Daniels in subtle but vital role for Celtics

By Andrew Perna | Nov. 12, 2009
Things haven’t always gone smoothly for Marquis Daniels.

He landed on the NBA radar after leading Auburn to the Sweet 16 in 2003, averaging 23.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in three NCAA Tournament games. Still, he found himself undrafted despite serious interest from the Dallas Mavericks.

The snub has driven him, even as he plays in his seventh professional season.

“I always keep a chip on my shoulder,” Daniels said. “There are still those teams that didn’t look at me, that didn’t pick me up, so I keep a chip on my shoulder regardless of where I’m at now.”

Not surprisingly, he signed with the Mavericks as an undrafted free agent and averaged 8.5 points and 2.6 rebounds as a rookie. His performance was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.

He enjoyed three successful seasons in Dallas on a team that was perennially in the playoffs and even came within two victories of winning the NBA title in 2006.

After 178 games over three seasons, averaging 9.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 23.7 minutes per game, the Mavericks shipped him to the Pacers in exchange for Austin Croshere.

At the time, feelings in Indiana were mixed. Croshere was a fan favorite, but Indiana was adding an explosive swingman just entering his prime.

The Pacers were admittedly in a transition period, but the playoffs were very much still a possibility as they looked to extend their postseason streak to a decade. Instead, Daniels appeared in just 45 games in that 2006-07 season due to injury and Indiana was essentially forced to deal Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington (along with Josh Powell and Sarunas Jasikevicius) to Golden State for Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod.

Three seasons later, Daniels had logged three years of service in Indiana without playing a single playoff game. His numbers increased in each of the three seasons, culminating in a career-best effort during the 2008-09 campaign.

He averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, but failed to play in more than 70 games for the fifth time in six seasons. With the Pacers still rebuilding and looking to get under the NBA’s decreasing salary cap, Daniels was allowed to hit the free agent market, where a number of teams came calling.

With Brandon Rush and a recovering Dunleavy under contract, there wasn’t much room (or money) for Daniels to remain in Indiana.

“There was some interest,” Daniels said of returning to the Pacers, “but I’m happy to be where I am now and looking forward to trying to finish things off right here.”

He missed a total of 73 games while with the Pacers and the team went through a lot of turmoil and roster turnover, but Daniels refuses to look back on his time with the club as anything but positive.

“Injuries happen, you’ve just got to be a professional about whatever it is and move on,” he said of his time with a team that went 107-139. “That’s what I’m doing now as I look to better my career.”

Fully healed from the wrist and knee injuries that hampered him in recent seasons, Daniels jumped at the chance to sign with a championship contender like the Celtics.

“There were a lot of teams that I was looking at, but it all came down to me wanting to come to Boston and be on a team that has a chance to win a championship,” Daniels said of his time on the free agency market.

The Celtics are 8-1 and Daniels is averaging 6.3 points, 2.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game for the 2008 NBA champions.

If he stays healthy and the Celtics make a deep playoff run, things will finally have gone as planned for the 6-6 swingman. His impact in Boston may not always be seen in the box score, but he may be the piece the Celtics were missing off the bench last postseason after James Posey signed with New Orleans following their title triumph in 2008.

Saturday’s game between the Pacers and Celtics at Conseco Fieldhouse will be a fun one for Daniels, who is working to maintain friendships with a number of his former teammates.

“I still talk to some of the guys,” he said. “All of them were great though, they’ve got a great locker room over there.”

With that said, he isn’t treating the contest any differently than the other 81 games on the schedule. When asked prior to Wednesday night’s game against Utah whether he was excited for Saturday night, Daniels had to be reminded that his former team was on the schedule.

“It’s just another game. You’ve got to treat them all the same.”

Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGm.com, one of the go-to Websites for NBA news and information.