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Brandon Bass, Shavlik Randolph, & the art of rebuilding maintenance

In a rebuild, it's easy to romanticize the past and wax poetic about the future. We forget about all the bad, remember only the good, and hope that it will be like that again soon. But there's the tough work of an 82-game schedule for a team that has fewer wins than players that have shuffled in and out of the locker room via trade, waiver, or buyout. While young players continue to cut their teeth as pros, there are a handful of vets doing the practical work of hopefully bridging one banner to the next.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

My guess is that Ben Watanabe of NESN wasn't making a run at BB, but those four words, "he's funny like that," just rubbed me the wrong way.  I know it's Twitter and it can be snarky and sarcasm isn't always translated well in under 140-characters.  If you actually read the piece, it speaks glowingly of Bass' commitment to this team, despite the trades of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green and rumors swirling that he could be next:

As Ainge's deal-making has made the team younger, the players' admiration for Bass has gotten more obvious. Second-year players Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk have pointed to Bass as a model whose professionalism they follow. He's not quite the team's leader, but he's more than the usual role player. "I feel like day-in and day-out, I just try to take advantage of my opportunities to get better," Bass said. "Guys gravitate to that. If they see some of the things I do and they can use some of those things for them to improve, cool. But I do think it's about time for me to take responsibility and make sure I'm doing the right thing, because I know the young guys are watching."

Still, it would be pretty nice to be magically transported to a championship contending team and be assured of playing deep into the playoffs, wouldn't it? Green and Rondo sure haven't complained, and parachuting into a winning situation has become an NBA cliche.

It's not for Bass, though.

"I'm not hunting for a situation like that," Bass said. "I've never been the type of player who hunts for a situation to go win a championship, hunt a situation to be in the playoffs. My thing is, work with what you've got. That's my motto. I'm going to work with what I've got, so if it's these guys in the locker room, cool."

I love what Scott Souza tweeted about Bass recently, "When Jeff Green & Rajon Rondo said they didn't want trade from #Celtics took it w/ grain of salt. When Brandon Bass says it you believe him."  I believe him, too.

It's an overused metaphor, but not every player is going to be a future brick for the franchise; rebuilds need mortar and glue guys and Brandon Bass is one of those guys.  When Rondo returned a few weeks ago, he specifically called out three names for the young Celtics to listen to: "stick with Avery (Bradley), listen to Gerald (Wallace), listen to Coach (Brad) Stevens."  I'm sure Bass wasn't deliberately omitted, but unfortunately, he doesn't have a contract past this season.  It's been reported that the trade market has dried up for Bass, with the Herald's Steve Bulpett reporting that Ainge has not received a "serious offer" for Bass' expiring contract, reliable mid-range jumper, and versatile defense.  In the Season of the Fire Sale, you would think that Danny would sell BB for pennies on the dollar where a future second round pick could get you a great role player for a contender.

Or maybe Danny values Bass more than we think.

Stevens' has recently called Bass his most efficient player.  The 10-year pro is averaging fewer minutes than he ever has in Celtic green, but his per-36 numbers are through the roof, averaging 17 and 7 and shooting nearly 48% from the field.  However, it's not necessarily his consistency on the floor that has teammates taking notice:

As two of the veterans on a very youth-laden team, Bass and Gerald Wallace are the two players most often mentioned as the leaders in the Celtics' locker room. Bass isn't a Kevin Garnett-style, in-your-face kind of mentor, but his tireless work ethic is one teammate Evan Turner strives to emulate.

"I think his intensity and the way he approaches the game each day and work ethic is definitely inspiring, and rubs off on us," Turner said. "Every time he checks into the game, he's ready to go, and that's a blessing."

Saturday is an off day for the Celtics, who are preparing to embark on a six-game road trip beginning Monday in Los Angeles. It will not be an off day for Bass, though. "Probably (Saturday), it's a day off, and we're taking a plane ride," Turner said. "He'll probably come in 40 minutes before, an hour before the plane leaves to do some cardio. He's always getting his work done. Even when he's not playing he's one of the first people at practice and one of the last people to leave the floor. That's a true pro, and it explains why he's always ready."

It's easy to discount Bass' value to the team right now.  With all the trade activity over the last couple of weeks and the team on a clear path to a long rebuilding process, Bass is expendable and actually, a pretty good trade chip as contenders begin to shore up their benches.  But with all that said, he's still a Celtic that Ainge is reluctant to part with.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote, "the place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there."  Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I hope that that's Danny Ainge's approach towards Bass' availability nearing the deadline and if he's still a Celtic on February 20th, Bass' free agency this summer.  There's no doubt that over the next five weeks, Danny will field some calls on Brandon Bass.  He may even make a few.  He isn't the official captain of the team and by all accounts, isn't the most vocal leader on the floor or in the locker room.  He's not KG or Rondo or Paul Pierce, but right now, he is the team's heart, head, and hands.  Along with Avery, he's the only connection to Ubuntu and grit & balls.  More draft picks would be nice, but sometimes, I'd rather have a sure thing and there's no surer a thing than Brandon Bass.

And just a quick, somewhat tangential note about Shavlik Randolph.  Of the eight players that came to Boston in the Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green trades (Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Rivers, Nate Robinson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and himself), Randolph is arguably the most unlikely to ever suit up for the Celtics.  After playing 16 games in Boston back in 2013, he mentioned that he would have loved to return.  The circumstances are different than from when he left, but like Bass, he could provide a good example for the future.  This is a guy that went undrafted out of Duke (Duke!), played his way onto the 76ers, earned a second two-year contract, missed an entire season to a broken ankle, toiled his way through camp invites from several NBA teams, and shuttled back and forth from China and Puerto Rico to keep his pro career flame from extinguishing.

And now he's back in Boston.

Maybe it's naive to think that professional athletes can be inspired by each other.  If they're at this level, they've already bled the blood, sweat the sweat, and cried the tears to make it here.  Marcus Smart has put in the work.  Kelly Olynyk knows that he's a long ways away from reaching his potential.  For all intents and purposes, Randolph was trade filler from the Suns to make the numbers work, but don't think that Ainge and Stevens don't understand the value of bringing in a guy who's gutted out the last ten years to make it in the NBA.  Randolph will end up a free agent at the end of the year and it's possible that the 31-year old journeyman is in his swan song, but I'm sure this two-time Celtic will make his mark on this franchise.

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