Daniels finding his groove just in time for postseason

744364.jpg

Daniels finding his groove just in time for postseason

BOSTON Boston Celtics swingman Marquis Daniels has re-discovered his all-around game and his timing could not be better.

With the NBA players to begin this weekend, the Celtics backup is playing some of his best basketball at a time when he may be called upon in the games that matter most.

"We need it," C's coach Doc Rivers said of Daniels' strong play of late.

His contributions were among the keys to Boston's 78-66 win over the Miami Heat.

Daniels had the kind of all-around performance that the C's haven't seen nearly as much of as they would have liked this season.

He scored.

He rebounded.

He found teammates.

He picked pockets.

By the end of the night, Daniels had the kind of stat line that speaks clearly as to how, on any given night, he can help the C's in so many different areas.

He led all reserves with 13 points, in addition to tallying five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

When Daniels was playing regular minutes, he was often one of the last players to leave the practice floor or the morning shoot-around.

After his role diminished to the point where he wasn't playing at all, Daniels continued to work on his game, knowing that an opportunity to play might come about at any moment.

"Just trying to make sure I'm ready whenever my number is called," said Daniels, who had a strong game off the bench in the C's loss at Atlanta on Friday. "Staying after late, getting a workout in, coming in early, getting a workout in. Just taking advantage of the time that I get."

And while Daniels likely won't be in the Celtics regular playing rotation when the playoffs start, that doesn't mean the C's expect him to be a non-factor.

"You know it every year: someone who plays a little bit comes in in the playoffs and has a big game for you," Rivers said.

And Daniels certainly has to be included among the possibilities coming off the Celtics bench.

"Everybody in this room is talented," Daniels said recently. "One thing we can do, is go out and use our talent and play hard. All we have to do is play hard, and we'll be in every game."

Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists

kings_chris_webber_021817.jpg

Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists

NEW ORLEANS - Chris Webber and Rollie Massimino are one step from the Hall of Fame.

The career 20-point-per-game NBA scorer and the coach who led Villanova to a stunning upset of Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game were among the 14 finalists unveiled Saturday for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Webber played 15 seasons with five franchises, plus was part of Michigan's famed "Fab Five" group that headlined college basketball in the early 1990s.

"I don't know what I'm most proud of," said Webber, who averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in his career and was a five-time NBA All-Star. "I'm proud to be in the room with all these great individuals."

Other first-time Hall of Fame finalists include longtime NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut women's star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self, and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

"I still can't believe I'm here," McGrady said. "This is not even a dream come true."

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include star point guard and Olympic gold medalist Tim Hardaway, winningest all-time boys high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach and four-time Division III national champion Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU women's national champion team Wayland Baptist University.

"We are grateful to the 14 finalists in the Class of 2017 for the impact they have had on the game we cherish," Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "To be named a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment."

Inductees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. Enshrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are scheduled for Sept. 7-9.

Massimino, now an 82-year-old cancer survivor who is still coaching at NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a finalist for the first time. His Hall of Fame hopes have been backed by plenty of current and former coaches in recent months - including current Villanova coach Jay Wright, who presented Massimino with a championship ring from the Wildcats' 2016 NCAA title.

"Some days, we do take him for granted," Keiser guard Andrija Sarenac said. "But then you see him on TV so much, you see all these videos made about him, the movies about Villanova and everything, and it just hits you. You realize that he's a legend. I mean, your coach is a walking legend. With the energy and everything he comes in with, it's inspiring."

Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be enshrined. Among this year's candidates who did not make the finalist group: Muggsy Bogues, Ben Wallace, Kevin Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Mark Price, Lefty Driesell and Eddie Sutton.

Former New York Times sports writer Harvey Araton and former Turner Sports broadcaster Craig Sager will be recognized during Hall of Fame weekend as this year's Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients.

"A tremendous honor," said Sager's wife Stacy.

This year's lifetime achievement award recipients are former UConn coach Donald "Dee" Rowe and Michael Goldberg, who spent nearly four decades as executive director of the NBA Coaches Association. Goldberg died earlier this year.

"He bridged the gap between ownership and coaches," said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, who spoke about Goldberg on Saturday while wearing a bow tie - one of the signature wardrobe accessories that Goldberg donned for years. "He was just such a great guy."

Thomas on Skills Challenge loss: 'I guess it wasn’t the fourth quarter'

Thomas on Skills Challenge loss: 'I guess it wasn’t the fourth quarter'

NEW ORLEANS – Here’s hoping you got a chance to see Boston’s Isaiah Thomas compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday.

Because after yet another defeat, Thomas says he’s calling it quits on the event.

“That’s my last time doing it,” said Thomas who competed in his third Skills Challenge. “I can’t get a win. It’s fun, but it sucks losing. I hate losing no matter what it is.”

And the loss, which came in the semis to Utah’s Gordon Hayward, came about because of Thomas’ inability to knock down a 3-pointer.

“I couldn’t make a shot. I guess it wasn’t the fourth quarter,” quipped Thomas afterwards.

Although each player had their own set of challenges to wade through, Thomas admitted he went on the defensive when both players were trying to move on to the finals with one made 3-pointer.

“I knew he was shooting kind of fast,” Thomas said. “A couple of those shots, I was just trying to hit his ball; I was trying to make sure he didn’t make it.”

Regardless of how the Skills Challenge ended – New York’s Kristaps Porzingis was the winner - it doesn’t take away from what has been a strong start to the season for both Thomas and the Celtics.

But he understands the challenge that awaits him and the Celtics going forward as they try to continue rolling along as one of the top teams in the NBA despite having a roster that has been riddled with injuries this season.

“We’re like a next man … everybody has a next man up mentality,” Thomas said. “We don’t use excuses on why we lose games or why players are out, stuff like that. We don’t think about it when players are out.  When we know somebody’s out, it’s like, ‘OK, next man up. We have to take advantage.’”