Daniels Ecstatic to be in New Orleans
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

January 5, 2009

Now in his 12th NBA season, Antonio Daniels thought hed seen just about everything in pro basketball. In 1999, he won a championship ring, as a San Antonio Spurs reserve. Over the dozen years since he was chosen by the then-Vancouver Grizzlies as a lottery pick, hes played in over 800 career regular season games, along with 75 playoff contests. Hes also been a member of six different NBA teams.

There was one thing Daniels had never been a part of, however at least until Dec. 10: an in-season trade. Sure, the 33-year-old point guard had been traded twice before, but both of those transactions were made during the relative calm of the summer. This time, when the Hornets completed a deal with the Washington Wizards to land Daniels, it marked the first time the Ohio native was forced to make an on-the-fly adjustment to new teammates, new coaches and a new city.

Despite the temporary upheaval caused by moving from our nations capital to the Big Easy, Daniels was thrilled when he heard about the trade. After the Wizards dreadful start to this season, joining the Hornets meant an immediate jump in the standings and a chance to compete for an NBA championship.

Ive been in this league for awhile, so you understand that this is a business, Daniels says of being traded. But when I heard I was coming to New Orleans, I was ecstatic, because of how good this team is. This is an ideal situation for me at this point in my career, because you always want to go somewhere where a team has an opportunity to be a contender.

When youre younger, it doesnt bother you to be part of a teams restructuring or rebuilding process. But as you get older, you want to play with a team that has an established identity. For a number of different reasons, I was extremely excited to come here.

Daniels joined his new club 48 hours after the trade, on Dec. 12 in Boston. Although he suited up for that evenings ESPN-televised matchup against the Celtics, he did not appear in the game, still in the midst of learning the Hornets playbook and getting acquainted with his new teammates. Although he did not play in the loss against the defending NBA champions, he still calls that night an eye-opening experience. New Orleans has earned a reputation around the league for being one of the most close-knit teams in the NBA, something Daniels witnessed first-hand in Boston.

When I first got on the bus in Boston, everyone made me feel like Ive been a part of this team for years, says a surprised Daniels. I actually never felt like the new guy here. These guys have made me feel welcomed from the moment I got here.

Thats one of the first things I noticed, Daniels continued, smiling. This is a great group of guys. Whats also great to see is that winning is the only concern here. No one cares who gets the credit. No one cares who has a good game and who doesnt. Guys sincerely root for each other, and thats great to see. I tell my mom, This feels like a college basketball team.

When he made those comments, the former Bowling Green standout had just participated in a team-wide halfcourt shooting contest at the end of a Hornets practice. The impromptu competition was filled with a stream of good-natured trash talk, boasts from players about who they believed would win, along with a few insults directed at Hornets whose 50-foot attempts were not even close to hitting the rim. Several of those barbs were coming from none other than the NBAs 2007-08 Coach of the Year, Byron Scott.

I had no idea that he was as cool of a guy as he is, Daniels said of Scott, whose often stern demeanor during games may lead some to mistakenly believe that Scott has an uptight personality. The fun that this team has, all of that starts at the top with Coach Scott. He has a lot of fun with the players. But at the same time, when its time to get serious and go to work, everybody knows that its time to work.

Speaking of work, while Daniels appreciates how quickly hes been accepted by his new teammates, he knows that he was brought to NOLA to fill a specific on-the-court need. Namely, to serve as a savvy, experienced backup point guard, who can play a key role in helping New Orleans advance further in the postseason. The Hornets have never gone deeper than the second round of the playoffs, but additions including Daniels and fellow veteran reserve James Posey were made with the objective of putting together an extended postseason run.

I think thats huge to have experience coming off your bench, Daniels says. Coming off the bench for a lot of my career, one thing Ive learned is how important the bench is to the success of all teams. All-Stars and superstars are going to do what they do on a nightly basis thats what makes them stars. But for us to be successful as a team, the guys who come off the bench here have to know our role and play it to the best of our ability.

Daniels also realizes that as the backup behind All-Star and 2007-08 league MVP runner-up Chris Paul, hes probably not going to receive significant playing time. Through his first few weeks with the Hornets, Daniels was averaging about 12 minutes per game.

After 12 years in the league, I didnt need to go somewhere and play 30 minutes a game anymore, Daniels says. To play consistently, to play 15 minutes or so a night on a very good basketball team, and to also have an opportunity to play behind arguably the best point guard in this league in Chris Paul, thats a blessing.

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