was that they would move Rashard back to the three and start Bass at the four, but for whatever reason, the coach and the GM weren't on the same page."

Bass started 39 games this season, the second-highest total of his seven-year career despite the lockout-shortened 66-game schedule. He posted career highs of 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game during the regular season, and in the playoffs he shot 92 percent from the foul line.

Although Bass becomes an unrestricted free agent, his first preference would be to sign with the Celtics, Dutt said. Celtics coach Doc Rivers routinely praised Bass' work ethic and his improvement on the defensive end. Bass' per-minute numbers throughout the first six years of his career suggested he could be a capable starter given the chance, and this season he showed signs of becoming a well-rounded power forward.

"Everybody who knows Brandon knows he's going to get better every year, because he works as hard as anybody I've ever seen," Dutt said. "He knows what it takes to be good. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in the gym today. He puts the work in.

"He loves the situation in Boston and we'll see how it plays itself out. But absolutely, hopefully, he'll be back."

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