Daniels ready for guard duty
He may be part of a James gang
WALTHAM — LeBron James is the kind of force that leaves the Celtics with no choice but to throw as many bodies as possible at him. There’s a good chance that Marquis Daniels will be one of them.
Daniels, who fell out of the rotation as the season wound down, played just six minutes in the first-round series against Miami. But in the army the Celtics must form to fight off James, Daniels could be a reinforcement.
“You have Tony [Allen] and Paul [Pierce], you have Ray [Allen], but you also have Marquis in this series who can come in and help us,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “So we have, in some ways, more guys that we can use fouls on LeBron.’’
Signed in the offseason with the expectation that he’d back up Rajon Rondo at the point but also guard the opponent’s best player, Daniels was up and down this season, never completely recovering from a left thumb sprain that kept him out from December to February.
“It’s still not definite that my time is here,’’ Daniels said. “But you just have to stay upbeat and just be a professional about it, whether if it’s Tony or Mike [Finley] or Ray or Paul or whoever. You just have to try to be there for the team.’’
Pierce carries much of the load against James, and Tony Allen has clamped down on him at times. But as far as Daniels’s role in putting the brakes on that runaway train, he said, “You’ve just got to go in there and accept the challenge.
“Regardless of what it is, just make it difficult for what he does, whether it’s penetrating, shooting the ball, whatever it is, you’ve just got to take the challenge and make it difficult for him.
“The majority of their offense goes through him, so you’ve got to keep your antennas up at all times when he’s on the floor.’’
Like a lot of people who saw replays of James wincing as he held his right arm, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins was puzzled.
“It’s just crazy,’’ Perkins said. “The whole elbow situation is crazy. He makes one with his right arm, then all of a sudden, he’s hurt. So I don’t know. That whole situation’s crazy. But we’re not really worried about what’s going on their end, we’re worried about us.’’
James, of course, was typically otherworldly in that series, averaging 31.8 points, 9.2 assists, and 8.2 rebounds. He averaged 36.5 points, 8.3 assists, and 6.5 rebounds in four games against the Celtics this season, which led Pierce to point out, “LeBron with a bad elbow is still better than 95 percent of the league, so it doesn’t matter.’’
“He’s fine,’’ Rivers said. “I tell you what. If he goes three or four games and shoots left hand only, I’ll believe it’s hurting. Other than that, we’re going to be ready for the LeBron that we’ve seen all through the playoffs.’’
O’Neal made his return in the playoffs, averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 20.6 minutes against the Bulls.
“We’re not scared to bang with Shaq,’’ said Perkins. “From myself to Baby to Sheed [Rasheed Wallace]. We’re not scared to go down there and get dirty.
“You’ve just got to take on the matchup. Guys go in there thinking, ‘It’s Shaq, he may throw an elbow here and there,’ but you’ve got to get in there and just go to war.
“It’s no different than guarding Dwight Howard. You’ve just got to go in there with the intentions that you’re going to get the job done.
“He’s a Hall of Famer, a great player, but at the end of the day, it’s a new series and his team’s got to win four games. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.