Brandon Bass was a lot of things when he heard his name announced before tip-off of Wednesday’s season finale against the Washington Wizards, but downright shocked might have been the biggest. In his third season with his fourth team in his nine-year career, Bass had never stayed anywhere long enough to truly be embraced by a franchise and its fans.
Now, for the first time, he was. And nobody was more caught off guard than he was.
In a brief pregame ceremony, Bass was presented with the 2014 Red Auerbach Award, recognizing the Boston Celtics forward’s efforts to exemplify the spirit of the franchise’s former longtime coach, general manager and president, on the court and in the community. Humbled, the soft-spoken Louisiana native struggled to put into words what the honor meant to him.
“Since I’m in a position where I can inspire kids — or grown-ups — I’m going to do that,” Bass said. “It makes me feel good, actually, going to appearances and being able to put smiles on kids’ faces.”
Although Bass’ stats were modest, the award was well-deserved. Along with Jeff Green, Bass was one of only two Celtics to play in all 82 games, averaging 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while assuming the most dynamic defensive load. He guarded everyone from Roy Hibbert on the block to Carmelo Anthony on the perimeter, acquitting himself capably under every circumstance. He toiled away despite fluctuating minutes, toggling in and out of the starting lineup and trade rumors swirling from the preseason all the way up to the February trade deadline.
For Celtics coach Brad Stevens, the award was as much about recognizing Bass as it was about making a statement for his team’s culture.
“I just told him this in front of the team: He’s as good of a pro as we have,” Stevens said. “He shows up every day, he’s the first one in the gym on the road, he’s the first one to the gym at home, he takes care of his body as well or better than any of our players nutrition-wise, stretching-wise, in the weight room.
“His individual workouts are deliberate to what applies to making his game good. I don’t think everybody that works on the game anywhere in the world does those things as well as some of the best pros, and I think we need to really embrace that deliberate work ethic.”
At various times this season, rookies Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk mentioned following Bass’ quiet example. It was Bass’ way of passing on what he learned by emulating future Hall of Famers Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as teammates.
“That’s kind of what I want to do,” Bass said. “There were guys that inspired me, without them even knowing, over the years. It’ll be cool if I can inspire other players, or if they could look to me to improve themselves.”
There wasn’t a lot of good that came out of this Celtics season, unless fairly strong NBA draft lottery odds can be considered “good.” One thing that did come out of it, for Bass, was that he now knows there is a place where his work is appreciated. He has the hardware to prove it.