(Editor’s note: My game recap will be posted late tonight, so don’t wait up unless you’re a real night owl.)
There are times in life when I wonder—wonder if I have my priorities straight, wonder if I should reorganize my attentions, wonder if I’m an absolute dick.
Hearing that Marquis Daniels may never play basketball again provided one of those moments. I’m pretty sure I haven’t mentioned Daniels once since he was traded away. Maybe once, actually, when I defended the Daniels trade because he wasn’t likely to play again this season and it opened a roster spot the Celtics could use on some other, physically able player. You know what they say, out of sight out of mind, and for Daniels that was definitely true.
I dwelled (dwell) on Kendrick Perkins, because he was essential to Boston’s cause during his time here, and because it was unclear (is unclear, really) whether the Celtics adequately replaced him in terms of their championship hopes. But trading Daniels was different, because Boston actually upgraded his position, and losing Daniels was clearly not important after the Celtics replaced him with Jeff Green. Meanwhile, Daniels wondered whether he would ever play basketball again.
Daniels was never my favorite player. I liked him enough, because he was always calm on the court, always steady. He was a far cry from Tony Allen, and to me, at least, that was Daniels’ best quality. He also cut to the hoop as well as any player the Celtics had, but really, let’s be honest—we’ll only talk about a player’s cutting if he’s not doing much else. Paul Pierce has cut to the bucket for a hoop on countless occasions, but I’ve never once heard someone praise his cutting. Why? Because Pierce scores buckets, many of them, while Daniels often made you forget he was even on the court.
Daniels was at his best against smaller players, when he could take advantage of a mismatch. At some point I became entirely convinced that Daniels, if God had made him a seven-footer, would have been the NBA’s best player. That was exaggeration speaking, but Daniels had a unique ability to put smaller defenders in a blender, finishing a variety of post moves, often from herky-jerky angles. He had the gift of abusing mismatches, but Daniels all too often disappeared on the court. And so I stopped discussing him, the moment he left Boston.
What I didn’t know was that Daniels was “having episodes” in his injured spine, that he was “going numb when he gets hit.” I didn’t know his spinal injury would require surgery, which might end his basketball career. I didn’t know, or didn’t realize, or wasn’t paying attention, that this was about far more than basketball, that Daniels’ injury seemingly threatens his lifestyle as well as, I’m sure, his happiness. Maybe I should have. I saw his head hit Gilbert Arenas, and I saw him fall lifeless to the floor. I was there, at the TD Garden, as he laid motionless on the court. I watched his teammates surround him and kneel next to him, and I could see the amount of concern on their faces. I heard 20,000 people completely silent for minutes, as a stretcher came out to take Daniels away. But the Celtics said he’d be alright in a press conference after the game, and then traded him away. So I stopped paying attention to what happened to Marquis Daniels.
Does that make me a dick? I don’t know. But these are the moments I wonder.