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For the Orlando Magic, Brandon Bass Coming Up Big

Orlando Magic power forward Brandon Bass languished on the team's bench last season, logging 31 Did Not Play-Coach's Decisions in his first year with the team. But now, after a year of seasoning on the Magic's bench, Bass has broken out in a major way. He proved instrumental in his team's impressive, emotional win over the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, scoring 13 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and rescuing a flagging Magic offense when it needed help; he also hauled in 9 boards in his 37 minutes of hard work, matched up with feisty Celtics forward Kevin Garnett for much of the afternoon. Not bad for a player who didn't make his Magic debut against Boston until the postseason.

"[Bass is] another guy who just doesn't have any fear." coach Stan Van Gundy said. "His development in knowing what we're doing is huge because we're not going to have the mistakes that lead to just easy baskets. I'm happy for him."

Team co-captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson also noted how well Bass played. Howard nicknamed Bass "Charles Darkley" and noted opposing teams have left Bass open in order to send his man to accompany Howard on his rolls to the basket in recent weeks, freeing the five-year veteran to sink jumpers. "He had a great game tonight," Howard said, "and he's one of the main reasons why we won. I really liked his energy [and] he was shooting the ball with a lot of confidence." Howard said he was "proud" of his teammates, including Bass.

"This year, his role has gotten bigger," Nelson said of Bass. "It's going well for him right now. He's a hard worker and I'm happy for him." Bass and Nelson are close friends, Nelson said. "I'm pretty close with him."

Indeed, things are going well for Bass. He's reached double-figure scoring in seven of Orlando's last eight games, averaging 13.3 points per game in that stretch and 11.3 on the season as a whole.

Though Bass finished strong against Boston, he got off to a rough start, which earned him a stern talking-to from Van Gundy at halftime. "You don't want to know what Stan said," Magic guard Gilbert Arenas said with a chuckle. Once the laughter subsided, Arenas said, "But he went out there and he took the challenge," explaining that Van Gundy wanted Bass to "challenge" Garnett at the offensive end more aggressively.

Bass understands how he fits into the team concept, as Van Gundy said, which his post-game comments reflect.

"I know for us to be successful, I gotta be aggressive and just be productive at some parts of the game."

With that understanding, as well as support from his teammates and coach, and it's little wonder that Bass has parlayed his considerable talents into a key role on a title-contending team.