When Brandon Bass was signed, there was a worry among a large portion of fans of the Los Angeles Lakers that the 10-year veteran would do more harm than good. This would harm would not come by virtue of playing badly, but by possessing exactly the mix of talent and experience Lakers head coach Byron Scott has been shown to favor throughout his prior coaching stops in New Jersey, New Orleans, and Cleveland.
Those qualities sound good in a vacuum, but the Lakers exist in a reality where every minute Bass plays is development time not going to the Lakers' 2014 lottery pick, Julius Randle. Randle can't play all 48 minutes every game, though, and finding a good partner for him to stagger minutes with makes sense. While Scott has said that the two power forwards will compete for the starting gig in training camp, Bass sounds like he knows what his real role will be regardless of how many minutes he plays.
"I just want to be someone that can be there for [Randle] in any way I can" Bass told Serena Winters of Lakers Nation after being introduced to the media as a Laker for the first time. "Mainly leading by example and just being that person that he can call on at any time of help."
Youth movements are exciting, but veterans who can show younger players the types of habits they need to have long and productive careers in the NBA are a necessity. Randle missed all of last season with a broken leg, which in addition to his history of foot problems, has led some to declare him injury prone or at the very least more of an injury risk than other players. While that remains to be seen, Bass could be able to pass along some of the fitness secrets behind his iron man level of consistency in recent years.
The key to Bass' durability? "I think just my nutritional plan, stretching, knowing my body, learning my body over the years, kind of keeping the same regimen day in and day out," Bass told Winters. Whatever he has been doing "it's been working," Bass acknowledges, which is pretty much the understatement of the summer considering he has missed a grand total of zero games in the last two years, and just one in the last three.
Bass may also be able to help Randle develop his game as well. Julius admitted recently during Las Vegas summer league that improving from mid-range will be vital to his career going forward. "For me to reach my potential and be as effective as I want to be, it has to be a consistent part of my game," he told media after a Summer League game. If Randle truly wants to grow that area of his game, he could do a lot worse for a teacher than Bass, who shot 45.2 percent from 15-19 feet last season, per NBA.com.
Guidance only matters if one is willing to accept it, and for his part, Randle sounds like he understands tutelage from an older veteran is necessary, and was certainly ready to listen to Carlos Boozer last year, who was brought in to play a similar role. "It's another great player to learn from, so I'm excited," Julius said following the Lakers' acquisition of Boozer last season. One can only assume he would have similar feelings about the Bass addition.
Randle should be the starter for the Lakers from Day One. There are no compelling reasons not to let him soak up development time during a season in which the Lakers are basically assured of missing the playoffs. Playing alongside a rim protector like Roy Hibbert will help mitigate his defensive mistake, helping him gain confidence as he looks to establish himself in the league.
Both of those things will be helpful for Randle's long term growth, as will sharing a locker room with the returning Kobe Bryant. But neither the more storied Hibbert nor Bryant will be Randle's most important teammate this season. That will be the guy who will likely come in to give Randle and breather, the one cheering him along from the sidelines and answering his questions on off days. Brandon Bass may not be the Lakers' flashiest offseason acquisition, but in the long run, he may be the most impactful.