After a long wait, the Celtics have finally returned to the starting lineup that took them deep into the playoffs last spring -- Brandon Bass is starting tonight alongside Avery Bradley and the rest of the C's regulars against the Indiana Pacers. Bass replaces Jason Collins as the big man alongside Kevin Garnett to open the game.
"We want to stay as big as possible," coach Doc Rivers said pregame. "What we didn't like with Jason in the lineup is that with him and Kevin off the floor, we get small quickly. This way, we can keep a big on the floor at all times."
There's also a hope that partnering Bass with Garnett will help revitalize the struggling Bass, as the C's power forward has been shaky without KG by his side this season.
"That's what we're hoping," Rivers said. "You don't do it just for the group; you do it for the individual at times. Brandon's played better with Kevin on the floor with him. Everyone has, for that matter, but I think clearly Brandon has, and that's one of the reasons we're doing it."
Bass' numbers have slipped significantly this season, from 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year to 8.1 and 5.3 now. Part of that is a decline in minutes, but he's also seen his shooting percentages and his per-minute scoring drop. The inconsistency in his role has been an issue, as he's been jerked in and out of the starting lineup quite a bit this season. Tonight will be Bass' 22nd start in 32 games.
As for Collins, Rivers maintained that the backup center will still play plenty of minutes, albeit in a bench role.
"Having Jason will help Kevin still, because he still won't have to play the 5 the entire time," Rivers said. "I just think the season's too long for Kevin to do that now."