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Calling for Backup at the Point

Marquis Daniels keeps the ball away from LeBron James in preseason action. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

Regarding the Celtics’ recent backcourt backup woes, I wrote that “by no means is new acquisition Marquis Daniels point guard material.” I will not back down from that assertion because at 6’6″, Daniels is versatile, certifiable swingman material. Back in July, when Daniels verbally committed to the Celtics, the Boston Herald deemed him a backup for Paul Pierce. That may be Daniels’ ideal job description, but until further notice, he will be filling the void in the dreaded backup point guard role. I never said that Daniels isn’t backup point guard material, did I?

The backup point guard position has been essentially uncontested (and arguably unoccupied) in Boston for a few years now. (Recent un-notables: Stephon Marbury, Sam Cassell, Sebastian Telfair, Allan Ray, Gabe Pruitt…OK, this is depressing.) Currently, Eddie House succumbs to deer in headlights syndrome after more than four dribbles, and Lester Hudson, J.R. Giddens, and Bill Walker combine for almost less than zero years of significant NBA experience. Thus, the backup point guard job has been bequeathed to Daniels, who happens to be the Celtic who handles the ball better than anyone not named Rajon.

Turnovers = Tumult

Perhaps the least notable of the aforementioned un-notables is Marbury. In 23 regular-season games last season, Marbury averaged 1.6 turnovers in 18 minutes per game. In ten games this season, Daniels (who missed one game for personal reasons) is averaging 0.8 turnovers in 21 minutes per game. Marquis ensures that the ball in such good hands that he could be an Allstate spokesman.

Turnovers are a crucial statistic for point guards. That Daniels comes off the bench and averages less than one turnover per game speaks to his ability to manage the point and run the offense while Rondo takes a water break. Daniels may not necessarily pick up where Rondo leaves off, but he puts himself in the flow of the game and limits turnovers. Daniels is coming off career highs of 13.6 points and 1.7 turnovers per game with the Pacers last year. Due to his new-found point guard mentality, this year with the Celtics he has halved both his scoring (6.8) and his turnovers (0.8). In Boston, where big scorers run rampant, Daniels’ main responsibility is babysitting the ball for 20 minutes a night.

Per 48 minutes, Daniels commits only 1.8 turnovers. Rondo commits 3.2. Granted, Rondo plays more minutes and in higher-pressure situations, but Daniels falls right into the mold of a backup point guard. He shoulders Rondo’s load without doing anything fancy. In short, he gets the job done. If Marquis Daniels makes a name for himself in Boston, he will have either a) morphed into an NBA point guard who threatens to give Rondo a run for his money, or b) consistently made blatant and/or costly mistakes and made himself known for the wrong reasons. As long as he floats somewhere in between and avoids injury (something that he hasn’t done in any of his six previous NBA seasons), his marriage to the Celtics will be amicable.

An Array of Guard Play

There are a small handful guards in the league who run the point effectively, a medium-sized handful who run the point as necessary, and a heaping handful who run away from running the point. The Celtics are fortunate to have Daniels as a player from the medium-sized handful. While Marquis is not a prototypical point guard, he is a step up from the multiple seasons of lackluster second-string point guards in Boston. Plus, his versatility and experience as a two-guard could become invaluable later in the season when weary legs will need more rest. The Celtics have no need to shop around for anyone else to handle backup duty, especially if it would cost them an arm and a leg.

Overcoming Adversity

Speaking of arms, Daniels’ right forearm is tattooed with the quote “only the strong survive” inked above a guy blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Daniels says the guy is shooting himself because “he isn’t strong enough to deal with adversity.” Perhaps playing backup point guard for the Celtics is not exactly adversarial, but judging by the fact that Marquis’ head is still firmly on his shoulders, he seems to be satisfied with his role in Boston. Hopefully, unlike his un-notable predecessors, Marquis Daniels’ career will not be blown to smithereens after a brief tenure with the Celtics.

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One comment for “Calling for Backup at the Point”

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    Posted by Today’s Celtics Links 11/18 « Flceltsfan’s Weblog | November 18, 2009, 10:54 am

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