Brandon Bass did not allow himself to be starstruck for long after joining the Celtics last season. He spent the first day in slight awe every time Paul Pierce brought up the ball or Ray Allen drained a jump shot, but by the second day, Bass had shed his wonderment. Still, he never lost his admiration for Kevin Garnett and the startling work ethic the 17-year veteran displayed during every practice, shootaround and game.
"To be around someone like KG, who's a power forward like myself and a guy who worked so hard in year 16, 17 — it really inspired me to keep improving my game," Bass said Saturday at the Celtics training complex in Waltham, Mass. "Year 17 for me, I hope I'll be able to be half the player as him."
As Garnett prepares to return for an 18th season, he will be bringing back more to the Celtics than pitch-perfect defensive instincts and a wet jumper. Whereas Pierce is the current keeper of the Celtics tradition, Garnett sets the tone for the team's blue-collar culture.
Bass has encountered a few maniacal workers in his NBA career. He saw Chris Paul break into the league with the Hornets, watched Dirk Nowitzki hone his flawless shot release with the Mavericks and bullied opponents in the post with Dwight Howard on the Magic. But Bass had never encountered a player as persistent at age 35 and 36 as Garnett was last season.
That work ethic had a trickle-down effect to the rest of the Celtics roster.
"He's consistent with everything he does," Bass said. "I think that's the key to success. Consistency, commitment, dedication and hard work are the keys to success. That's what I saw Kevin do this year, and that's what I kept in mind from other great players I played with. That's why I spend a lot of time in the gym, and that's why I want to continue to improve each year."
Bass would not say if Garnett returning contributed to his decision to re-sign with the Celtics, but he did let slip that continuing to play with Garnett and Rajon Rondo was one of his motivations for remaining in Boston. Garnett's presence may not have been a prerequisite for Bass' return, but Bass sounded thrilled to still have Garnett around to keep him on point.