When the Boston Celtics signed Marquis Daniels last offseason, coach Doc Rivers' cell phone immediately began to light up. Calls flooded in from his coaching brethren, who were downright incredulous that a loaded Boston squad added Daniels -- a player coming off a career year in Indiana -- and did so for a mere $1.9 million, the sum of the bi-annual exception.
"It's amazing when we signed him how many coaches called and said, 'How'd you pull that off?'" Rivers said this year.
The answer soon became evident. Daniels sat out 28 games last season after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, the latest ailment in a career often detoured by injuries. Daniels looked a bit hesitant upon returning, and with the lack of a defined role he found himself out of Rivers' rotation for the final part of the year.
When the Celtics re-signed Daniels this offseason at a reasonable $2.4 million -- utilizing Non-Bird Rights to retain their own free agent at 120 percent of his previous value -- Rivers probably fielded a few calls asking why the team would even bother.
Here's why: When able to avoid the injury bug, Daniels is one of the most versatile and productive swingmen in the league. During the 2008-09 season, he averaged a career-high 13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 54 games for the Pacers.
And it didn't hurt that Boston desperately needed a backup swingman when Tony Allen bolted for Memphis.
Can Daniels stay healthy? For his career, he has missed a whopping 172 of a potential 574 games over seven seasons (an astounding 30 percent of potential games). Only once has he missed less than 20 games in a season (logging a career-high 74 appearances in 2007-08).
So what can we expect for production from Daniels? We asked our panel of 18 writers from eight of our favorite Celtics blogs to predict his stat line for the 2010-11 season. The expectations ran the gamut, but averaged out at 7.8 points and 3.3 rebounds over 18.3 minutes per game (Daniels averaged 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds over 18.4 minutes per game last season).
What our panel essentially foresees is for Daniels not to return to the status of his career year in 2008-09, when he started 43 games for Indiana. Our experts instead simply expect the 2007-08 Daniels, who averaged 8.2 points and 2.9 rebounds over 20.9 minutes while staying healthy for much of the season.
But is that what we'll get?
Here's our take: Even beyond the thumb injury, the biggest obstacle Daniels faced last season was his undefined role. His versatility might have actually damned him in his first season in Boston as the Celtics leaned on his ability to handle the ball and rolled the dice without signing a true backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo. With Nate Robinson back (and rookie Avery Bradley in the fold), there's no such trouble this sesaon. And without Allen, the Celtics need Daniels to be a backup small forward and nothing more. Daniels must strive to be a defense-first player off the bench -- something he excelled at early last season -- and any offense he gives the Celtics is a bonus. And he has to stay healthy. While Boston is likely to cap its roster with another perimeter player, it's imperative Daniels avoid long absences or else he won't be able to maintain the confidence of his coach. Final stat line: 7 points and 3 rebounds over 22 minutes per game.
Our panel absolutely brought its A game when offering thoughts on Daniels. That included comparisons to the iPhone 4, a date that routinely stands you up and an Australian Pink Floyd cover band:
Brian Robb, CelticsHub (8 points, 3 rebounds, 23 minutes)
Daniels' performance next season is one that bears close watching for C's fans. Brought back on a one-year $2.4 million deal, purely out of necessity more than anything else, Daniels follows up last season's disappointing campaign as the team's top reserve at a wing position thin on depth. The C's can't afford another down year from Daniels, with Tony Allen out of the picture and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce one year older. Those guys need to have their minutes kept down during the regular season more than ever, and Daniels needs to hold his own as a key reserve. The good news is I expect Marquis to step up to the challenge. A clean bill of health and not having to learn a new system should do wonders for Daniels' play as he becomes more comfortable in Celtic green without having to battle TA for minutes. The guy has the overall skill set to be a big contributor; I just don't think we saw him really healthy at all last year. If he can stay healthy (a huge if, I know), Daniels has both the ability and a strong supporting cast on the bench to excel in his role this season. I don't expect him to play 82 games, but a strong bounce-back performance -- in a make-or-break season for his career -- should be in the cards.
John Karalis, Red's Army (12 points, 4 rebounds, 25 minutes)
Oh Quisy… 25 minutes, 12 points, 4 rebounds. And 2 injuries. Sorry, I can't help the shot. I so want Daniels to work out this season. He's Pierce's backup. He's nothing else. He's not Mr. Do-It-All like last year. This year, he's a 3, and only a 3. My optimistic side says the focused role will be great for him. And after last year's "lost" season, he's itching to prove a lot of people wrong. My pessimistic side says his body won't give him the chance.
