Why I Love Antonio Daniels
If you go to Daniels' website, there is a special page dedicated to the memory of Chris Daniels. I'd recommend reading both pieces, as they shed an incredible light on the persona of Antonio Daniels.
"I was sitting there and all I could think about was his mother," Daniels said. "They were talking about how Miami was going to go ahead and play that next week, and all I thought was, 'What about her?' I thought about my own mother and what my family went through when my brother died. What happens is, life goes on and people forget about the family and the fact that the family is still struggling and life just goes on.
"The next day I'm sitting there getting dressed to leave for a game and I told my wife: 'This is crazy. People are going on with their lives and imagine how his mother must feel.' "
Daniels, who honors his late brother with three tattoos, decided to do something. The next day, through Wizards public relations director Zack Bolno, Daniels reached out to the Pata family and asked what he could do. When Daniels learned that the family has struggled financially, he offered $10,000 to help cover funeral expenses.
I'm not going to really add much about Antonio Daniels as a person. The article does a great job of painting a picture of AD, and Hoops Addict has more to say about that as well. I will take this time, however, to say why I love Daniels as a basketball player.
In my opinion, Daniels is the third most important player on the Wizards, behind Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. In the last two months of last season and the first month of this season, Antonio Daniels has arguably been the best sixth man in basketball. His stats may not be as good as Mike Miller's last year, and he probably won't win it this year if either Ben Gordon or Leandro Barbosa don't start for over half the year. But to me, it's a crime that Daniels has never won the sixth man award.
When you think of the ideal sixth man, there are a lot of things that come to mind. The late Red Auerbach was the first person to place an importance on a sixth man. On his Boston Celtics teams, the sixth man came in to provide energy and quick scoring ability. Many times, sixth men like Frank Ramsey and John Havlichek led the team in scoring and changed the tide of games. It's hard to argue that Ramsey or Havlichek was the best player on the team, but they still played a huge role on the team.
Nowadays, a sixth man's role is not so easily defined. You have your pure scorers like Barbosa and Gordon, but there are other ways a sixth man can help the team. Detroit's Antonio McDyess is an ace sixth man because of his ability to help out on the glass as well as score inside. Donyell Marshall and Brent Barry come in and simply hit perimeter shots, while Jazz rookie Paul Millsap provides rebounding and toughness. However, one thing that does bind every sixth man together is that they come in to provide a spark of energy, whether it be through scoring, shooting, rebounding, or defense/hustle.
What makes Daniels unique, however, is that he is able to provide a spark in multiple departments. He's instant offense off the bench, but he doesn't need the ball as much as Gordon to be successful. His tough drives and three point plays also provide the type of hustle and grit that can get the Wizards going. When the Wizards are stuck in jump-shooting mode, it is usually Daniels that brings them back (reference the Cleveland and Houston games). He also provides underrated perimeter defense and the type of veteran leadership that a team with an alpha dog like Arenas so desperately needs.
So why doesn't AD get more love? He's simply not as flashy as Gordon or as dynamic as Barbosa or Paul Millsap. He comes in there and simply does his thing night in and night out. As such, you're rarely going to see him on Sportscenter doing anything crazy. At the same time, however, it is a breathtaking drive to the basket that often ignites the Wizards. I routinely wonder how Daniels is able to finish the way he does. He's not slamming anything down, but he has spectacular body control, which allows him to finish around the rim without being called for charging fouls.
It doesn't seem possible that someone can not be flashy while still being an ace sixth man, but Daniels proves that the task can be done. Combine that with his veteran leadership and his incredible generosity off the court, and I'm proud to say that Antonio Daniels plays for my team.