Playing with LeBron James is a unique adjustment for most players. He’s ball-dominant, meaning that players playing alongside him often have to go long periods of time without touching the ball on offense. He’s also as creative and talented of a passer as the league has ever seen, flinging warp-speed lasers across the court accurately enough to knock a fly out of the air.
Those are unique skills that have helped make James arguably the greatest player of all time, but they also take some getting used to for new teammates. Kyle Korver — one of the greatest shooters of all time by nearly any measure — and others have candidly discussed how playing with James comes with a learning curve, even while admitting that it’s also incredibly rewarding for the players that figure it out.
New Laker Troy Daniels isn’t too worried about any adjustments though. He doesn’t care where James gives him the ball, he just wants to put it in the basket whenever he gets it.
“I think when you’re an elite shooter you don’t really think too much into that,” Daniels said during his introductory conference call with reporters. “To me it’s my job to be able to shoot the ball at a high-level, at a high clip whatever the circumstance. I’m just going to make sure that I’m ready when my name is called.
“It’s just shooting the ball, and I’ve been doing that my whole life.”
Rather than any hypothetical adjustments, Daniels has really only thought about how playing with stars like James and Anthony Davis is going to make all of their jobs more simple.
”I think it makes it a lot easier for me as well as them,” Daniels said. “They have somebody to kick it out to and know nine times out of ten, it’s probably going to go in if he’s open. And for me, I’m not trying to get open, I’m probably going to just be open because they’re going to command a lot of double teams and a lot of attention in general. So I think it helps all parties out tremendously, and I’m really just looking forward to it.”
Daniels’ shooting ability may not actually equate to making nine out of every ten threes he takes in games, but he’s still made a 40% of his threes in his career, so you can excuse his confidence. Such elite shooting numbers are probably a big part of the reason why Rob Pelinka and Anthony Davis got Daniels on a conference call early in free agency to tell him they wanted him to join the cadre of shooters the Lakers are assembling, and made him the first player they agreed to terms with in free agency while most of the league waited on Kawhi Leonard.
The only downside of sharing such a shooter-heavy team means that Daniels won’t always get minutes, but he’s not concerned about that, either.
“Obviously I’m gonna have to go out there and compete and showcase what I can do at a high level and play against other guys, but I’ll be ready for that,” Daniels said. “Who knows? I might even go 20 games without playing, but when the opportunity presents itself I’ll be ready. I can’t worry about playing time, I can’t control that.”
Daniels knows that all he can control is how hard he works and how good of an attitude he brings, and every contender needs role players with such a realistic understanding of their role as glue guys who get thrown in for a change of pace, or in case of emergency.
It turns out his willingness to sacrifice might also be in part because of how happy Daniels is to join the Lakers. In an approximately nine-minute phone call, Daniels said the word “championship” six times, and after a career mostly spent plying his trade for lottery teams — most recently the Phoenix Suns — it’s safe to say he’s excited about the opportunity to play for real stakes.
”It’s like a breath of fresh air. No disrespect to the Phoenix Suns organization, I think they’re going in the right direction, but I think everybody that plays the game at the highest level possible, we all want to win,” Daniels said.
“We’re all competitors, so when you’re able to play on a team with guys that know how to play, guys that have been there and understand the significance of each game in this league, I think it makes it a lot easier for players like me to come in and do our job, and not try to tack on a lot of other jobs as well,” Daniels continued. “We have a great team right now with the Lakers... We’ve got to get the work in and prove to people that we can win a championship.”
During the call, Daniels was also refreshingly candid about the reality for NBA players making the veteran’s minimum like he is, and about how he hopes that he can use a solid year for a contender to earn a bigger payday. But Daniels also knows that won’t happen until he shows he can positively contribute — both on and off the floor — for a winning team.
“I’m gonna go into this season with the same mindset, but also the mindset of ‘it’s a team sport,’ and we have one goal, and that’s to win a championship,” Daniels said. “I’m gonna do whatever the team needs, whatever the organization needs from me, I’m gonna be there and I’m gonna do it at a high level.”
Daniels has always been solid on a per-minute basis, but he’s optimistic the Lakers are his best chance yet to help a team where his contributions — no matter how big or small — matter, and show that his skills can aid a winner in the process.
“I think we have an unbelievable group with this team this year,” Daniels said. “I think they built this team with one goal, and that’s to win a championship.
“I really consider myself an elite shooter so I’m definitely going to bring that to the table. That’s what I do.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.