BOSTON — Brandon Bass‘ page on Basketball Reference lists his nickname as “The Animal,” but most hoops junkies know him by a less flattering handle.
When Bass arrived in Boston in the winter of 2011, he was known — probably deservedly — as “No-Pass Bass.” Through his first six NBA seasons, Bass had never averaged even one full assist per game and his career high in assists in a game was four. He had tallied that number once, late in his final season with the Orlando Magic.
Since the preseason trade that brought Bass to the Celtics, though, he’s been transformed. He might not be a 6-foot-8 version of Rajon Rondo, but with four assists in Saturday’s 103-100 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bass matched his career best in assists for the fourth time this season. In less than three seasons as a Celtic, he’s had 18 games with at least three assists, compared to nine in his previous six years.
Bass’ nickname was always unwanted, but now he has a legitimate case against it.
“I never agreed with that nickname,” Bass said. “Rondo just put me in positions to catch and shoot. If you listen to some of the game film, when he passes to me, he would say ‘shoot!’ even if somebody was on me. That’s why I was ‘No-Pass Bass.'”
Bass has a long way to go before he is Karl Malone or Charles Barkley, two of the all-time great passing power forwards. His assist percentage is a career-high — yet still rock-bottom — 7.6 percent this season and he’s gone twice as many games with one or zero assists than multiple assists. But it’s not because Bass is selfish. He’s starting to enjoy the idea of setting up his teammates like a point guard.
“I don’t really keep up with the stats, but it’s cool to be able to make plays for my teammates,” Bass said. “I told Rondo, I’d rather get a nice assist versus a dunk. I’ve been dunking my whole life. It feels good to make a play for somebody else.”
What did Rondo think?
“He wasn’t going for that.”