PHILADELPHIA — Jared Sullinger was in the starting lineup again Monday night as the Celtics entered the teeth of their preseason schedule, meaning coach Doc Rivers may be leaning toward a decision at the starting power forward position.
Meanwhile, fresh off a three-year contract extension, Brandon Bass is unsure of his status but understands the team’s increased depth and is prepared for any role. Bass is averaging 9 points this preseason after scoring 11 in Monday’s 107-75 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and has attempted to use his minutes off the bench to display his improved arsenal.
“This year I just want to be a better rebounder, that’s all,” said Bass, who averaged a career-high 6.2 boards in 59 games last season. “And as far as everything else that I worked on this summer, it’s only going to get shown when I get more opportunities. We’ve got a lot of good players here so all the things I worked on will only show with more opportunities.”
Sullinger, who finished with 9 points and five rebounds Monday, has been the surprise of camp, excelling in the Celtics’ system and using a polished post game to give the club another inside threat. Bass is considered a pick-and-pop player, meaning he is best setting screens and then canning jumpers.
Such a reputation is difficult to shake, but the 27-year-old Bass wants to be regarded for more than his outside shooting.
“I want to [take opponents in the post] but Doc would rather me just pick-and-pop but I want to,” Bass said. “That’s part of my game that I’ve always been good at over the years. But I think Doc just wants me to be a pick-and-pop because we already have the guys who do enough isos here, so I guess he don’t want me to be the third or the fourth guy to have the offense stagnant.”
Bass said he won’t allow any starting lineup controversy to annoy him or affect his focus. He was one of the Celtics’ biggest surprises last season, setting career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, and blocked shots.
“Keep grinding, with me, it’s keep grinding, no matter what,” he said. “I make my adjustments no matter what it is. I feel like I can overcome anything. So I just make my adjustments and make the best out of my situation.”
Though the season opener is still two weeks away, Rivers wasn’t pleased with Monday’s 32-point loss to a division rival. The Celtics were outscored, 24-4, during one stretch and Boston shot 30.8 percent from the field in the second half. With Kevin Garnett getting the night off, Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 16 points.
“I thought they just played harder, they executed, they really worked their sets, their second and third options,” Rivers said. “They played more like they’ve been practicing and working hard. Today we just kind of showed up. I thought we had poor intensity throughout. That’s obviously unacceptable.”
Rivers said some players grew impatient with teammates.
“I think some of the players got upset because other guys forgot plays and didn’t know things,” he said. “That’s a lesson, too. You have to be able to grind a game. Today we started out OK, the game was kind of close and then things went wrong and we kind of caved in quick and I told them that’s not a good sign.”
The Celtics committed 21 turnovers in losing for the third time in four games. Rajon Rondo said there will be more urgency over the next two weeks.
“We just want to use each game to get better, to get our chemistry together,” he said. “Like I said, the main focus is our communication. Obviously with Kevin missing it was way down and Kevin is not always going to be there for us so somebody has to pick it up, including myself. We’re not where we want to be but it’s not like we’re panicking.”
Wilcox backed up
Chris Wilcox traveled to Philadelphia and is participating in light workouts but there is no timetable for his return from a sore lower back. Wilcox was expected to be the first power forward off the bench when he signed a one-year deal to return in July. But with the emergence of Sullinger and sparkling play from Darko Milicic, Wilcox has become a man forgotten and his role may be reduced.
Asked if Wilcox’s absence hurt the club, Rivers said: “That doesn’t do a lot. We would love to have him. We would love to have an extra body but the other bigs are playing great. Jared is playing phenomenal. Jason [Collins] has been fantastic. We just haven’t played him a lot. I don’t want to overuse him. Darko has been better than advertised, so that’s a blessing.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.