The expansion Texas Legends found out their first-round opponent in the NBA D-League playoffs Sunday. That was the good news.
The Frisco-based Legends found out later in the evening that they won't have coach-on-the-floor Antonio Daniels for their best-of-3 series with the Tulsa 66ers, because Daniels has finally realized his season-long goal by securing a 10-day contract from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Daniels will be joining the Sixers on Monday, sources close to the situation told ESPNDallas.com, to help them cope with the indefinite loss of guard Lou Williams, who suffered a hamstring injury Saturday night in Milwaukee. The increasing reluctance of Sixers coach Doug Collins to play touted rookie Evan Turner convinced Philly to pursue a veteran fill-in.
Daniels, who turned 36 in March, became the oldest player in D-League history this season and joined the Legends largely because he believed it was his fastest route back to the NBA after missing the entire 2009-10 season recovering from knee surgery. It took him a lot longer than expected, but Daniels has received considerable credit for his work as a conduit between the Legends' big-name (by D-League standards) roster and rookie coach Nancy Lieberman, who is the first woman to coach a team under the NBA banner.
"No greater feeling in the D-league than to have that conversation with [your] guy and tell him he has gone to the show," Lieberman said Sunday night via her Twitter account.
The Legends, at 24-26, needed an improbable comeback in double overtime Saturday night in Austin just to claim the D-League's eighth and final playoff spot. But Lieberman's team was on pace for a higher finish before Daniels suffered a hand injury requiring surgery in December, which led to a 4-8 skid without him.
Daniels averaged 14.5 points, 8.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds for the Legends and shot 42.5 percent from 3-point range in 38 games. He becomes the first player in Legends history to receive an NBA call-up from a roster that still features former first-round picks Joe Alexander, Sean Williams and Rashad McCants.
According to leading D-League website RidiculousUpside.com, Daniels will become just the second call-up from the D-League in Sixers history, joining Lou Amundson from the 2006-07 season. (Players recalled by an NBA team after being assigned to the D-League, such as Mavericks rookie Dominique Jones earlier this season, are not classified as call-ups.)
The Legends will host Game 1 of their series with Tulsa on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at HP Court inside Dr Pepper Arena, some 90 minutes before the Mavericks play host to Denver in an ESPN game. Game 2 and Game 3 (if necessary) will be Friday and Sunday in Tulsa against the 66ers, who are owned and operated by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In an apparent nod to the Legends' late-season surge into the playoffs -- with Alexander, Williams and McCants all playing worthy of their own late-season summons to the NBA -- Texas got matched up with Tulsa when the league's top three teams chose other first-round foes in the D-League's pick-who-you-face playoff system. The top-seeded Iowa Energy chose to open against the seventh-placed Utah Flash, with the second-seeded Reno Bighorns opting for the No. 5 Erie BayHawks and the No. 3 Rio Grande Valley Vipers selecting the No. 6 Bakersfield Jam.
Tulsa won five of the teams' eight meetings this season, but the Legends won by 20 points in Tulsa two weeks ago as part of their 4-1 finishing kick. The winner of the Tulsa-Texas series meets the Iowa-Utah winner in the second round.