Beleedat: Marquis Daniels fights to play again

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Beleedat: Marquis Daniels fights to play again

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA

It began like a routine play. Marquis Daniels caught the ball near the baseline and attempted to drive to the basket against Gilbert Arenas. The two players collided and . . . in an instant, everything changed.

His right arm crashed into the parquet first, followed by his face. Daniels lay flat on the court, unable to feel his body but still conscious. He thought about his two young children Man, I cant raise my kids like this. This cant be it. as the crowd of 18,624 at the TD Garden came to a deafening hush, waiting and hoping to see any sign of movement.

Daniels heard a voice. In that moment, the most intense player on the court was suddenly the calming assurance he needed.

I just remember I kept hearing Kevin Garnett telling me, Youre gonna be alright. Youre gonna be alright, Daniels told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. I was like, I cant move. He said, What do you mean? He kept telling me I was gonna be alright. I think that helped me out a lot, just hearing his voice telling me I was going to be alright. I stayed calm, I didnt panic.

It was a trying time for me. I didnt take anything for granted. I was going to take everything seriously from now on.

It has been six months since Daniels suffered his terrifying injury on February 6 during the second quarter of a Sunday afternoon game against the Orlando Magic. Six months since he was temporary paralyzed and wheeled out of the Garden on a stretcher with his future in question. Six months since the Celtics lost a key player in their championship quest.

As Daniels works toward his return to basketball, so much has changed since then.

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Daniels shocking fall looked like a freak accident at first glance. After being transported to New England Baptist Hospital, he was initially diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord and was expected to miss at least one month.

Further testing, though, revealed he suffered from spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can put pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves, and can also cause numbness. (He was surprised to learn many injuries sustained during his career, including a nagging thumb injury, were tied back to the condition.)

The news meant his return to the court would be put on hold. First spine surgery, then recovery. Daniels, 30, took it all in stride.

Doc Rivers told me, I cant let you play no more like this, he recalled. I was like, Thats fine. Whatever this problem is, Ive got to get it fixed.

The Celtics had some fixing to do, too.

Without Daniels able to play, the team lost a critical piece to their championship hopes a back up swingman to both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Eyeing a long playoff run, the Cs needed another bench player to spell the veterans minutes. Less than three weeks after Daniels injury, the team made moves looking ahead to the postseason.

Daniels was traded to the Sacramento Kings on February 24. That same day, the Celtics acquired Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic in exchange for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, breaking up their starting five and adding new faces to the bench.

Green looked to be the reserve player the team needed to help fill the void Daniels left, but his contributions fell short down the stretch. The Celtics, who fell one win shy of their 18th NBA Championship the previous season, were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat.

Looking back on the Celtics season, Daniels doesnt want to attribute the outcome to his injury alone.

I dont know, he said. Things happen for a reason, so I dont want to put all of that on me. It was a key component. . . . Ray and Paul needed some help so they were forced to make some trades, but it was out of my hands. God works in mysterious ways.

Daniels never stopped pulling for the Celtics. These were the players who huddled around him and wouldnt leave his side until he was taken off the court in February. They were also the players who visited him in the hospital following his surgery in late March after he had been traded.

It is not surprising Daniels, an unrestricted free agent, mentions the Cs as he talks about the next steps in his basketball career. While many players are exploring international options during the lockout, he is focusing first on the NBA.

I definitely would like to be anywhere where a team wants me, he said. Im keeping my options open. I still root for the guys on the Celtics. Its a great organization. I talk to Paul (Pierce) and Kevin and (Rajon) Rondo and all those guys. So Id be open to coming back there as well.

"On his thoughts of playing overseas, he says, Im not sure. I cant say because theres so much going on right now that we have to stick together first as a union, and us players have to try to do whats best for us to try to make something happen sooner than later. And hopefully it can be sooner.

In the meantime, Daniels continues to work toward getting game-ready. He is able to lift weights, shoot, and run Considering where I came from, laying down there, couldnt move, its definitely great, he said and hopes to be cleared for contact drills this month. His injury in February hasnt discouraged him from playing tough. He is looking forward to taking his first hard foul.

Ive got to see how I react to it first, he said. I know its going to hurt. . . . Once I get that first hit, that first bump, Ill be ok.

While working toward his return to basketball, Daniels is also involved in several other projects and passions.

This summer Daniels hosted the Q6 Foundation 5th Annual Celebrity Weekend in Orlando to benefit his charity, the Q6 Foundation, which helps underprivileged children. The foundation also raises money and awareness for health concerns including sickle cell anemia. Rondo and former Celtic Tony Allen continued to show their support for Daniels by attending the event.

As another avenue to inspire others, Daniels has been involved in a project that documented him and other athletes as they recover from injuries. Although he could not divulge too many details, he shared it lets people know what theyre going through to get back and get healthy.

