With the Celtics struggling mightily of late, fans across the board are trying to find a scapegoat as to whom the problems begin with on their beloved team. While there may be a bit of fault from top to bottom, and no player exempt from blame one has to notice one specific area where a major change is needed on this roster. Since earning the trust of coach Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger has seized the moment and proven his worth with some gutty performances.
Sullinger has been nothing short of a beast for the Celtics who are in need of a grinder, something they’ve lacked since the loss of Kendrick Perkins. Drafted in the first round, Celtics fans expected that Sullinger would be a key cog to the team and an integral part to the rebuilding process for this team. But given Doc Rivers’ history of making rookies earn their playing time, often sitting out much of their rookie campaign riding the bench, nobody expected that Sullinger would be playing as much as he has. But that in itself should say just how important Sullinger has been to this team. On a team that has no true center, and really no true muscle in the paint, Sullinger is a breath of fresh air to the fans of Old School NBA, one that doesn’t include the fairies that hang out in the 10-12 range despite the fact that they have the body to bang it with anyone in the paint.
Sullinger has quickly become an “untradeable” commodity for Celtics fans, joining only the ranks of Avery Bradley in that category. A team built around defense and grinding out wins, with a coach that preaches that mentality, well… they’ve managed to find two young studs that fit right into that philosophy. Which brings us to the problem at hand.
Brandon Bass is the polar opposite to that philosophy. Months ago, I wrote an article questioning Bass’ toughness and what he really brought to the team. Bass quite simply does not fit in with this team. Bass is a shoot first, hang outside the paint and avoid defense POWER forward. Sounds like an oxy-moron doesn’t it? A power forward that doesn’t like to use his bulk? This becomes even more ironic when you see how well built Bass really is, he isn’t a llama like Gasol, he is built more like Zach Randolph than he is Patrick O’Bryant. On offense, he is a black hole. He is the end of the line on the passing tree, whenever the rock ends up in his hands it is most certain to go up.
One also has to consider what Bass was when he got here. Bass was NOT a regular starter with any of the other previous three organizations he broke bread with, he was one of the first off the bench in Orlando, thrust into the starting role due to injuries, but eventually made his way back to the bench. In Boston we expected that he would assume a similar role until the injuries at the 4 and 5 position started stacking up and Bass was forced to become a starter again. He performed well in said role; and Doc, for fear of his life, could not bench a hot hand for an aging vet (See Bradley v. Allen 2011-12). But somehow Bass was handed a massive contract extension, one comparable to a mid level starter, and assumed the starting position again.
This is not an indictment on Brandon Bass as a player, I’ll be honest he is a decent player, but he is not a fit for this team in the position he has been playing. Put quite bluntly, he is not a starting four in the NBA. He is not a fit for what the Boston Celtics need right now, or in the future. If the Celtics are to rebuild successfully it will be due to a team of toughness and teamwork. Bass presents neither. A selfish shooter on one end, and an indifferent defender on the other. If Brandon Bass is Dr. Jekyll, Jared Sullinger is Mr. Hyde.
In his recent press conferences, Doc has promised that if things don’t change soon, someone has to go. Garnett, Pierce, and Bradley are all safe…the Celtics won’t have the galls to do what they should and trade Rajon Rondo, so who does that leave us with? If Doc is going to make a statement the first domino to fall will be that of benching Brandon Bass for Jared Sullinger. If there is anyone on this team that has earned his minutes and there are very few, it is Sullinger.