WALTHAM — It might seem as though 3-point fever has gripped the Celtics. But the team’s outside-shooting emphasis has been more a byproduct of tactics rather than a concerted effort to fire up 3-pointers.
At least, that’s what coach Brad Stevens said before practice Monday.
“We’ve had discussions with individuals about being spaced appropriately, and, hey, what’s a really good shot, what’s not as good a shot,” Stevens said. “[But] we haven’t said to the team we want threes — like, not one time.”
The latest to join the 3-point crowd is Brandon Bass, who is 2 for 21 on threes over a nine-year NBA career.
Bass launched a shot-clock 3-pointer from in front of the Celtics bench in a 95-90 win over the Brooklyn Nets Sunday, and the conversion was greeted with NBA Finals-like enthusiasm by Bass and his teammates.
“He’s been shooting them for a couple months now,” said Rajon Rondo. “He made one. We got up and joked about it because he thought it was a buzzer-beater and we had, like, four seconds to go, and he wanted to lay there and enjoy it. But we told him to get up and get back on the court.”
Bass is big on follow-through, and it appears the longer the shot, the more exaggerated the follow-through. He ended up nearly horizontal in the corner, his shooting hand extended, awaiting the swishing of the 3-pointer, surrounded by teammates. By the time Bass recovered, the Nets were headed downcourt to play out the final seconds of the quarter.
The Celtics might have been exhorting Bass to get back on defense, but not quickly enough for Stevens.
“It’s great he’s expanding, it helps the spacing,” Stevens said. “He’s been working on it and he’s made at least one other during an offensive foul that happened, shot a couple others, he’s made them in practice.
“I was surprised our bench didn’t let him run back on defense because there was still 3.5 seconds left. But we’ll make a good lighthearted joke about that today.’’
Stevens said Bass should not be considered a long shot to extend his range.
“He’s a really good shooter, as we all know, right?” Stevens said. “All of us feel great with him shooting just inside the college top of the key on the high pick-and-pop. Now you get in the corner, it’s not that much deeper. And so he’s worked on it hard this summer.
“The reason why it’s so important is not necessarily because it expands — hey, that’s worth an extra point every three games — it’s because now you space the floor, now you’re in the right spots and you’re a threat to make that shot.”
Bass is expansive about his expanded repertoire.
“I worked on it a lot, I knew I should improve on it,” Bass said. “I think I’m in the process of still getting comfortable. Once I get comfortable it will be a different story.
“It’s something that’s never been a part of your game. Trying to implement it in the NBA . . . most 3-point shooters, they’ve been shooting 3-pointers since they were a kid. I wasn’t.”
Stevens is apparently the first coach to perceive Bass’s outside-the-box potential. Asked about his awkward relationship with the three, Bass replied, “That’s because over the years I shot a million mid-range jump shots. So I’ve just got to get my attempts up in practice so in games I knock down the three.
“When I first started shooting it, it felt overwhelming, because it was so far, because I wasn’t used to it. It’s getting better.”
Rondo back in opener?
Stevens said Rondo could be available for the season opener against Brooklyn Oct. 29. But Rondo is not a likely candidate to start, and could need more time before taking the risk of playing while recovering from a broken left hand.
“He had a scan on the hand and he’s progressing,” Stevens said. “He won’t do any contact before the end of the week but there’s a chance he’ll be cleared to do some stuff before the end of the week.’’
Asked about Rondo’s chance of playing against the Nets, Stevens said, “I think it’s a possibility.”
Rondo has been participating in non-contact drills with the team. But being involved in a game situation is “night and day” with that, he said.
“It doesn’t bother me at all when I dribble the ball and catch the ball — it doesn’t bother me,” Rondo said. “It’s night and day from trying to place myself on the floor, going to the lane, and somebody smack my hand.”
Not there yet
Gerald Wallace (bruised knee) has returned to near full speed in non-contact drills, but showed he is still struggling in a 4-minute-55-second stint against the Nets. “I’m still trying to get my knee back to where I want it to be,” Wallace said. “At this point I don’t feel I can go out and play 30-40 minutes, the way my knee is. I’m still a work in progress. I’m not able to do the things I’m used to doing. We had MRIs, X-rays — everything is fine.”