Troy Daniels is technically a Houston resident – he has a town home there – but he’s officially been living out of a suitcase the past couple of months.
It’s been a whirlwind second NBA season for the former VCU sharpshooter. Daniels, briefly a playoff hero for the Houston Rockets last season, has been traded twice since December. Despite the shuffling of zip codes, Daniels is still happy to be wearing in NBA uniform, regardless of where the team is located.
“It’s fun to even be considered by an NBA team, and I just appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given,” he says.
For now, and presumably for the near future, he’s a Charlotte Hornet, but he also thought he’d be a Houston Rocket for a while, until the team dealt him to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 19. Before he’d even had time to pick out a favorite grocery store, he and teammate Mo Williams were traded to Charlotte on Feb 10.
It’s actually Daniels’ second tour of duty with the Hornets. Daniels played for the organization’s summer league team and earned a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
The irony is that Charlotte, then known as the Bobcats, cut Daniels, which actually may have helped launch his NBA career. He was quickly signed by Houston, which stashed him with its Rio Grande D-League team. Daniels flourished in Rio Grande’s revolutionary, 3-point-heavy system, as the Roanoke, Virginia native set a D-League single-season record for threes.
Daniels also impressed enough in a five-game, late-season call-up to earn a spot on the team’s playoff roster. He averaged 7.8 points and hit 8-of-15 threes off the bench for the Rockets in a five-game playoff series with Portland and later signed a guaranteed two-year contract with Houston.
Daniels, who never saw a 3-pointer he didn’t like, and Houston, which led the NBA in 3-point attempts last season, seemed to be perfect for each other. But the landscape can change quickly in the NBA. Houston, battling for a top-three seed in the Western Conference this year, saw an opportunity to add veteran swingman Corey Brewer. The price was Daniels.
“It was really tough [leaving Houston],” Daniels admits. “I fit well into their system, and the only thing I knew was their system. I felt like the sky was the limit as far as what I could be for that team, but I’m young.”
Despite the unexpected separation, Daniels says he has no hard feelings towards the Rockets, and says he plans on maintaining his residence in Houston. Business is business.
“You kind of have to have two difference personalities, one for on the court and one for off,” he says.
Daniels played in 19 games for the Timberwolves and averaged 2.8 points before he was dealt again. Minnesota is currently in the midst of a total rebuild and owns the Western Conference’s worst record (13-46). Charlotte, meanwhile, is in a battle with a host of teams for the Eastern Conference’s final two playoff spots. Daniels says he welcomed the opportunity to return to a playoff race. He’s also 3 ½ hours from Roanoke, and has family in the Charlotte area.
What has been tough, he says, has been learning each team’s offensive and defensive principles on the fly.
“That’s something a lot of people really don’t notice,” Daniels says. “There’s something different that goes into each team. Different coaches want different things from top to bottom. You have to develop in that short time, but that’s part of being a professional.”
Daniels has, up to this point, only appeared in one game as a Hornet, but he says he’s comfortable in his role.
“Coach [Steve Clifford] made it real simple for me. He said to just do what I go. I want to focus on shooting the ball.”
Clifford also has an eye on Daniels’ future. The team, Daniels’ says, wants him to work more on his point guard skills in the offseason. In the meantime, he’ll log reps in practice and wait for his opportunities this year.
“A lot of people may not see me on the court, but I never take a day off,” he said. “Every day I’m working on something. I just want to be ready when my name is called. I definitely have to be ready. Last year I was thrown in with the wolves and I just had to be ready.”