July 10th was an interesting day for the Memphis Grizzlies and General Manager Chris Wallace.
The Grizzlies were blown out in a Summer League match-up against the Denver Nuggets, but the team received good news before the disappointing outing.
Memphis acquired Troy Daniels in a sign-and-trade agreement with the Charlotte Hornets. After the trade, Wallace inked him to a three-year deal. It was a move that was needed for the team. It was a deal to bolster the second unit.
It’s starting to work.
Last season, Memphis was a team that struggled to convert from the three-point line. During his time with the Hornets, Daniels shot 48 percent from beyond-the-arc. The Grizzlies needed a shooter, and Daniels needed a fresh start with Charlotte signing Nicolas Batum to a max contract and trading for Marco Belinelli as their primary shooting guards.
The bench was a huge question mark heading into the 2016-17 season and now it starting to become a strength with the surge of Daniels. With his spectacular play in the last several games, the bench of the Grizzlies has risen to 12th in the NBA in scoring (36.4 per game in 23 games).
It wasn’t a perfect start for Daniels in Memphis, and the Memphis faithful were questioning whether he should even be on the team. Before Nov. 30, he appeared in seven out of the 18 games, averaging 1.9 points and knocking down only 14 percent of his shots (4-of-28).
The early struggles forced Daniels to get down on himself, and who can blame him. After all, he’s a human being.
“I’m human. I just wanted it so bad,” Daniels said via The Commercial Appeal. “I have a little security right now, but at the same time, I want to play so good for these guys. The shots are right there and I’ve been here before. You just have to keep pushing.”
But head coach David Fizdale remained confident in his shooting guard. He didn’t give up on him.
“Everyone is held to the same standard. It’s not just his shooting,” Fizdale said via The Commercial Appeal. You’ve got to do multiple things to stay on the court, especially in today’s NBA. No one can hide.
“So Troy understands that. I’ve got confidence in Troy. We’ve got 15 spots. Everybody can’t play. That’s the bottom line. He works hard on his defense. He works hard on his ball-handling. When I see reps taking place and a guy working on his game, that gives me confidence. When I see a guy with a flaw and he’s not willing to address it, I have no confidence in him. And Troy Daniels gives me a lot of confidence.”
Fizdale made the right choice.
With injuries plaguing the team, Daniels has stepped up as a bright spot.
Since Nov. 30th, he has done what he does best: Putting the ball in the basket and hustling on defense. The former VCU star is averaging 21.6 points while shooting 49 percent from the field (last night’s game with Portland not included). He had a career night against the Lakers (31 points) and followed that up with another great game against the Pelicans a couple days later (29 points).
Through adversity and struggle, Daniels stayed ready, and with injuries Fizdale needed him to show up. Daniels will be needed throughout the rest of the season.
“Let’s be honest, I don’t have a lot of bullets,” Fizdale said via The Commercial Appeal, referring to injuries on the team hindering the offense. “I’ve got to go somewhere for shooting and scoring. He was the next man up. His opportunities will continue to come throughout the year.
“You can never get down about not playing at a certain point with this team because you just don’t know when your number is going to be called. He’s a big-time professional. He stayed ready.”
This is what this Memphis team needs right now. With the injuries to Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies needed a player to play beyond his role and expectations. They needed a player like Daniels to give a spark off the bench and be the shooter so many hoped he would be for Memphis.
Despite the struggles, Fizdale remained patient but also held his shooting guard accountable like he does for all his players. Because of this, the trade for Daniels in the off-season is starting to payoff.