WALTHAM — His mind isn’t as busy as before. It’s free of the clutter that Brandon Bass put there. That’s what the Celtics forward says, and it’s the reason he says he’s playing his best basketball of the season.
“Because you want to be out there, and you want to try your best to be perfect, and so when you’re trying to think about all those things and be all those things, it’s hard to do them,” Bass said Thursday before practice.
But when Kevin Garnett tweaked his ankle against New Orleans on March 20, Bass had a perfect reason to start overthinking everything. He, more than any other Celtic, had to step up to help make up for the absence of Garnett on both ends, an unenviable task.
Bass didn’t overload himself, though, as he tried to fill in for the player Doc Rivers called Bass’s “security blanket.”
“If I had thought [overthinking] that way when Kevin went down, it would’ve been a lot tougher for me,” Bass said. “It would’ve been overwhelming.”
He’s only focused on the simple tasks: knowing defensive coverages, rebounding, running the floor, trying to find open players, taking what the defense gives him.
And it has worked. Bass is averaging 12.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 31.4 minutes since Garnett hurt his ankle nine games ago. Up to that point, Bass was averaging 7.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes.
Bass has also been much more vocal, helping to replace the traffic cop presence that Garnett provides. Rivers even noted a point during the Celtics’ win against Detroit Wednesday when Bass yelled at someone for being in the wrong position.
“And I was thinking, ‘Wow, that’s really new,” Rivers said.
“It’s kind of becoming second nature,” Bass said, “because I try to do it even in practice, even if we’re doing walkthroughs. It’s definitely not something I’m doing to try to get any attention — talking just to be talking.
“It’s always for a reason and a purpose and it’s to help myself and my teammates.”
Paul Pierce said Bass is learning to be more vocal because he hears it so much when the team watches film.
“A lot of times when Doc is going over tape he’s like, ‘Brandon, you’ve got to talk more. You’ve got to talk more,’ ” Pierce said. “Because that’s the key to defense. You hear me, you hear Kevin, but it has to come from all five guys, and he’s probably never been on a team where he had to talk so much or take that responsibility.”
Garnett will return to the lineup soon and Bass will have to readjust, but Bass said Garnett’s absence has taught him a lot about his role and how he needs to play going forward, especially as the Celtics prepare for the postseason.
Pierce said Bass is starting to understand his role after last year, when “he kind of went with the flow.”
“He’s playing with a lot more energy, he’s taking advantage of opportunities, and he’s understanding that there are going to be nights when he’s not going to get the ball as much, he’s not going to get the points that he probably wants to get,” Pierce said.
“And so he has to be an energy guy for us. He has to set picks, he has to get offensive rebounds, he has to finish when he gets the ball, and I think he’s having a better understanding of that this year, especially this late in the season.”
Rivers said Thursday the earliest Garnett will play is Sunday against Washington.
“He’ll probably participate in shootaround [Friday], but I’m not going to play him, even if he wants to play,” Rivers said.
In other injury news, Pierce didn’t practice because of a mild right ankle injury. He turned it Sunday against New York. Pierce is expected to play Friday.
Guard Terrence Williams dislocated the pinkie finger on his right (shooting) hand against Detroit. Williams said he popped his finger back into place and that an X-ray came back negative. Williams expects to play Friday.
“You’ve got to cut my hand off for me to actually say I’m not going to play basketball,” he said.
“If I’ve got to tape my whole finger with all the electric tape you can find, I’m still going to try to play.”
Jeff Green’s place in the starting lineup is permanent, Rivers said, adding, “He’s earned it.” Green is averaging 21.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting and 6.1 rebounds over his last seven games, all of which Garnett has missed.
Green scored a game-high 34 points against Detroit.
Boy, oh boy
Pierce said his son, Prince Paul Pierce, who was born Tuesday night, is doing fine. “It’s just the third one, so still going for five or six more,” Pierce said.
Are there lofty expectations with a name like Prince?
“No, we’re not going to put that kind of pressure on him,” Pierce said. “I just want him to grow up, smart kid, be into books. Whatever happens in sports happens.”
When asked if he’d like his son to play basketball, Pierce said, “I actually want to put a baseball in his hand — in his left hand.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes