Count Baton Rouge native Brandon Bass, a 10-year NBA veteran, as a supporter of the Pelicans new defensive guru.
Bass has spent the past four seasons with the Boston Celtics — two under Darren Erman, who was recently hired as new Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry’s top assistant, charged with improving a franchise that last season dazzled on offense, ranking among the league’s best, but was less efficient on defense, ranking 22nd.
“Consistent every day — his passion and his intensity, and his focus about defense,” Bass, a former standout at Capitol High School and LSU, said of Erman. “That’s what you’re going to get, plain and simple.”
Erman’s defensive schemes helped Boston win an NBA championship in 2008 and an Eastern Conference championship in 2010, one season before Bass arrived in town. Erman left for Golden State in 2012, where he spent two seasons before an abrupt firing unrelated to efforts on the court. Before then, he was credited for setting the foundation of the Warriors defense, which reached the 2015 NBA Finals in part because of their league-best offense.
Erman returned to Boston as an assistant, where he reputation as a young defensive mind has continued to grow.
During Erman’s second tenure with Boston, its defense improved from 23rd (allowing opponents 46.5 percent shooting) to 17th (45 percent). Bass attributed the improvement to the details, starting with post players communicating with players on the perimeter, setting up the defense.
Not bad for guy who never played in the NBA.
Bass said Erman’s work ethic, coupled with his knowledge, earned him respect in the Celtics’ locker room.
Last season, Bass averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for Boston.
“I feel like we all can be great, especially when you dedicate your life to your craft, and you’re willing to work and do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal,” Bass said. “And he has that. It takes a special person to be focused all the time on defense, and it’s an offensive game. I think one day he will be a head coach.”
Erman’s latest challenge is a Pelicans roster armed with Anthony Davis, one of the league’s rising stars and an imposing defensive presence. Already, Davis, entering his fourth NBA season, has enjoyed a career full of blocks, altered shots and defensive rebounds.
Bass spent part of this week in New Orleans at the coach DJ Basketball Skills Camps, hosted by Xavier men’s basketball coach Dannton Jackson.
Bass said the Pelicans may be “a few tough players” away from making moves in the playoffs. Players like Matthew Dellavedova, the Australian, defensive-minded guard who pushed Cleveland to a 2-1 series advantage against Golden State entering Game 4 on Thursday night.
“If I put a top defensive player on another team’s best offensive player, that’s going to slow him down,” Bass said. “If Steph Curry struggles, if he’s not making plays for his team, they’re losing.
“Dellavedova is the perfect matchup in this series because his mindset is defense, tough plays, and offense is a bonus. You have to have that (kind of) player on your team. I don’t care how many offensive players you have. You have to have someone who thinks defense first, tough plays ... then can score.
“That’s why I think they’re going to win it all. Because Steph Curry has to shoot a perfect game (to win).”