WALTHAM — By the time Jason Collins had reached the third grade, he was 5 feet 3 inches. By sixth grade, he was 6 feet. By high school, Collins was an inch away from the 7-foot mark.
He and twin brother Jarron (about the same size) played alongside each other at Harvard-Westlake High School in North Hollywood, Calif., where they won two state titles (with 6-4 future actor Jason Segal in the role of Jason’s backup).
Jason Collins remembers the two brothers being bruisers. They banged bodies. They rebounded. They blocked shots. And they scored points.
But as a 7-foot, 255-pound 34-year-old in his 12th NBA season, Collins needs to do only one thing to make Celtics coach Doc Rivers happy: Be scary underneath the basket.
“I joke with Jason that he’s at the point of his career where that’s all he can be,” Rivers said. “And he does a very good job of being that.”
As the only healthy center behind Kevin Garnett, Collins will be needed Friday night as the Celtics host the Chicago Bulls, who have become one of the league’s best rebounding teams with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
“For the most part, when he comes in games, he’s given us great lifts,” Rivers said. “He’s done exactly what we wanted him to do.”
Even early in his career, when Collins would take five shots a game in a more versatile role, he still had a knack for frustrating opponents. Shaquille O’Neal was quoted in an ESPN article as saying the Collins brothers were the worst floppers in league history.
In the 2004-05 season, Jason led the NBA with 322 fouls.
“I know I have six fouls,” Collins said. “There’s no use in me driving home with them.”
This season, Collins is averaging 2.8 per game — his highest average in seven years — while playing about 12 minutes per game.
“Using his body, he’s so smart, offensively and defensively,” Rivers said. “And against a Chicago team, you need that.”
And if Collins can help frustrate the Bulls, who are fifth in the league in technical fouls (35), all the better.
“Any time they are ready to fight or ready to be more concentrated on talking trash, that’s good,” Collins said. “Whatever it takes to get their heads out of the game.
“If they’re not focused on playing basketball and focused on doing something else, for me, that’s when I’m performing.”
Avery Bradley made a few hustle plays in Wednesday’s 90-78 loss to the Hornets, collecting three steals, including one he took end-to-end for 2 points. But he was unusually quiet on the offensive end, taking just four shots, the fewest he has taken since his return eight games ago, in almost 22 minutes.
Rivers said Thursday that Bradley may be dealing with an injury to his ribs. Bradley sat out Thursday’s practice and his status was questionable for Friday.
“He’s OK, not great,” Rivers said. “He got hit in the ribs or somewhere — I don’t even know where he got hit. He’s not going to practice or do anything today, for sure.”
Does he want out?
According to Bradesco Esportes, an ESPN radio affiliate in Brazil, Leandro Barbosa has asked Celtics president Danny Ainge for a trade. Here’s a loose translation of his quotes, from Portuguese to English, via FreeTranslation.com:
“I am not going to lie to you, I tried to leave from here several times, but Danny Ainge did not want me to leave,” Barbosa told the radio station. “He has admired my basketball for many years. I tried to obtain a good contract with the Boston Celtics, but that did not happen.”
Barbosa, the 2006-07 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, has averaged almost 11 minutes per game this season, a career low for the 30-year-old guard.