"Of all the guys who guarded Paul (Pierce), I thought he did one of the best jobs," said Rivers.
"High basketball IQ, multidimensional," Rivers said. "I mean, he can do so many different things. He can play the 2 and 3 for us. And he may be our best defender at the 1, 2 and 3. Rondo is the best (guarding point guards), but he's right behind him.
"I didn't like coaching against him. And when you don't like coaching against a guy, you try to get him."
At the time, it was encouraging to hear such positive things about one of the Celtics' major offseason additions, as he seemed to be living up to the expectations that had been thrust upon him after posting one of his better statistical seasons the year before while playing with the Indiana Pacers, with career highs in points (13.6), minutes (31.5), and rebounds (4.6).
Daniels helped the Celtics to a 16-4 record through their first 20 games, before a torn ligament in his left thumb forced him to undergo surgery that sidelined him until February 7.
When he did return, he seemed to blend right back in, as, over the course of his first nine games back, he averaged a shade under 10 points per game. It appeared as though he had fully recovered from the thumb injury, and was back on track in terms of helping the Celtics turn around what was becoming a mediocre regular season. He garnered the following praise from Doc following a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 25:
"He's one of the best cutters in the league, top five," said Rivers. "And you always have to account for him on the glass. He also has the ability for us to say, 'Why don't you just try to stop [the best team's opposing player]. You don't have to help as much, and that makes our defense better."
Strangely, Daniels's downfall occurred weeks after returning from the injury, as he didn't see a dramatic dropoff in minutes until March 24, when the Celtics bested the Denver Nuggets at home, 113-99. Daniels was forced to the bench early in that contest due to foul trouble, and Tony Allen stepped in to fill the void, putting in a 13-point performance on 5-6 shooting.
For the remainder of the regular season, Daniels averaged a mere 8.1 minutes per game, while Allen went on to average over 12 per contest. It seemed, at the time, that Allen was being given the edge largely due to the onslaught of energy he brought to the game whenever he took the court, but Daniels could have been suffering from some longstanding side effects from the thumb injury, or some other undisclosed issue that we'll never know about.
Regardless of why, Daniels fell off the radar, but everything he was before last season he should still be capable of being. Assuming his left thumb is fully healed, who's to say he can't step in next season and effectively backup Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? With Nate Robinson back in the fold, Daniels most likely won't need to worry about the backup point guard duties, meaning he'll be able to focus more on the role of backup wing defender and slasher, especially now that Tony Allen is out of the equation.
Heading into last season Doc claimed Daniels could be one of the team's best defenders. With all reports indicating he's now healthy, why can't the same be true for Daniels this coming season? Doc claimed Daniels was one of the league's best cutters, and there's no reason to think he can't earn that status once again this season. Given the thin supply of quality wing players available in free agency, had last season never happened, Daniels might have very well sat atop any lists that have already been comprised.
The main reason Daniels didn't garner strong consideration for a do-over at the start of the offseason was because he was such a non-factor late in the season and in the postseason. But, when you factor in his thumb injury, and Tony Allen's surprising play, that lack of confidence in Daniels deteriorates somewhat.
With all of this said, there are still overlapping concerns regarding the state of Daniels's durability. In his seven seasons in the league he has yet to play a full 82-game schedule, with 74 being his career-high in games played. I apologize for not respecting the whole "eighth time's a charm" mantra.
Despite the obvious health concerns, re-signing Daniels seems like a necessary gamble for the C's. He rejoins the team with a pretty low price tag, while filling a specific, and vital, need for the team, making him yet another example of a "low risk, high reward" type of player. All we can do is hope for better results this time around.