They call him ‘No Pass Bass’ and the Celtics don’t mind
|01.03.12 at 3:05 pm ET|
Brandon Bass doesn’t pass. That’s what people tell him anyway.
“Somebody told me one of my nicknames is ‘No Pass Bass,’” he said after the Celtics beat the Wizards on Monday to complete a home-and-home sweep. “I want to continue to get set up by [Rajon] Rondo but I want to be able to set up other people as well. Return the favor.”
Bass was laughing when he said it, but beneath the humor there was some bite. No one likes to explain why passing isn’t an important part of their game, but part of succeeding in the NBA is understanding what you do well, and just as importantly, what you don’t do well.
“Getting people involved, I think, that’s not what I do best,” Bass said. “But whenever I get an opportunity to make a play for somebody else, I’ll be willing to do that.”
Bass does pass, he just doesn’t normally rack up assists. He’s a facilitator in the offense, if not a playmaker for others.
Witness the first three sets from the second quarter of Monday’s game. Each time the offense began with a pass to Bass in the high post. He passed twice on the first possession before getting loose under the rim for a dunk on a nice pass from Kevin Garnett. On the next two, Bass executed a handoff to Paul Pierce who drove and scored.
Everyone loves to talk about players fitting into their roles, which is usually code for rebound, play defense, pass and get the hell out of Allen, Rondo and Pierce’s way. But Bass’ role is different. The Celtics want him to be aggressive with his shot. In fact they need him to do that, considering he’s coming off the bench with such non-scoring threats as Marquis Daniels, Avery Bradley and Chris Wilcox.
“I don’t think Brandon has a problem shooting,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last week. “When he gets it he’s probably going to shoot it. It’s a good thing though. He’s an aggressive player and that’s what we want him to be so he’s going to have good nights and he’s going to have bad nights too. He is human, but he’s factor.”
Still, his assist totals are absurdly low, even at this early part of the season. Bass has played 168 minutes through six games and has just two assists. He’s attempted 68 shots, the second-most on the team and just one attempt behind Ray Allen. One might think that Bass is a black hole on offense, a ball hog who dominates the offense when he’s on the floor. That would be wrong.
Bass may not rack up the assists, but he rarely turns the ball over either. He has just three this season. Because his turnovers are so low, Bass’ Usage Rate (an estimate of possessions used combining field goals, free throws and turnovers) is only 21.4 percent, which means that he doesn’t dominate the ball nearly as much as it seems. For perspective, Bass uses about as many possessions as Allen and less than Garnett, Pierce and Rondo.
When he does shoot, which is often, there’s a good chance he’s going to score. He’s shooting 53 percent from the floor and he’s killing it from 16-23 feet where he’s shooting 64 percent, a mark that is second only to Dirk Nowitzki among power forwards, per HoopData.
If there’s a concern, it’s his shooting percentage at the rim, which is barely over 52 percent. However, Bass has a long track record of scoring efficiently inside and one would think that would balance out as he begins to get more comfortable in the offense and understands how to maneuver within their sets.
The Celtics have no qualms with the way Bass is playing. The proof is in the lineups where Bass has already established himself as the bench players most likely to play with the four All-Stars. Rivers played Garnett and Bass together for the entire fourth quarter and left him on the floor when Rondo, Allen and Pierce rotated back into the game. You can expect to see more of it as the season progresses. “I love that lineup because it’s shooters galore and it makes Rondo very productive because there’s nowhere to help,” Rivers said.
Bass was productive in the fourth quarter, but again, he didn’t dominate the ball. In fact he helped get Allen open for a pair of back-breaking 3′s. He had what some call a “hockey assist” when he passed out to Garnett who dished to Allen for a wide-open jumper. (When a reporter brought up the hockey assist, Bass responded, “Yeah man, that’s cool. I like that.”)
Later, he helped create space on an Allen transition 3 by sprinting down the left-side of the court and bringing an extra Wizards’ defender — Allen’s defender — along for the ride. His teammates are also fine with the way Bass plays. Again, they encourage it.
“Brandon’s played on some other teams with immense talent and our team is no different from that,” Garnett said. “I think the difference in our team and any other teams he’s played on is we’ve embraced him here. He’s one of us.”