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Brandon Bass is open to the idea of returning to Boston next season.MIAMI -- Fresh off his finest performance of the Eastern Conference finals, the sort that might raise a player's market value or at least the interest in him, Celtics forward Brandon Bass expressed a desire to return to Boston next season, going so far as to suggest he expects to be here for the 2012-13 campaign.
"I do (expect to be in Boston). I would love to be back here," Bass said after Boston's 101-88 Game 7 loss to the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. "The fans (in Boston) are unbelievable. I think for any player, this organization is the organization that you want to play for."
The question is whether the price will be right. Bass holds a $4.25 million player option for next season, the final year of a $16 million pact he inked with Orlando in July 2009. But agreeing to that option would mean no pay raise for a player who started 39 games (moving to the first-unit power forward in the second half of the season) and averaged career highs at 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds over 31.7 minutes per game. His numbers dipped a bit in the postseason, but so did his floor time as Boston often went small throughout the playoffs.
The 27-year-old Bass, acquired in a sign-and-trade deal last summer that sent Glen Davis and Von Wafer to Orlando, raved about his first season with the Celtics and his maturation as a player, even in his seventh year in the league.
"It was big," Bass said of the 2011-12 season. "I was thinking about that in the shower. The players that I was around this year, the coaches that I was around this year, and the experience that I gained, the knowledge, the things I know about defense and offense. I mean, I'm going to consider myself a vet next year because next year will be my eighth year, and the things I learned this year were unbelievable."
Later he quipped, "If I'm here, with this group (next year), I won't be a vet."
Even still, count Bass among those that would like to keep the band together.
"Oh, that would be great," he said. "A lot of different guys are talking about retiring, different things, but it would be great to have this group back.
"This group here was like family, for the first time in a long time. It felt like family. We had fights, we had ups, we had downs, but at the end of the day we all fought for each other, and I'm just grateful to be a part of this group."
Bass erupted for 14 first-half points, fueling Boston's second-quarter offense and helping the team open a double-digit lead (despite the fact that Garnett was sidelined by early foul trouble). Bass even provided maybe the Celtics' highlight of the night when he stole a pass from Dwyane Wade, rumbled the other way, and dunked on Miami's All-Star guard at the other end of the floor. The only downside: Bass went quiet in the second half, mustering only two second-half points and finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, and four steals over 39:31.
Keep in mind, he also defended LeBron James -- a thankless task, particularly coming off a 45-point outburst in Game 6 -- but wouldn't pass judgment on his performance.
"I haven't really thought about it yet," Bass said of his defense. "They got the win so it doesn't really matter...
"To be honest, man, they asked me to guard him and I was just going to go out there and give it my all for my teammates. It didn't matter who I was guarding. It didn't matter. I just wanted to give my best."
If the Celtics could get his best again next season -- at the bargain rate of $4.25 million -- they'd probably be thrilled.