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Antonio Daniels Embraces D-League as Shot at NBA Return

Nov 17, 2010 – 2:28 PM
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Scott Schroeder

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Antonio DanielsThirteen years ago, Antonio Daniels was made the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. Thursday night, he'll suit up for the NBA Development League's Texas Legends in the D-League's season opener, being shown live in HD on the VERSUS cable network.

A lot has changed for the 6-foot-2 guard out of Bowling Green, and while his Legends jersey probably doesn't seem as comfortable as those he wore with the Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle SuperSonics, Washington Wizards or New Orleans Hornets, he's still pursuing his passion.

"It's still basketball. It's something I enjoy doing, it's a passion of mine and I needed to get out and just play," Daniels told FanHouse of playing this season in the D-League after spending 12 seasons in the NBA. "I'm trying to make the guys that I'm playing with better as a team and be who I am. That's all I can do."

Daniels, who at 35 will be the oldest player to ever play in the Development League, is working to get back to the NBA and seems to know that the D-League -- which produced a record 27 NBA call-ups last season -- is going to be the quickest route.

"I haven't played in a game since 2009 during the playoffs with New Orleans where I tore my meniscus," Daniels said. "I had surgery last year so I was doing physical therapy, rehabbing, so many different things just trying to get my knee back together, trying to get my cardiovascular back and trying to get my body back right. Now, I feel right, just where I want to be."

"Instead of going overseas, playing in China, it's just easier for me to get back to where I'm going -- where I need to be -- by coming to the D-League."

Where Daniels needs to be, of course, is the NBA -- but he's taking his opportunity in the Development League to learn and develop his skills outside of a playing career as well.

"The NBA is my focus, but I'm learning everything I can while I'm here," Daniels said. "I don't know what I'm doing (after my playing career is finished): if it's coaching, being a TV analyst or whatever else it may be, but I'm learning as much as I can, both as a player and with everything else. When the coaches have coaches' meetings and I'm around, I see if I can sit in on the coaches' meetings. I'm trying to learn as much as I can while I'm here."

The NBA veteran is hoping to teach while he's in the D-League as well. Daniels is probably best remembered for starting 63 games for the Washington Wizards during the 2007-08 season in place of an injured Gilbert Arenas, a role that required him to take on a large leadership role as the team's elder statesman. And, as expected, he's already taken that role on the Legends.

"I've taken being a leader upon myself from day one -- to be the leader, the vocal voice, to do all I can to influence," Daniels said. "Basically I'm just trying to lead by example."

His leading will begin in the D-League's season opener as Daniels, along with former first round picks Sean Williams and Reece Gaines, will go head-to-head with the defending D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers in what will also mark Legends coach Nancy Lieberman's D-League debut as well as the Vipers championship banner unveiling.
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