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Chances are Brandon Bass knew of Kevin Garnett's foul mouth from their battles in the past.Brandon Bass came from Orlando and the drama around last week's trade deadline suggested that star players there can be a bit indecisive. That's not the case in Boston, where veteran members of the Celtics offer little-to-no hesitation when telling a teammate their opinion.
Just ask Bass.
Adjusting to Boston's help defense system has been a learning process for him. Even at this stage of the season, Bass is occasionally late on rotations and, when that happens, a teammate hasn't hesitated to let him know about the mistake -- often using some colorful language that would make a sailor blush.
"You know what, man: I have problems with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, because they throw a lot of words out there," a smiling Bass noted last week after a win over Golden State. "Sometimes I want to throw them back."
Yes, Bass admits he wasn't always receptive to the constructive-yet-coarse criticism from Boston's Big Four. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who also has a knack for getting in his ear after mistakes, has tried to stress that players like Garnett are simply offering tough love.
"Listen, if you’re a big and you play on the same team as Kevin Garnett, you’re going to be a better defensive player. You really are," said Rivers. "He’s going to talk you into it. [Bass] had one [error] early in the game [against Golden State], when he missed a rotation, and you could see Kevin, he tells you. You may not like the way he delivers the message, but I think where Brandon has grown, he’s gotten over the MFs and realized what he’s saying is really important. I think that’s a growth in Brandon."
Rivers smiled and added, "MF -- I’ll let you figure that out," referring to his subtle way of abbreviating one of Garnett's favorite on-court, two-word expletive. It took some time, but Bass has tuned out the delivery and embraced the message.
Maybe it's not surprising then that, with Bass inserted in the starting lineup in the second half of the year, Boston has responded with its best basketball of the season.
"At the end of the day, I know they want to win. And at the end of the day, I want to win," said Bass. "So if I throw it back; they don’t mind. It’s life. That’s also what’s made us closer. You can’t be close when everybody’s just being nice. 'Hey, man, how are you doing?' You got to fight a little bit, argue a little bit. That will make us closer and I think that will make us fight for each other on the court."
Here are the results: Bass currently ranks as Boston's best overall on-ball defender. For the season, he's allowed a mere 0.658 points per play, ranking him in the 96th percentile among all NBA players. Yes, he's even slightly ahead of Garnett (0.689 ppp, 95th percentile). Now, those missed rotations might have padded his stats a little bit (players will invariably be scored upon more when they scramble to help), but a 333-possession sample size through 44 games suggests Bass' defensive numbers are legit.
For Bass, it's simply been about staying comfortable, something that took some time in Boston.
"Everybody was on me about this, about that. But I’m finally getting it," said Bass. "I knew it was going to take some time. I guess all the guys knew it was going to take some time as well. We’ve had some time together now, we’re jelling, and I just hope we can continue to do that."