Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Brandon Bass

The Boston Celtics currently occupy the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference with close to two-thirds of the compacted 66-game schedule complete. At some point in recent weeks each of the storied Green’s ‘Big 4’ of Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo has been mentioned in potential trades.

GM Danny Ainge has been active behind the scenes in determining whether he should move one of his key players in order to inject fresh blood into the aging roster or let the C’s stand pat and make one last run with their once championship core.

Either way, 1st-year Celtic F Brandon Bass will be a key component of coach Doc Rivers’ plans down the stretch and into the postseason. The 26-year-old, 6’8”, 255 lb. Bass is in his seventh season out of LSU, where in 2005 he was named SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Bass is averaging 29.7 minutes per game, 11.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg this season – all career highs. The tough, hardworking forward started the season putting up big scoring numbers. In four December contests he averaged 15.3 ppg and had one game of 20 points and 11 boards.

Bass has been a consistent front-line contributor for the team. Outside of a stretch in mid-February when he experienced swelling in his left knee and sat out the six games prior to the All-Star break, Bass has been night-in and night-out the most scoring-minded player on Boston’s second unit. He’s most often the first guy off the bench and in recent weeks has been inserted into the starting lineup due to injuries.

Starting C Jermaine O’Neal has missed the past nine games with a sprained right wrist and may be out for the season. And veteran PF Chris Wilcox will be out indefinitely because of a recent heart exam that showed a potential abnormality. Add to this the possibility that one or more of the ‘Big 4’ may be dealt in the next 72 hours and Bass’ role, minutes and expectations increase dramatically.

So far in March, Bass has averaged 30.8 minutes per game. And even if the C’s stick with their current roster, that number will certainly rise as Doc Rivers begins resting 17th-year Garnett, 14th-year Pierce and 16th-year Ray Allen for the stretch run and likely playoffs.

With virtually no training camp and preseason due to the lockout, Bass and other players switching teams in the offseason had hasty and frenzied introductions to new systems and schemes. With each passing day, players like Brandon Bass become more acclimated to their new environments and further integrated into their teams’ rotations, so look for Bass’ production to steadily increase.

Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Magic

Copyright Notice- Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe storied Boston Celtics come to central Florida tonight to take on the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic. Coach Doc Rivers’ green & white squad stands at 7-9 at the approximate quarter mark of this condensed NBA season. The veteran group, winners of the 2008 NBA title, has suffered through a five-game losing streak and whispers around the league that it may be time for GM Danny Ainge to dismantle his Hall of Fame core of 14th-year captain Paul Pierce, 16th-year shooting guard Ray Allen and 17th-year forward Kevin Garnett.

However, the Beantown Ballers have won three of their last four contests, including Monday’s obliteration of the Magic in Massachusetts by the remarkable score of 87-56. The 56 points and 24.6% field goal percentage that Orlando managed three nights ago represent franchise-record lows in both categories. The Celtics accomplished this 48-minute defensive coup without starters Ray Allen (left ankle) and Rajon Rondo (right wrist), who will both miss tonight’s rematch.

Copyright Notice- Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesThis game marks the return of 7th-year forward Brandon Bass to O-Town. Bass was traded to Boston in the offseason for fellow LSU Tiger Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis and guard Von Wafer. So far this season Bass (who ranks fifth in court time on the roster with 28.3 minutes per game) has been a productive contributor off the C’s bench with 11.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Bass played 34 minutes and had 19 points and 8 boards against his old team on Monday.

Coach Stan Van Gundy’s guys last played on Tuesday night at Indiana and came away victorious, 102-83.  In the win, All-World center Dwight Howard became the Magic’s all-time leading scorer, passing Nick Anderson who played for Orlando from 1989-1999. Superman has scored 10,657 points in his career.

The 26-year-old, 8th-year superstar Howard has been prognostication and prediction topic numero uno ever since he asked for a trade prior to the start of the season. Despite the added stress of the swelling relocation rumors surrounding their First-Team All-NBA big man (who can opt out of his current deal with Orlando when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer), the Magic sit only a half game behind the Heat in the Southeast Division at 12-5.

Marv and I will have courtside seats to the O-Town showdown when TNT presents live coverage of the Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic tonight at 8:00 PM EST.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Brandon Bass

When Orlando signed high-energy forward Brandon Bass last year, they were hoping to gain another athletic body to bolster their front line, help them on the glass and add depth to their bench.

Unfortunately the highly sought-after free agent wound up sitting at the end of the bench at first because he didn’t fit into the offensive mold that head coach Stan Van Gundy was using. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis could stretch defenses with their 3-point shooting ability, but Bass doesn’t have that kind of range.

Bass worked hard to polish up his offensive game and, with Turkoglu gone, Stan gave him some chances to prove himself as the season progressed. Bass performed well and earned Stan’s trust over time, along with more minutes. A consistent mid-range shooter and a solid defender, Bass has become a valuable part of Orlando’s rotation.

Last week a virulent case of the flu wiped out a third of the Magic’s roster including Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick and Mickael Pietrus. Bass came off the bench and scored 17 points in the Magic’s win over Chicago. He followed up with an impressive effort against Detroit on Friday, hitting 11-of-12 shots for a career-high 27 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block.

It’s taken Brandon Bass a little while to fit in, but he’s playing well of late and his numbers are on the rise. Bass is averaging 10.7 points and 5 rebounds per game so far this season. He is logging about 21 minutes per game on average and will earn more court time if he continues to contribute. Tonight Orlando kicks off a four-game week against the Hawks at home before heading out West for a road stretch.