OFFSEASON

Rivers: Daniels is key to us winning

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Rivers: Daniels is key to us winning

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM - Last season the Boston Celtics turned to Tony Allen to shut down LeBron James and Dwyane Wade during the playoffs.

When James and Wade joined forces on the Miami Heat, the question arose, ''How will the Celtics defend both players on the court at the same time?''

And when Tony Allen signed with the Memphis Grizzlies shortly thereafter, the question arose, "Who will defend James and Wade?"

The answer is, there is no answer right now. Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com he doesnt know if the Celtics have "that guy" yet, but he has someone in mind to help fill that role as the C's battle the Heat on Opening Night.

While Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will take on James and Wade in the first unit, Rivers believes Marquis Daniels could make an impact defensively off the bench -- one that goes beyond Opening Night.

"He's huge. Marquis is key to us winning this year," Rivers said. "The better he plays, the better our team will be because it makes our bench better."

Daniels is eager to live up to his coach's praise. After missing the majority of last season (his first with the Celtics) due to injuries, Daniels feels he can be a serious contributor this time around.

"I thank Doc for thinking highly of me," he told CSNNE.com. "I've just got to come in and prove him right, just go out there and do everything he asks me to do."

If that means locking down on James or Wade on Tuesday night, Daniels is up for the challenge. His plan of attack -- play aggressive basketball by making them work on both ends of the court.

"I try to take them out of their comfort zone," he explained. "There's not much they can't do, but you've got to make them do stuff they're not accustomed to doing. You know they get to the basket, so I try to get them to shoot more contested, harder shots. Just make it challenging for them."

Daniels was lauded for his defense before he signed with the Celtics in 2009, but his full potential was never achieved last season. When he was healthy enough to play, he struggled with inconsistencies. Daniels was determined to change that this summer.

So far he has impressed with his improvements on the offensive end. Now that he is injury-free, Daniels believes he has a lot to showcase on the defensive end as well.

"I'm a solid defensive player," he said. "I use my length, I use my strength, and I try to make it tough for guys, no matter what it is. I've got to challenge the ball, pressure all shots. I've just got to go out there and be a pest."

Daniels could get his first shot on Opening Night.

"He's been great," said Rivers. "So he's got to keep it going."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA.

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA