Nobody really noticed it, but Tim Cowlishaw reported on Twitter earlier today that Antoine Wright was going to sign a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings. With guys like Wright and Royal Ivey gone, there were fewer and fewer competent wing players available to back up Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, a back-up role currently being filled by exactly no one.
The Celtics had three options:
1) Sign a veteran wing with the minimum salary exception. There really aren’t any attractive options;
2) Work a trade with Rasheed Wallace’s contract. This is proving dicey, and even if they could nab one competent wing with Sheed’s deal, the C’s still need two guys capable of backing up Pierce and Ray;
3) Use their Pseudo Bird Rights to re-sign Marquis Daniels;
The more players plucked from the Minimum Bin, the more likely it appeared the C’s would have to use option #3 and bring back Daniels. They have done so, according to Chris Tomasson at FanHouse.
Daniels is coming back on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.*
Neither side is thrilled with this deal, no matter what they say publicly. The C’s did not consider Daniels a priority, and Daniels did not fancy a return to Boston. This is a marriage of necessity. The C’s need live bodies on the wing, and Daniels is approaching 30 and needs a job. He’s actually getting a raise despite his disappointing season in ’10, which shows you how desperate Boston is for someone who can play competent ball at the two and three spots.
The presence of Nate Robinson means Daniels likely won’t have to worry about playing any point guard next season, which is probably a good thing.
So what happened last season? The general narrative goes like this: Daniels was playing well before hurting his wrist about 20 games in. He missed two months, and when he came back, he looked tentative. At the same time, Tony Allen raised his game, and Marquis found himself on the bench.
Is that really what happened?
Sort of. If you look at his season splits, he actually shot the ball almost exactly as well from the floor after the All-Star break (49.6 percent) as before (50 percent even).
It’s the other stuff where you notice the difference. Despite playing nearly 100 more minutes and 9 more games after the All-Star break, Daniels grabbed only nine more rebounds than he did before the break. He got to the line fewer times, dished fewer assists and swiped fewer steals.
It wasn’t an illusion. Daniels was not the same player after his wrist injury.
Here’s a quick (and incomplete) list of things Daniels can do make his second season in Boston a success:
• Continue to hit from the mid-range. Daniels hit 46 percent of his long two-pointers last season, by far his best mark in recent years, according to Hoopdata. Daniels had been around 31 or 32 percent during the three prior seasons. Was 2010 a fluke aided by a small sample size? Or can Daniels become a consistent shooter as he ages?
• Get to the line more and hit your free throws. Marquis attempted just 2.2 foul shots per 36 minutes last season, the lowest mark of his career. He also hit just 60.7 percent from the line, which is weird, considering he’s a career 72 percent foul shooter who had never before dipped below 69.8 percent in a season. That’ll correct itself.
• Rebound, rebound, rebound. You may have heard that Boston’s rebounding ranged from average to terrible depending on the opponent. With their core big guys aging and recovering from injury, this is a problem everyone must play a part in solving. That includes Daniels, who posted the worst rebounding numbers of his career last season.
• Defense. Duh. Daniels has the potential to be a solid defender in Boston’s system. He’s smart, he positions himself well and he does not bite on pump fakes. It is uncanny how steady he is in that regard.
So: Welcome back the Grand Marquis.
The C’s now have 11 players guaranteed to be on next season’s roster, a number that, for now, does not include Rasheed Wallace, who technically remains signed and could be player #12 if he does not retire. Assuming Sheed does retire, Boston still has at least two roster spots to spill. Look for them to add another wing and another big man, and to probably sign Luke Harangody.
Is this roster enough to contend with Miami?
*Assuming the salary numbers at ShamSports.com are right—and that Daniels made $1.99 million last season—the C’s can only offer him a maximum of $2.4 million, according to Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ.