Moving Brandon Bass into the starting lineup has worked for the Boston Celtics because:
A) He spaces the floor like few other power forwards can. It’s not a coincidence that Rajon Rondo started racking up double-digit assist games as soon as his starting big men could both splash 17-footers on command.
B) Kevin Garnett not only boosted his production as a center, but has also adjusted well to defending centers. Garnett’s always been a phenomenal defender, one of the best ever, but to see the way his wiry-thin body covers pivot-men has been eye-opening — not that there are many legitimate offensive-minded centers floating around the NBA in the year 2012, but still.
C) Bass has quietly been quite good on defense, not known as his strong suit entering the season — the difference when he’s on- and off-court is pretty much imperceptible.
D) Here is where I wanted to make a “Jermaine O’Neal getting injured was a blessing in disguise” joke, but I won’t. I’m too nice for that. But if you want to make the joke yourself, I support it.
Even with all the benefits that have resulted from the move, the Celtics initially opposed moving Bass into the starting lineup.
“Our guys were not real convinced about that move,” Rivers said. “Kevin was more worried about our defense, our anchor, and all that stuff. I don’t think anyone was real sure about that. I would say they were 50 percent at best. It wasn’t Kevin to [center], it was taking a big off the floor and going smaller. They were all concerned about it. They questioned me quite a bit on that decision.”
This is why Doc Rivers still has control of the Boston Celtics after eight seasons with the team but Doug Collins overstays his welcome after two or three years at most: Doc always has a pulse on his team. He didn’t ultimately listen to his players on this particular decision, but he discussed the possibility of a move with them, gathered their thoughts on the issue and likely explained his own ideas too. The final decision rests in Doc’s hands, the players know that, but he values their opinions and he’s always forthcoming and honest with the players, which they respect more than anything else.
I think a common misconception surrounding the Celtics is that Doc doesn’t scream or yell much. He can be really hard on his guys and he’s demanding as hell. He wants things done his way and he has very little patience for people who freelance from the schemes, especially defensively. But what makes Rivers a players’ coach is his ability to relate to his team. He treats his players like men, and that’s why they’re willing to fight for him.
As Paul Pierce said in the video below, a phenomenal exclusive interview by Greg Dickerson, “I think he’s the only coach who can deal with this type of team.”