When the Celtics picked up Marquis Daniels in the offseason, you might have thought they primarily wanted him for scoring off the bench; a more under-control offensive weapon with a higher basketball IQ than Tony Allen.
But as Boston prepares for a conference semifinal matchup with the Cavs, Daniels — who played a total of six minutes in the first round against Miami — is being called upon for his defense. Along with Paul Pierce, the 6-6, 200-pound Daniels should be a key part of the defensive game plan against LeBron James. From the Boston Herald:
Celts coach Doc Rivers knows his substitutes will be very important against the Cavaliers.
“We don’t need them all, but we need a couple in every series,” Rivers said. “This is a series we may need Marquis because of LeBron. He’s done decent against him.”
Before Daniels tore ligaments in his left thumb, requiring surgery in December, he was indispensable off the pine. That was evident in the season opener in Cleveland six months ago when the subs saved the day, and Daniels led the way with a plus-11.
Now he’s hoping for a similar opportunity.
“He told me to be ready for it,” Daniels said of Rivers. “I’ve just been trying to stay upbeat and positive about whatever goes on, so whenever my name’s called or my number’s called, I’ll be ready.”
Being ready for LeBron James is a tenuous proposition at best.
“The guy can do a lot of good things,” Daniels said. “If he gets his jump shot going, he can drive and pass the ball extremely well. The best you can do is just try to make it uncomfortable for him.”
Before I started closely following the Indiana Pacers last season, I didn’t know too much about Daniels other than he’d dropped buckets at Auburn, he had some crazy tattoos (the guy eating a shotgun on Daniels’ forearm is particularly powerful), and he sometimes looked like an aerobics instructor on the court with his legwarmers and other accessories.
Last year, though, I got an appreciation for Daniels’ game. Among the League’s bench guys, Daniels is one of the best at moving without the ball and creating shots for himself. He’s crafty with the ball, and averaging 13.6 points a night with Indiana, was often the #2 scoring option behind Danny Granger. Defensively, he wasn’t the guy who was gonna lock down Dwyane Wade or anything, but he was good enough to hold his own against some elite scorers.
The Celtics saw that, too, and after an injury-riddled season, now it’s time for their investment in Daniels to start paying off.
If you’re coaching the Celtics, how would you plan to guard LeBron?