When it comes to his music, Daniels is still writing songs and working with his own artists to release their mix tapes. While he penned lyrics when he first joined the Celtics in 2009 (My life is very awesome Relax like Kevin Cossom I got so much green That's why they signed your boy to Boston), he hasnt written verses about his injury. In this case, Daniels doesnt want art to imitate life.

I was thinking about it, but its kind of a touchy subject, he said. I dont like to really, I dont even like to really look at it. It was such a strange accident. For me, for that to happen, I could have been in the air and got it. Who knows what could have happened then. Im just glad it happened the way it did and I was able to break my fall on him (Arenas) a little bit because I couldnt brace myself or catch myself from hitting the floor.

Without looking too often in the past, Daniels continues to move forward.

He knows the road back to basketball will not be an easy one the undrafted veteran never had anything handed to him in the first place. But as he left the court on a stretcher, he never doubted his ability to get back in the game.

Im a guy I dont get too high on the highs or too low on the lows, he said. If that was going to be it for me, I was willing to accept it. But I knew that I still had love for the game and I still could play, so Im always going to work hard to try to get myself back to the things I love doing and get back on the court.

Its a message he sums up in less than 140 characters every time he tweets to his more than 30,000 followers. His signature beleedat hashtag has taken on a special meaning since that afternoon in February.

Basically whatever you believe in, it can happen, he said. With my situation, I know a lot of people probably think, Hes done. He wont be back.

But beleedat I will be back.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA. She can be reached at jessicacamerato@gmail.com.

Celtics Question of the Day: Is Brad Stevens' honeymoon over?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Is Brad Stevens' honeymoon over?

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From now until the opening of training camp, we'll be asking a question about the Celtics and the upcoming season. Today: Is the honeymoon over for coach Brad Stevens?
 
BOSTON – When the Celtics convinced Brad Stevens to leave behind an incredibly successful college coaching career at Butler (two national title runner-up finishes) to become their head coach in 2013, the Celtics were immediately credited with having added one of the brightest young basketball minds to the family.
 
Three years into the job and Stevens has shown tangible improvement with Boston having won more games from each season to the next.
 
But this 2016-2017 campaign will be unlike any that Stevens has had while at the helm in Boston.
 
While the expectations each year have been greater than their immediate predecessor, Boston now finds itself going into the season as one of the hunted in the East as opposed to being well entrenched among the hunters.
 
Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook released its win total odds last week for NBA teams., predicting the Celtics (51.5) will be one of five teams (Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers were the others) expected to win at least 50 games.
 
But as we all have seen, expectations and actual results don’t always mesh.
 
Stevens has enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from the franchise and fans throughout his first three seasons.
 
But if Boston fails to live up to the increased expectations, does that mean the honeymoon for Stevens is over?
 
While anything is possible when it comes to Celtics Nation, it will take more than one sub-par season for him to lose the support of the team’s fan base.
 
Here are three reasons why regardless of how the Celtics fare this season, "In Brad we trust" will remain in effect.
 
YOUNG NUCLEUS
 
Boston has a roster full of what league execs like to refer to as "Young Veterans."
 
A great example of this is 27-year-old Isaiah Thomas who is heading into his sixth NBA season.
 
Thomas, a first-time all-star last year, has seen enough of the league to not be confused with a youngster. That said, he’s still young and has enough upside to where you can’t classify him as a grizzled veteran, either.
 
Because that makes up the majority of this Celtics roster, it speaks volumes about how this group still has a tremendous amount of room to grow going forward.
 
And because of that potential and Stevens’ track record of getting the most out of his players, you won’t see him or the Celtics panic if this season doesn’t play out the way they envision it.
 
STRONG FOUNDATION
 
In Stevens’ first year coaching the Celtics, there was a definite talent gap between what Boston put on the floor and what they had to deal with on the opposing bench.
 
And yet there they were most nights, fighting and clawing their way towards a competitive game that no most nights ended with a loss.
 
The silver lining in that 25-win season was how this Celtics team played with a never-give-up mentality, a trait they saw first-hand from their coach Brad Stevens.
 
Regardless of whether they were up 25 points or trailing, Stevens maintained an even-keeled demeanor that quietly accomplished a number of things.
 
For starters, it provided a sense of confidence among the players that their head coach wasn’t going to get rattled by a rough night or a stretch of rough nights.
 
Regardless of the results, Stevens was going to continue working towards getting better.
 
That was his approach when they were struggling to win games, and it remained in place last season when they spent a good chunk of the year ranked among the top teams in the East.
 
So with that being established as part of the foundation under Stevens, that foundation combined with better talent collectively led to more wins.
 
EVEN-KEELED LEADERSHIP
 
Stevens and the Celtics are now at a crossroads in which the steady improvement we’ve seen now must take that all-important next step and become one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
 
Again, it is much easier said than done but as every Celtics player will tell you, is definitely doable.
 
While Cleveland remains the standard bearer in the East, it is very wide open afterwards with Boston, Toronto and Atlanta the most likely teams to contend for the No. 2 spot in the East.
 
