This journey to the postseason was most improbable for Brandon Bass, who is on an expiring contract. He is the model of steadiness and consistency but a geriatric 29 years old in comparison to his teammates.
He wasn’t even supposed to be here, a prime candidate to join Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green with an express shuttle out of town, to a contender. The only glitch in that plan was that Bass wanted to stay, and the Celtics became a contender themselves, and Bass was part of this playoff run, starting the past 42 games. He has averaged 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 50.4 percent shooting in his fourth season in Boston.
The Celtics are hardly backing their way into the postseason. They again engaged in a duel with the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at TD Garden, prevailing, 95-93, on a fadeaway 20-footer with 0.8 seconds left to clinch a first-round matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The last time LeBron James faced the Celtics in the playoffs was 2012 with the Miami Heat. He carried his team to a seven-game series victory with his brilliant performances in Game 6 and 7 and carried Miami to the NBA Finals. Bass is the only Celtic on the current roster to play in that series.
What’s more, he is hardly the oldest Celtic but is considered one of the graybeards because he has played 10 years in the NBA and actually has a family. In a locker room full of players born in the early 1990s, Bass is viewed as an old school, workmanlike leader and that’s the way he prefers it.
So he was rather humble when asked about his role in this Celtics playoff push. Bass has been a steady influence on his teammates, but won’t acknowledge that.
“I think this is attributed to what [president] Danny [Ainge] and Coach [Brad Stevens] has done, putting the right players with each other and getting guys to play to their strengths and play together and calculate some wins down the stretch,” Bass said. “When we clinched, I immediately started thinking of the young guys that have an opportunity to play in the playoffs. I think it will be a great experience. It will be a great atmosphere, I was more excited for them.”
That environment for Game 1 this weekend at Quicken Loans Arena will be surreal to the handful of Celtics who will be making their playoff debuts, and the presence of James, in his first playoff series since returning to Cleveland, will add even more intensity.
“To be honest with you, I don’t want to tell them anything [about the experience],” Bass said. “I want them to experience it for themselves. I don’t want to spoil it for them or make it something else for them. If they have any questions about the playoffs, I answer it for them.”
Bass’s role has changed considerably over the past two years. The ushering out of the Big Three left him and Gerald Wallace as the veteran leaders among a bunch of kids and rent-a-players. Bass is not a vocal presence, he is business-like.
“I’m an old guy but I’m aware of what it’s like to be young,” he said. “Being that just two years ago, I was playing with some of the oldest guys in the NBA and I know how it was like for them to communicate with me. So I’m able to talk less to them because I know they want to be at their best every night, I want to speak as minimal as possible because they’ve got everybody in their ear.
“They’ve got coaches in their ear; they got family members in their ear. I just want to be that person they can rely on to not be in their ear so much.”
No one was more relieved and grateful that Bass wasn’t traded by the Feb. 19 deadline than Stevens, who inserted Bass back into the starting lineup on Jan. 22. Bass also has played in 278 consecutive games.
“I think that’s a testament to him and testament to the way he prepares,” Stevens said. “We’ve singled him out over and over to our players about how he works on the things he needs to work on to be successful and how he takes care of his body better than anybody on our team. He’s been doing that since I walked in the door and it’s an everyday thing. He doesn’t say a whole lot, he’s really embraced the role we’re asking him to play on both ends of the court.”