Jay Ouellette, Red's Army (7 points, 3 rebounds, 16 minutes)
Honestly, I'd be thrilled if he can stay healthy for more than two weeks at a time. Marquis is like getting an iPhone 4 from a bad batch. So much potential to help in so many areas and works great when you know it's not broken or malfunctioning for some nagging reason. If Danny Ainge fails to find another wing player to replace TA, then Marquis' role is quietly huge. Pierce and Ray Allen will need to be spelled for good chunks at a time and Quis has yet to prove that he can be reliable. I'm predicting he plays about 60 games with averages of 16 MPG, 7 PPG, 3 RPG.
Jimmy Toscano, CelticsBlog (7 points, 2 assists, 20 minutes)
At the beginning of last season, everyone was so high on Daniels -- then something happened. The injury to his left thumb put him on the shelf for a while, and he was never the same when he returned. At one point, Rivers and the players called him one of the best defenders on the team and one of the best cutters on the team. Those attributes don't just leave a player overnight. I think Daniels makes a strong recovery this season and becomes last season's Tony Allen. He won't shine in the box scores but he will be the guy who does all the little things and spells Ray Allen and Pierce at times. I predict around 7 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game. Of course, all this can happen only if he stays healthy -- which I will not predict.
Greg Payne, CelticsBlog (7 points, 3 rebounds, 19 minutes)
It can be difficult to have expectations for a player with a history of injuries like the one Daniels has. It's sort of like dating a girl who routinely stands you up. After a certain period of time, you just sort of expect it to keep happening. However, I have to believe Daniels will put forth a quality season, mainly because the Celtics have so few options at small forward behind Pierce. I don't like the idea of Von Wafer seeing substantial minutes at the spot, leaving Daniels as the primary reserve. I still really like Daniels' in-between game, particularly those "tweener" jump shots he often resorts to once he slashes into the lane. Midway through training camp last season, Rivers labeled Daniels as one of team's best defenders, and I can't see the thumb injury he suffered last season taking that potential away from him. He will be the team's defensive stopper on the perimeter behind Pierce, whether fans like it or not (unless Wafer miraculously turns out to be an incredible one-on-one defender). I'll consider it a successful season for Daniels if he can play 70-plus games, play aggressive defense and provide quality support for Pierce.
Jay King, Celtics Town (8 points, 3 rebounds, 18 minutes)
For better or worse, Daniel is the first wing off the bench. I'm not sure yet whether that's good or bad; he is a tough dude to read. There's no way around it, he was bad last season. Really bad. But it's a new year and I'm willing to give him a clean slate. I expect more from him than last season. I just don't want to get my hopes up because the prevailing image of his 2009-10 season is of him rotting away on the bench (or him getting concussed by Dwight Howard). Predicted averages: 18 minutes, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists.
Brandon Paul, Gino's Jungle (7 points, 2 rebounds, 15 minutes)
To be quite honest, I have no expectations for Daniels. I really like what he can bring to the team, but the question is whether or not his body allows him to bring it to the team. I can see him being the first or second wing player off the bench, or a guy who gets free courtside seats every game. I truly don't know what to expect from Marquis, I just hope it ends up being good.
Lee Herman, North Station Sports (8 points, 2 rebounds, 13 minutes)
'Quise needs to rebound from a poor second half of last year that found him entrenched firmly next to Brian Scalabrine at the end of the bench. It really depends on Doc's confidence in him since he needs to play consistent minutes to find that sweet spot in his game when he can hurt the opposition with his mid-range game or by getting to the rim. He will be used most as the backup for Pierce but needs to be able to play the 2 when called upon. Optimistically I would pencil in Daniels for 13 minutes, 8 points and 2 boards a game.
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (5 points, 2 rebounds, 18 minutes)
Daniels is the key. He gets his do-over in Boston, and he's far too good of a player to look that bad again. Of course, Marquis has made a career out of being oft-injured. But, unlike last season, Marquis had bounced back from those injuries to be a valuable player. Given the scoring punch in the second unit from Shaq and Robinson, Daniels' passing ability could be highlighted as a means to keep the ball moving in the half-court.
Kevin Henkin, Celtics Stuff Live (8 points, 3 rebounds, 16 minutes)
I had actually expected big things from Daniels last year. He'd always impressed me when he faced the Celtics in a Pacers uniform. Then that curious thumb injury happened and it essentially derailed his season. It's just one of those things that I'll never understand. File it alongside quantum physics and the inexplicable popularity of that Australian Pink Floyd band. People know that it's just a stupid cover band, right?! Anyway, I'm still cautiously hopeful that Quisy will make a meaningful contribution off the bench in 2010-11. He's got a high basketball IQ, can create his own offense on occasion and can even defend better than your average swingman. Plus, he's not Tony Allen, which I've always appreciated about him. Assuming reasonable health for Daniels, I'd project 8 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. Considering his peak performance with the Pacers just two years ago, those numbers should actually represent bare minimums. But we've been hurt before, so I'm being easy with the expectations.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.