Daniels' improbable return to basketball

WALTHAM, Mass. -- After the Boston Celtics engaged in their first practice session of the new season Friday, Marquis Daniels stood by a door to the locker room at the Celtics Training Center at HealthPoint detailing to reporters his improbable journey back to the basketball court when coach Doc Rivers emerged from the back and playfully shouted, "Risen from the dead!"

Both Daniels and Rivers were uncertain he'd ever play basketball again after a freak accident in a February game against Orlando that left Daniels with a bruised spinal cord after colliding with Magic guard Gilbert Arenas. Daniels subsequently had offseason surgery to relieve the effects of spinal stenosis, a condition characterized by a narrowing of the spine, which he’d battled for years and resulted in occasional numbness and increased vulnerability in situations like the collision with Arenas.

That surgery was successful and, four months later, Daniels got medical clearance to return to basketball. Now he’s back in Boston, and it seems he couldn’t be happier about it.

“It was always my first intention to come back here,” Daniels said. “To be back on the court, I mean, I always had it in the back of my mind. It was just something I wanted to do. I was kind of skeptical at first, until I got my first hit [over the summer]. I got headbutted right here [points to forehead] and had to get stitches. But when I got headbutted I was like, hey, at least I know my neck’s all right. The good thing about it was it let me know that I can get some contact and compete.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers wasn't immediately on board with the idea of bringing back Daniels. Before the surgery, he told Daniels he didn't think he should play basketball again. And when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested the team would re-sign Daniels recently, Rivers balked. Then he had a talk with team physician Dr. Brian McKeon and it changed his mind. Now, Rivers said he's "super confident" in Daniels' health.

"Lazarus," Rivers said, referencing the biblical reference to rising from the dead. "I didn’t think Marquis would ever play basketball again. In fact, I told him he shouldn’t before surgery. I was very honest with him. Then he had surgery, got clearance, and actually, he's probably healthier now than he was before he got hurt. It's great to have a guy back who knows our system, and knows who we are. He’s a perfect guy to come back."

Asked whether any Celtics visited him in the hospital after his surgery, Daniels beamed and detailed their visit during a road trip last season to play the Hawks.

“Man, it just goes to show you the type of guys that are here,” he said. “It’s a family-oriented team. Even when I was in the hospital in Atlanta the guys came over and saw me the day after my surgery. That meant a lot to me. They had a game that night, but they still took time out to come over and check on me. And they stayed in contact with me throughout the whole summer.”

Now that long summer is finally over, and with a clean bill of a health and a one-year veteran minimum contract, Daniels is happy to be back at it with the guys he calls his family.