That was it for the college experience. Except, of course, for a lingering NCAA investigation of UNLV. Allegations have surfaced in the media that Daniels was the recipient of a car and cash. Asked about it, Daniels once again says, stiffly, "No comment."
Blake says that Daniels was "the biggest mistake Tarkanian ever made." Tarkanian says, "He has been nothing but a problem for me, but he's not malicious. He has great talent, he's very sweet and he's a good person."
Daniels has been in drug rehab twice in the last four years—if you believe him—or "four or five times," if you believe his best friend, Kevin Barry, who runs a Brooklyn shelter for drug abusers. Barry has kept Daniels in his home, helped him, nurtured him, counseled him. In gratitude, Daniels got high twice and Barry kicked him out. "If Lloyd stays clean and makes it to the NBA," says Barry, "it will be the greatest turnaround of all time. I Here is somebody worth two to three million dollars a year, and drugs overpower him." For now, Daniels is making $400 a week with the Tropics.
After leaving UNLV after his arrest in February 1987, Daniels went to play in the CBA with Topeka. He was released after 28 games because he was out of condition and because he failed to continue his drug rehab. Then he went off to Auckland, New Zealand, for about half a season. He left, he says, of his own accord, although published reports said he was dismissed for drinking. In 1989, he played four games for Quad City in the CBA before he was placed on waivers. Last fall he was cut in training camp by Albany.
Yet optimism continues to burn in some hearts. Tropics guard Ron Matthias, who does appear to be a potential NBA player, insists, "Give him a year and he'll play point guard for some team in the NBA." Of course, all Daniels's friends say he will. Barry says, "He's a Rembrandt on the court." Thus far, however, he's only painting by numbers.
Daniels hates any talk of being a legend. "A legend," he says, "is somebody old and washed up. I'm not old and washed up." He says all the playground legend chatter has been generated by the press. Daniels's agent, Thomas Rome of New York City, says he hopes to "shrink the legend to human proportions." That's a good idea; even extraordinary performances might not match what people think they saw Daniels do as a teenager up in Harlem or in the Bronx or out in Brooklyn. Barry says he remembers two games in which Daniels scored a total of 42 points and had 42 rebounds; naw, says Daniels, it was 22 rebounds. Barry and others also fondly remember the time in a park when Daniels took San Antonio point guard Rod Strickland to the cleaners. Naw, says Daniels, the only time he and Strickland played, they were on the same team.
In May 1989, Daniels was shot in the chest and neck during a reported drug dispute in Queens. He was in critical condition. "I was a little nervous when it happened," he says. "I still think about it. Wouldn't you?" No one was apprehended for the shooting. Of this litany of trouble, Daniels says, "Everybody messes up in life."
In reality, Daniels has played only two complete basketball seasons, both during his high school years. Like Zsa Zsa Gabor, he's mostly famous for being famous. Look closely at his game and it unravels like a ball of yarn.
He's 6'8" and he thinks of himself as a point guard, but he almost certainly is not quick enough or agile enough to play that position. He can't shoot well enough to play the off guard, and he is probably too short to play weak forward. Passing is his strength, although he tends to overuse his no-look number. He ranks seventh in the USBL in assists. He is unselfish, a rarity in basketball. "The perfect game for me would be 20 assists and no points," he says. Offensively, he is rusty, to say the least. In a game against New Haven on June 17, he was 0 for 8 in the first half. In consecutive games against New Haven, Philly and Long Island in mid-June, he shot 12 of 43 from the floor, including just 2 of 11 on three-point attempts. He shrugs and says, "You have to warm up a car before you can drive it."
Defensively, Daniels is a disaster. Dennis, who resigned last week, admits he yanked him out of the New Haven game because of this shortcoming. The 76ers' Weinhauer points out that as soon as Daniels is bumped while playing defense, he lets his man go and starts looking around for help. On the positive side, he does have a smooth game, but not in the classic manner of Walt Frazier or George Gervin. His smoothness sometimes makes it appear that he's not giving his maximum effort. Weinhauer says he never sees Daniels dive for a loose ball. That's ironic because Daniels says his sports hero is former New York Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles. "I saw him dive for the ball a lot," says Daniels. "I should try to play like him." Too often in a game, Daniels simply disappears. Poof. Even Daniels estimates he is now "60, maybe 65 percent of my old self. But I don't want to put a percentage on it."