NEW YORK - It’s not that the Celtics didn’t want to emphasize offensive rebounding in recent years. It’s just that they didn’t quite have the resources to get the caroms.
That changed yesterday, as the Celtics got a glimpse of newcomer Brandon Bass.
Not only did he have a double-double, with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but five of those rebounds were offensive.
“If the bigs are there, we’ve always wanted to,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s been one of the most misunderstood things about us was we’ve always told our bigs, ‘If you’re under the basket and we shoot, how about going to get it?’
“It’s nice to have it.’’
And it’s nice to have Bass. The Celtics traded Glen Davis to Orlando for him, getting a player they hope will be a more consistent, more trustworthy option.
A more humble one, too.
“I just wanted to come out there and contribute in any way I can,’’ said Bass. “I wish we could have won.’’
Though they didn’t - falling, 106-104, to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden - Bass demonstrated that he can be a big piece of what the Celtics are trying to accomplish, a still-young player at 26 with a chance to contribute offensively and defensively, one that Rivers wasn’t afraid to put on the floor in key minutes.
Plus, as Rivers said, yesterday wasn’t necessarily his ceiling.
“I think you like him,’’ Rivers said. “He can play. The kid can play.
“He’s tough. He can finish. He can offensive rebound. He can do a lot of things. And he’s doing it right now, [but he’s] second-guessing half the things he’s doing because of the execution part of it. He’s late on a lot of stuff ’cause he’s just not sure yet.
“He’s just going to keep getting better and better as the year goes on.’’
Bass was on the floor in big moments with Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Marquis Daniels, as the Celtics came back against the Knicks after a rough start. He played 10 of his 28 minutes in the fourth quarter.
Bass’s presence gave the Celtics another option with Jermaine O’Neal not having his best game; Rivers said O’Neal was slow and late against the Knicks.
“Brandon’s going to give us, obviously, a more mature or more consistent scorer coming off the bench,’’ said Garnett, who called him an X factor. “I honestly like our bench, how we look, not just on paper, but on practice and in games.
“Chemistry is still a question mark, how well they jell. How quickly they jell is another question mark.’’
Bass seemed to work as well with the starters as he did with the second unit, getting those 20 points and giving Boston a presence in the paint.
“He controlled the paint down low,’’ Allen said. “Just athleticism, gave us definitely a different look - getting those second-chance opportunities and being able to score around the paint.’’
Bass, who went to LSU with Davis, is on his fourth team, having played two seasons each with New Orleans, Dallas, and Orlando. Last season was the first in which he averaged double digits in points, scoring 11.2 per game for the Magic and averaging 5.6 rebounds, starting 51 games.
So while he might not give the Celtics every game what they got yesterday, Rivers appears pleased with Bass’s debut, pleased with the chance to see him improve.
And the Celtics are certainly not going to complain if Bass becomes the answer to their lack of presence on the offensive boards.
“You have them nights where the ball just goes your way, I guess,’’ Bass said. “But I was just trying to help us out, and rebounding was the area tonight.’’Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.