NEW YORK - Before he begins a postgame interview, Celtics forward Brandon Bass has to be looking good, his suit coat buttoned, his tie just right.
He’s meticulous on the court, too, becoming one of the league’s best-shooting big men by taking thousands of mid-range jumpers - even when he had his own suite in Stan Van Gundy’s doghouse in Orlando.
When the Celtics were busy beating the Magic in six games in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago, Bass launched jumper after jumper before games, even when it was apparent he would not play meaningful minutes.
He is playing meaningful minutes now, as Celtics team president Danny Ainge made one of the best trades in recent years Dec. 12, 2011 by sending inconsistent and disgruntled Glen Davis to the Magic for Bass, Davis’s teammate at Louisiana State.
Bass is Davis with a nasty side and tireless work ethic. He was a second-round pick of the Hornets in 2005 and played just 50 games and scored 110 points through his first two NBA seasons.
An undersized overachiever at LSU, where he averaged 17 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore, Bass entered the draft too early. But what has made him so productive for the Celtics - he is averaging a career-high 12.6 points and a career high 6.2 rebounds - is that he is self-made.
Those difficult years in Orlando helped put a chip on Bass’s shoulder that he brought to Boston. He viewed the Celtics not as a former rival but as a team on which he could flourish with veteran teammates. He could play with a more mature center than Dwight Howard in Kevin Garnett, and Doc Rivers would scream at him for not shooting when he was open, the opposite of Van Gundy in Orlando.
“I’m grateful for it, man, because I’m getting an opportunity here to grow as a player in this league,’’ he said after tying his season high with 22 points in the Celtics’ 94-82 win over the Bobcats Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. “And it’s something I always wanted since my first year, just be able to develop and grow. Here I’m able to grow at a faster rate and I hope I continue because I feel like I got a bunch of different things that I haven’t shown that I could to help the team in certain areas.’’
Bass’s rapid development allowed Rivers to move Garnett to center without hesitation when Jermaine O’Neal began experiencing a multitude of injuries. Garnett was the lone answer Rivers had at power forward for years, and while he tried to usher Davis into that role, his production was vastly better off the bench. Bass’s numbers have remained consistent as a starter.
“Brandon is the unknown guy,’’ Rivers said. “He just keeps doing the exact same thing. He rebounds and he makes shots.’’
And his ability to make the midrange jumper has helped gain the confidence of his teammates, especially Rajon Rondo, who constantly uses dribble penetration to find an open Bass from 16 feet.
Bass has a player option at $4 million for next season. That certainly be a major issue for the Celtics this summer, as Bass could become an unrestricted free agent and cash in on his newfound success.
“I want to be here a long time playing alongside Rondo,’’ he said. “[But] to be honest, I am not that type of guy to even be thinking about things like [the option] because I just try to get better every day.’’
Garnett was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time this season.
He averaged 20 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals as the Celtics went 3-1 in the games he played. Garnett sat out Sunday’s win over the Bobcats to get rest.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe