Brandon Bass’ departure from the Boston Celtics did not come as a surprise. In fact, it came far later than many expected.
Ever since the Celtics dismantled the Big Three two summers ago, officially swapping championship aspirations for plans for the future, one knew Bass was not long for Boston. When reports surfaced Sunday he was set to sign a free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, it felt like closure.
One of the few veterans on an increasingly youthful C’s roster — at age 30, he entered the summer as the second-oldest current Celtic — Bass was mentioned in rumor after rumor ahead of each of the last two trade deadlines. All the while, his playing time plummeted, from 73 starts in 2013-14 to 43 this past season — his lowest total in a non-lockout-shortened campaign since 2009-10.
Yet despite clear signs Bass was not a part of the Celtics’ future, you never heard a peep of complaint from the 6-foot-8 forward, nor a bad word spoken about him.
Head coach Brad Stevens repeatedly raved about Bass’ underappreciated contributions. Teammate Evan Turner called his commitment to the game “inspiring.”
Bass is a pro’s pro in every sense of the expression, a “lead by example” type with a tireless work ethic who in these past few seasons accepted a lesser role without resigning himself to one. In his four seasons in Boston, he played for a team that fell one win short of the NBA Finals and another that failed to win more than 25 games. Still, his optimism never wavered.
“Like I tell a lot of people who come to me and tell me how tough this situation is, I tell them it’s a blessing just to be a part of a situation like this,” Bass said after a January loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “Because that means you’ve been around a while, to see the highest point of an organization and to see the difficult times. I think it’s a blessing.
“It speaks to your longevity in the game. Any of the guys going through this, you’ve got to look at it as a blessing, because you can never assume the grass is always greener on the other side. It could be worse. We’re playing for one of the best organizations, playing for a great coach, and it’s an opportunity to be part of history. I don’t look at it as rebuilding or whatever the case may be. I just look at it as a blessing.”
Eight days after making those comments, in the Celtics’ 40th game, Bass made his first start of the season. He notched a double-double in an upset win over the Portland Trail Blazers, scored in double figures in six of his next nine games and never again left the starting lineup.
Bass will be playing his basketball elsewhere this fall, and if recent reports prove accurate, his new employer will be the hated Lakers.
That means Bass likely will make just one trip back to TD Garden this season. Hopefully, Celtics fans give him the ovation he deserves.
Until then, let’s remember Bass at his best: the 18-points-in-one-quarter explosion against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 playoffs that still serves as the highlight of the big man’s career.
Thumbnail photo via Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports Images
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