The responsibility placed on Jerryd Bayless is welcomed because he is using this opportunity with the Celtics to prove his viability as more than a volume scorer.
The Celtics have seen firsthand Bayless’s ability to score in bunches. But since being acquired from Memphis in the Jan. 7 deal for Courtney Lee, Bayless has been asked to do more than that.
Rajon Rondo has been in and out of the lineup since coming back from major knee surgery and Avery Bradley has missed seven of the past 10 games with a sprained right ankle, so Bayless has been asked to play point guard.
Given that he is trying to make an impression and being an impending free agent, the added responsibility has perhaps increased Bayless’s marketability. Bayless, 25, is a former lottery pick (11th overall in 2008) who is playing for his fifth team. He has started just 45 of his 355 games, meaning he is likely to be a reserve wherever his next destination.
With the Celtics patching together lineups on a daily basis, Bayless has become a distributor, averaging 3.7 assists per game for Boston, nearly doubling the 2.1 clip he produced this season in Memphis.
Shooting wise, Bayless has struggled, converting only 37.8 percent of his shots, including 2 of 10 in the Celtics’ 102-86 victory over the Bucks on Monday. Bayless, however, impressed his head coach with six assists in 24 minutes with no turnovers .
“We’ve asked a lot of him and he’s in a tough situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “What I’m most impressed with Jerryd over the past two nights has been his passing. He’s doing a great job for a guy who hasn’t been around all year.”
Bayless is unquestionably confident in his game, but the fact he’s been shuttled from Portland to New Orleans to Toronto to Memphis to Boston has him seeking stability and someone to show faith in his game.
He has been tabbed a scorer off the bench and little more, but Bayless said he has flourished as a combo guard. He has never played more than 22.7 minutes per game during his career but has averaged six or more assists per 36 minutes in three of his stops, including this one with the Celtics.
“I feel very comfortable with [the Celtics offense], obviously when Rondo’s back, he has a majority of the ball, but when he’s out, I’m very comfortable,” Bayless said. “I’ve done this pretty much my whole career.
“I’ve had to do different things in different situations, but I am usually most comfortable handling [the ball]. Throughout my career, I’ve pretty much been a backup point guard. I’m more comfortable with the ball.”
The Celtics have sought a capable backup point guard for years, going through players such as Nate Robinson, Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling, and Bradley. Bayless and rookie Phil Pressey have split duties in the past month.
“There’s a lot of good things going on out there right now,” Bayless said of the Celtics. “Guys are stepping up. Jeff [Green] played a great game [Monday]. Kelly [Olynyk] played a great game. We’re getting all the way around from everybody, so when that continues to flow and everybody’s playing together, we’re a pretty good team.”
Bayless is hoping his resume speaks for itself in free agency. He has the ability to score in bunches and can handle the point guard position in stretches. The key for the Celtics is Bayless has been able to be productive when he’s not scoring and the jumper isn’t falling.
“This is not my rookie or second year,’’ he said. “I think I’ve shown what I can do in the league. It’s just to get more consistent with it.
“I think throughout my career I’ve been inconsistent a lot of times and one of my main focuses is getting consistent all the time. I think I’ve done a better job of that, but there are times when I have lapses and don’t play as well I would like. I just gotta get better at that.”Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gwashNBAGlobe.