Daniels healthy, happy to be back with C's

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Daniels healthy, happy to be back with C's

WALTHAM Marquis Daniels is sporting a new jersey number (50) this season. And the man who's wearing it? He's changed as well.

The last time we saw Daniels on the court was 10 months ago

"Feb. 6," Daniels said. "I'm not going to forget that day."

That day he was being carried off the TD Garden floor on a stretcher, his neck immobilized, with most in attendance believing that would be the last time Daniels would play in the NBA, let alone a Celtics uniform.

Not only is he back with the C's, but the surgery he had following the injury has Daniels in the best health of his career.

"I feel stronger," Daniels told CSNNE.com. "I feel like I can go to the basket a lot stronger, and just take more contact as opposed to last year or years before where I was like, trying to shy away from it. Now I'm just getting loose and trying to just play my game."

But before he could return, Daniels knew he would need to take a hit -- probably to the head or back -- before he would truly feel comfortable back on the floor.

Playing with some college players at Auburn a couple months ago, Daniels was driving to the basket when he and another player bumped heads. After the head-to-head collision, a slow but steady stream of blood began to flow from a fresh gash.

And Daniels could not have been any happier.

"I'm bleeding, but my neck's OK," Daniels recalls thinking at the time. "Usually I'd be down."

But on this day, Daniels' feet never left the ground.

"I was just bleeding. I had a headache. But other than that," he said. "I was OK."

The contact was caused by Daniels being aggressive, something he says he's more capable of doing now as he begins his third stint with the Celtics. He owes it all to surgery that he says widened his spinal canal. He also had some bones shaved and screws inserted. It was the kind of invasive procedure that was an absolute must for him to continue playing in the NBA.

But even after the successful surgery, Daniels wasn't totally convinced his NBA career would resume.

"After surgery, I was in a lot of pain," he said. "It was some doubts in my mind: 'This could be it.' "

But as he got stronger and returned to working out, Daniels realized it wasn't a matter of if he would return -- but with what team.

His agent Mark Bartelstein told CSNNE.com that there were a handful of teams that Daniels was seriously considering. "But the Celtics were the team he wanted to be with from the beginning," Bartelstein said.

Daniels echoed those sentiments this week.

"I always told him (Bartelstein), Boston was my first option," Daniels said. "Team spirit, family unity and the tradition, the way everyone treats me here. I thought it was better for me. Considering everything else, I know the system, I'm comfortable here and the guys are comfortable having me here."

And now, in what may be the last run for the Celtics' Big Three, Daniels hopes to do his part to help them go out on a championship note.

"If we can all stay away from the injury bug . . ." said Daniels.

As an eight-year veteran who has played less than 70 games in all but one NBA season (74 games, 2007-2008 with Indiana), no Celtics player knows the value of having good health, better than Daniels.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."