This Isn't What Magic's Bass Expected
He has turned into the missing piece, all right. As in, missing from the lineup. The defending Eastern Conference champions have been moving forward mostly without him.
"I felt in my heart this was the right place for me,'' Bass said Thursday after practice. "When I signed, it just felt right – but it's not going right, (right) now. I'm not playing, and that's bad.''
Bass signed a four-year, $16 million contract this summer, rejecting a more lucrative offer to stay in Dallas, and other opportunities in New Orleans, Charlotte and Portland.
But instead of contributing, he mostly has watched others, playing in only 28 of the 49 games, averaging just 13.3 minutes, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 rebounds in a much smaller role than he anticipated.
The Magic wanted him for front-court depth, giving them a physical presence to help center Dwight Howard, an option beyond a lineup with mostly 3-point shooters.
It just hasn't happened.
"The majority of nights, we can beat a team stretching the floor (with 3-pointers), so guys couldn't dig on Dwight,'' Bass said. "But other nights I think it would be better if we played differently. We could give teams different looks, but we don't necessarily use it.''
The Magic (33-16) have the second-best record in the East, but they trail Cleveland by five games. They lead the league in both 3-pointers made (500) and attempted (1376), but they are four games behind their winning percentage at this point last season.
With the trade deadline approaching and him hardly playing, Bass has become the subject of numerous trade rumors, including one involving the Charlotte Bobcats, who are desperate for front-court help.
Magic general manager Otis Smith said recently that he has no plans to trade Bass, expecting him to become a bigger contributor as the season moves toward the playoffs. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy also said he has no desire to change his roster, praising Bass' work ethic and the way he has stayed ready to play with inconsistent playing time.
Van Gundy has opted mostly to use Ryan Anderson as the backup power forward behind Rashard Lewis. They have similar strengths as outside shooters instead of power players.
"Do I want to stay here?'' Bass repeated the question. "If they feel I could help here, sooner than later, then I would love to stay here. But if nothing changes, then that means I can't help the team, that they don't want me here, then maybe I have to do what's best for me.''
Despite not playing as much as he hoped or expected, Bass said he would be surprised if he wasn't still with the Magic after the trade deadline.
"I came here for a chance to win a championship. And I feel like I'm good enough to play. I can help this team,'' he said. "Every night, I feel like I want to get in. I feel like I'm supposed to get in. But when I don't get in, you get frustrated a little bit. I'm trying to stay positive.''
Now in his fifth NBA season, Bass is making more money but playing less than he did in the previous two seasons in Dallas as the backup for Dirk Nowitzki. He played in 81 games and averaged 19.4 minutes last season. He averaged 19.7 minutes and played in 79 games the year before.
"I can fit anywhere, but I know it's coach's decision on how he wants to play,'' Bass said. "When I watched them (in the playoffs) last season, I just felt like they were missing something. I felt like I could be the missing piece. I know why they brought me here. I thought they needed someone like me.''