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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
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
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)