Aug. 16, 2007
The first thing you notice about Marquis Daniels these days is the smile.
No, that's not quite right. The first thing you notice is that he's here, again, like he has been most every day since before the season even ended. First it was rehab, then strength and conditioning work, then on-court drills, and now a little bit of everything.
The broad, bright smile is the product of that work. Entering his fifth season, Daniels is ready to trade potential for production, frustration for fulfillment.
"I feel like it's time," he said. "I've been through a lot, from personal issues to coaching changes to injuries to whatever the case might be. It's time for me to put together a full year, go through things and take it all in stride. … I'm very excited. I haven't really had a season where I've come in feeling close to 100 percent."
Daniels should be a perfect fit for new Coach Jim O'Brien's more aggressive offensive tempo, in addition to his solid perimeter defensive skills. The coach has long been aware of his talent and has been suitably impressed this summer by Daniels' commitment.
"What he has shown me, more than anything else, is dedication to this organization by being here on a regular basis to make sure he's going to come into training camp healthy, conditioned and focused," O'Brien said. "Anybody that has spent the consistent amount of time that Marquis has spent here really is someone that you're anxious to coach and you're anxious to have on the team. I think he's going to have a real good year.
"He's made for an up-tempo attack. Not having Marquis at the end of the season really hurt this franchise. You can't control injuries but if we can keep him healthy, he'll be -- as a result of his dedication to his body -- a major, major factor for us."
Daniels, whose ability to break down most any defense with his methodical weaves through the lane sets him apart from most of his teammates, is likewise looking forward to playing in O'Brien's "3-second offense" in which players are encouraged to get the ball across halfcourt as quickly as possible to put pressure on the defense.
"I like Coach O'Brien's philosophy of getting the ball up court in 3 seconds," Daniels said. "A lot of things can happen. Even the halfcourt offense is open with a lot of ball movement and player movement and that fits into my game so hopefully I can come out and have a good year this year."
Thought to be the centerpiece acquisition of the offseason of 2006, Daniels had perhaps his most frustrating year. A hamstring injury cost him vital preparation time in training camp and the preseason. By the time he became comfortable with the system and was able to carve a sizeable niche – averaging 13.2 points in a five-game stretch in January – his left knee started acting up.
After missing six games, he returned and scored 22 to help spark a 136-129 double-overtime victory over Milwaukee that pushed the Pacers' record to 29-24. But the knee only got worse, he soon returned to the inactive list and the season spiraled downward. Daniels' injury coincided with the decisive 11-game losing streak.
It was a frustrating irony: in his absence, Daniels ultimately demonstrated his value.
He's determined to do it with his presence this season.
"I feel 100 percent better than I did last year," he said. "I'm looking forward to being injury-free this year, just staying humble and staying blessed.
"I haven't really felt this way since my rookie year. Coming in from my rookie year I tore two ligaments in my ankle, then after that year I had my hamstring problems and my knee problems. Thank God I got here with (trainer) Josh (Corbeil) and (assistant trainer) Carl (Eaton) and (strength and conditioning coach) Shawn (Windle) in the weight room; they've been doing tremendous work for me.
"They're just great at what they do. I come in ready to listen and get better. You've got to be willing to do it and be dedicated to getting better and they've been helping me out a lot."
Daniels finished his rookie season in Dallas by averaging 14.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the final 24 games but finished the season with torn ankle ligaments. His second season was interrupted first by an appendectomy, and then by a left-ankle injury. Just as he got on a roll in '05-06, averaging 17.2 points in a nine-game span, Daniels suffered a sprained neck that ultimately cost him 16 games. He fell out of favor with Mavs coach Avery Johnson and was dealt to the Pacers for Austin Croshere.
Determined to break out of that pattern, Daniels committed fully to his rigorous offseason schedule. He was supposed to take a vacation to visit family a couple of weeks ago but work just keeps getting in the way.
"You've got to be dedicated and you've got to be committed to what you're doing," he said. "I didn't like the way things ended with our team last year, so I just figured if I come in and put more effort and work into getting healthy and staying healthy this year it'll all pay off and hopefully we can have a better outcome next year."
If all goes according to plan, Daniels' versatility could make a big difference. So could his determination.
"When Oct. 31 gets here," he said, "I look forward to unleashing a lot of frustration."
WORKOUTS COULD DETERMINE REGGIE'S DECISION
Reggie Miller apparently won't make a decision on his possible comeback with Boston until completing a series of two-a-day workouts to test his body's readiness. The Boston Globe reported one of Miller's neighbors in Malibu, Calif., is none other than Kevin Garnett, so it seems he'll have plenty of company.
Miller, who turns 42 next Friday, would be a welcome addition to a Boston bench otherwise bereft of scoring punch, assuming his body responds to the workouts.
"I think he’d be a great addition, another veteran," Paul Pierce told the Globe. "Regardless of his age, he’s a guy you’d still have to pay attention to out there, late-game situations also.
"It would definitely be weird, a guy who’s Mr. Pacer. It would be like if I turned 33 and if I went somewhere else. He was there, what, 18 years in one uniform? I guess he said if (Michael) Jordan can do it, why not him?"
There's a pretty long list of answers to that one, but we've already covered that.
Stanko Barac, the 7-2 center acquired by the Pacers in the second round of the NBA Draft, reportedly has signed a five-year contract with legendary Spanish team Tau Ceramica, a sizeable leap up in competition from the Adriatic League. It's roughly the equivalent of making the leap from Double-A to the major leagues but he won't be rushed. Tau already has Tiago Splitter, Will McDonald and James Singleton on the front line, meaning Barac will have the luxury of time to develop.
In the good things happen to good people department, it was nice to read that Josh Powell signed a three-year contract with the Clippers earlier this week. Powell, a 6-9 forward with a strong work ethic, played well in a limited role after being included in the eight-player trade with Golden State but didn't figure in the Warriors' plans.
The preseason schedule offers a couple of tasty morsels as No. 2 pick Kevin Durant and the Sonics visit Conseco Fieldhouse on Oct. 13, while Lawrence North product Mike Conley visits with the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 17.