WHILE MUCH more was made of Boston's off-season signing of Rasheed Wallace, Paul Pierce is among several Celtics looking forward to playing with a less-noticed arrival, Marquis Daniels. "Last year Paul had to guard the best guy every night the whole season," says Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It hurt Paul's offense, it hurt his efficiency, and it really hurt him in the playoffs. Now with Marquis we've added a guy who can defend and score at the three and the two."
In addition to providing relief on the wing for Pierce and Ray Allen, the 6'6" Daniels will earn backup minutes as a point guard, finally giving Boston someone to bring up the ball and initiate the offense while Rajon Rondo is resting. Last year with the Pacers, Daniels slashed to a career-high 13.6 points per game. His 2.1 assists were offset by a career-worst 1.7 turnovers per game. "I'm not concerned," says Rivers of Daniels's occasionally poor decision-making. "We're a ball-movement team, and in the past I've taken guys and reduced their turnovers."
Celtics president Danny Ainge has coveted Daniels since 2003, when he was an undrafted free agent out of Auburn and spurned Boston to sign with the Mavericks. "The last few years against us, he gave us all sorts of fits," says Ainge. "He's a versatile guy we can play small or big lineups with, and in all of our research he came out as a very well-liked guy in the locker room."
Now that Daniels, who signed a one-year, $2 million biannual cap exception deal, has landed with a title contender, he is grateful that teams snubbed him on draft night. "It took me from being hungry to starving," he says. "I still have that chip on my shoulder every night when I go out there to just prove that I belong." If he can stay healthy—he has missed 141 games in six NBA seasons—Daniels could be celebrating in June, which is the best month of all to have the last laugh.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: F-C Rasheed Wallace, 12.0 PPG; G Eddie House, 8.5 PPG; F-C Glen Davis, 7.0 PPG; G-F Marquis Daniels, 13.6 PPG • New acquisition
COACH: Doc Rivers (sixth season with Celtics) • 2008--09 RECORD: 62--20 (first in Atlantic)
POINTS SCORED: 100.9 (11th in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 93.4 (third in NBA)
Free throw percentage last season for Ray Allen, the highest of his 13-year career and a record for the Celtics. The franchise's previous mark of 93.2% was set in 1958--59 by Bill Sharman.
ENEMY LINES | A RIVAL SCOUT ON THE CELTICS
They have a couple of question marks—one is age, and the other is having no backup for Rajon Rondo. But their starting five is the best in the league.... Rondo had a rough off-season with all the rumors that they were looking to trade him, but I don't believe it will influence their season—the coaches and players will do such a good job making him believe he's part of their leadership. There's no doubt he's a premier point guard.... How tough is Paul Pierce? Look at the way teams prepare for him. A guy as good as Ray Allen, they focus on stopping him at the end of the quarter or the end of the game. But all game long defenses are all over Pierce. When he isn't shooting well he'll get something done going to the basket.... I expect Kevin Garnett to come back strong. He knows—they all know—that if they're going to win another championship, it has to be now. Allen is in the final year of his deal, and who knows how the economy is going to affect the league after this year.... If it's a tight game in the final five minutes, will Rasheed Wallace be in or Kendrick Perkins? I think it will be Perkins because of his defense down low.
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (DANIELS)
MARQUIS DANIELS By signing the swingman, the deep got deeper.
GREG NELSON (PIERCE)