The NBA Bubble according to Denver Nuggets’ Troy Daniels
Troy Daniels promises he didn’t intend to go viral. But thanks to the heightened intrigue around the NBA’s “bubble” in Orlando, the resorts which are housing 22 of the league’s 30 teams, that’s exactly what happened.
Two weeks ago, Daniels was observing the NBA’s mandated 48-hour quarantine as a preventive measure against COVID-19 at the Grand Destino when his food order was delivered late and wasn’t exactly the most aesthetically appetizing meal. With not much to do and a lot of time to kill, Daniels decided to innocuously post pictures of the meal on Instagram. It immediately became a trending topic on social media and the focal point of talking heads across the national media landscape.
“[I was] kind of surprised, but it’s about time,” Daniels told Nuggets.com joking referring to the attention he’s gained from that post.
Since that point, Daniels has become a must-follow for fans and observers of the NBA who want an inside look at life in the NBA’s bubble. His next post about his fits in Orlando also soared up the trending charts on social media and had fellow NBA players roasting his over the top looks.
“The reaction to bubble fits man,” Daniels pauses before laughing. “It’s funny because that picture I literally took when I was in Houston playing for the Lakers. Everyone thought I was in Orlando taking those pictures.”
Daniels insisted most of his pictures are from Florida though. Although all of the attention has greatly exceeded Daniels’ expectations, he’s enjoyed having a chance to connect with fans and colleagues through social media – especially since he’s separated from family as part of the league’s rules. He calls his 29th birthday, which he spent away from family and friends, the “most unique one of his life.” So, connectivity is important to Daniels.
“I’m just trying to give my fans and people who follow me a different outlook on what they may see [otherwise],” Daniels explained. “That’s what we’re going through in the bubble…It’s not about where you’re from, it’s about where you’re at. I’ve just dealt with it [the attention] and if I could do it over, I would literally do it over again. It’s just something I try to share with my fans, I’m just a realist.”
Although Daniels might post about things outside of basketball on his social platforms, ranging from cuisine to modeling outfits, make no mistake he’s a well-respected player in the NBA. If one scrolls through the comments of his birthday post on IG, they’ll see well wishes from some of the biggest names in the game, including Damian Lillard and Devin Booker. It is recognition for a player who has fought for each and every step of his NBA journey, coming into the league as an undrafted rookie out of VCU in 2013. Daniels joined the Nuggets on March 5 after being released by the Lakers four days earlier. It was just six days before the NBA decided to suspend the season due to the spread of Coronavirus pandemic. Having to learn the Nuggets offensive and defensive schemes and acclimate to new teammates, while observing social distancing, was challenging to the seven-year NBA veteran.
“It was like a whirlwind for me because I was literally there for maybe a couple of [days] and then the whole damn season was cancelled,” Daniels said.
Daniels was assigned a coach on the Nuggets and brought to speed while he was training in Los Angeles, where he resides. After several months away from Denver, the guard landed in the Mile High City a month ago hoping to finally practice with some of his teammates before the team’s practice center was closed due to several members of the organization testing positive for COVID-19. It was another setback, but Daniels focused on the one thing he could control: his attitude.
Ask anyone around the Nuggets about Daniels and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
“The thing that stands out to me when you speak about Troy Daniels is he’s a pro’s pro,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said in a Zoom conference last week. “He understands how to operate and he’s been obviously on a bunch of different basketball teams. I’m a huge fan of how he carries himself both on and off the court and in all matters of life. He’s really a tremendous person with unbelievable work ethic and a very mature approach in terms of being a basketball player.”
“Troy is a good teammate. [He’s] real outgoing, easy to get along with a great personality,” Will Barton III added. “[He] keeps the locker room light and he’s always smiling and joking. He fits right in.”
If there’s one thing that Daniels has learned in his NBA career, it’s that being genuine can leave a lasting impression in the league. He has played for seven teams and on each stop, he invests a lot of time in learning more about the coaches and players he’s going to work with. He’ll ask coaches about their families or players about the specific nuances of certain plays.
“A lot of guys can do it and try to be fake about it, but you actually have to be that guy [to earn respect,” Daniels explained. “I went undrafted, I don’t play 35 minutes a game. But I still am going into year eight next year in the NBA. So, it’s all about those intangibles that can take you further than expected.”
As good as a locker room presence as Daniels might be, he wouldn’t be on the Nuggets if he didn’t bring value as a player. With Denver sitting third in the Western Conference, one area where the team hopes to improve is in its three-point shooting. Prior to the NBA hiatus, the team was 24th in the NBA in made threes at 707, 26th in attempted threes at 30.4 per game and 15th in three-point percentage at 35.8. Daniels is a career 39.6 percent shooter from downtown and could provide a boost for Malone’s team in that respect. While he isn’t expected to have a large role in a Nuggets’ rotation that was largely set prior to his arrival, he could play a role in keeping opposing defenses honest in the postseason.
“Every NBA team knows who Troy Daniels is,” Malone said. “When he’s on the court, he’s going to garner their respect as a known knockdown three-point shooter.”
He added, “If you need a three, or spacing, he’s going to give you that.”
Having a taste of NBA contention with the Lakers earlier in the season is what drew Daniels to Denver, despite interest from elsewhere. Although he only averaged 11.1 minutes per game in Los Angeles, he showed what he was capable of on a team with big aspirations.
“There wasn’t much opportunity with the Lakers, but when I did play, I did what I was supposed to do and took care of business,” Daniels said.
He hopes to carry into the NBA restart tournament with Denver. He called Nikola Jokić the “best big” in the game in an earlier press conference, high praise considering he also played with Antony Davis. He is adamant the Nuggets are ready to contend and it’s all down to the team’s culture.
“Denver definitely has that culture [of winning],” Daniels said. “They have the right group of guys around each other and they’re almost the same off the court. Guys aren’t going out all of the time, they’re just really chill guys…You don’t really have to do much when you have those type of guys. When you have those type of guys with that type of talent, you can have something really special.”
Daniels hopes to be part of that success.
“I think we’re capable of taking it all of the way…It’s a realistic goal for us because we have the right personnel as well as the right coaching staff to take us far,” Daniels said. “It’s a testament to what this team has done up to this point – they were really rolling. I’m really excited to get out there and join in that success and hopefully, we can take things really far.”