The mood is always a positive, upbeat one on the eve of training camp.
 
But the Celtics have more reasons than usual to be optimistic about their upcoming season which kicks off with training camp this week.
 
They have better depth with the additions of rookie Jaylen Brown and veterans Gerald Green and four time all-star Al Horford. Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder all return with the mindset being to build off of what worked for them last season.
 
And then there’s Stevens who has quickly established himself as a bright, up-and-comer in the coaching world.
 
But at some point, all that promise and potential he has shown as a coach has to ultimately lead to big-time production.
 
And the pressure that comes with that tends to build when the honeymoon that all coaches enjoy, is officially over.
 
Stevens is getting close to that point, but he isn’t there yet.
 
Much of his success will still be based on players striving towards reaching their potential.
 
Because of that, he won’t catch too much heat if the team underachieves in what will be a season in which the expectations have never been higher.
 
But that’s OK.
 
Because regardless of how the stakes may be, Stevens will continue to be an even-keeled, level-headed leader that Celtics Nation won’t turn its back on anytime soon.

NBA Question of the Day: How will Ben Simmons do?

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NBA Question of the Day: How will Ben Simmons do?

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From now until NBA training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the league and its upcoming season. Today: How will No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons do with the Philadelphia 76ers?

BOSTON – If you spent any time watching Ben Simmons beyond the 10-15 second highlights late at night, you would have seen a player whose potential as an NBA star is kind of scary.
 
There’s having size as a playmaker, and then there’s the 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons, who is as close to being a Magic Johnson clone, from a playmaking standpoint, as we’ve seen since the original 30-plus years ago.
 
Still, the Sixers of today will never, ever be confused with the 1980 Lakers.
 
The supporting cast was in place to help facilitate Johnson’s transition from college stud to NBA superstar.
 
In the case of Simmons, his success will be heavily predicated on two specific circumstances being created by the Sixers in order to fully take advantage of his strengths as a player.
 
WHERE DOES HE PLAY?
 
As tempting as it might be to have a 6-10 point guard on the floor, the Sixers know they can’t do that.
 
And the reason is pretty simple.
 
The reason you don’t see 6-10 (or 6-9 or 6-8 for that matter) point guards is because in order to play the position they have to be able to defend it, too.
 
Can you imagine Simmons trying to guard Isaiah Thomas with regularity for a game?

And if you get into the habit of cross-matching up all game long, it just opens a Pandora’s box of potential defensive gaffes with players either trying too hard to compensate for one another, or not recognizing when to help.
 
Simmons’ court vision is too great to not at least position him to be something of a point-forward. The Milwaukee Bucks are trying to do that with Giannis Antetokounmpo which thus far, has produced mixed results.
 
Regardless, the Sixers have to get the ball in Simmons’ hands and position him to make plays for his teammates. For all of his strengths, playmaking is what makes him a special talent. To not play to that strength and help him develop that even more so, would be stupid. 
 
 
WHO DOES HE PLAY WITH?
 
Philadelphia will once again lose a lot of games this season and that can certainly wear on the psyche of a young player like Simmons. It becomes even tougher when he’s making the right plays, getting the ball to guys where they can be most effective and the results are missed shot after missed shot.
 
It is absolutely imperative that the Sixers surround him with nice mix of guys who can shoot and/or finish at the rim.
 
Because with Simmons’ size and court vision, players with those skills as strengths will get opportunities to do what they do best.
 
Last season, the Sixers were in the bottom-10 in 3-point shooting (33.9 percent, 24th in the NBA) and field goal percentage (43.1 percent, 29th).
 
But here’s one of the dilemmas Philadelphia is facing.
 
They want to play faster which they were able to do last season as their PACE (number of possessions per 48 minutes) of 100.23 was the sixth-best in the NBA.
 
But this roster isn’t built to run a lot AND be effective offensively.
 
Look at last season.
 
They ran as much as any team in the NBA, and yet the Sixers had a league-worst offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 96.6.
 
And all that running seemed to wear them down more than their foes.
 
Their defensive rating was 106.7 which ranked 25th in the league.
 
With Simmons likely to start at small forward, he’ll be joined by Nerlens Noel and either Jahlil Okafor or Joel Embiid in the frontcourt. Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez are fighting to be the starting point guard. 

There are a number of directions Philadelphia can go at shooting guard (Hollis Thompson, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot), none of which are great choices frankly.
 
And while there’s no lineup that will fit perfectly with Simmons’ game, there are several that could make his rookie experience a horrible one not only in terms of wins and losses, but also in his overall growth and development as a player.
 
And let’s be clear about something.

If the Sixers are going to ever become relevant in the NBA other than being a punching bag for other teams and an easy punchline for late-night comedians, Simmons is going to have to be that game-changer.
 
Indeed, he is the best hope to be the unifying force for a Sixers franchise that has lots of quality pieces that, for now at least, don’t have a natural fit.