- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

On the first day NBA teams were allowed to talk about players they recently have acquired and signed to new contracts, the Washington Wizards yesterday ran down a checklist of the things they like about Antonio Daniels.

They like the fact the free-agent signee from the SuperSonics is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and can defend. They are thrilled that he fits the mold of a combo guard, who is coming off the best year of his career in Seattle where he averaged 11.2 points and finished second — one year after finishing first — in the league in assists-to-turnover ratio.

And perhaps most importantly, Daniels meets the Wizards’ objective of adding winners to their locker room after ending their eight-year playoff drought last season.

“He’s going to be a great addition to our ball club,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said. “He comes from wining traditions. He’s an outstanding defender who is extremely competitive, a combo guard who can play two positions. But the most important thing to him is winning and playing hard every night.”

While he never has lived up to the distinction of being the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by Vancouver, Daniels has developed a reputation in the league as being a good defender and a great teammate.

“I’m very excited for a number of different reasons,” said Daniels, 30, who flew home to San Antonio today to be with his wife for the expected birth of their first child after his five-year, $30 million deal officially was announced by the Wizards.

“I’ve played on good teams before. I’ve played with Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Now I’ve got the opportunity to play with two more All-Stars in Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, along with a group of young players who have proven that they are capable of winning. I just came here to play hard, that’s it.”

Daniels’ role on the team has yet to be decided, according to Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. But he clearly gives the Wizards more depth in the backcourt than they had last season, despite the loss of Larry Hughes, who signed a $65 million to $70 million deal with Cleveland.

The Wizards this offseason also added veterans Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.

“It’s not about filing Larry’s shoes, it’s about putting a good ball club out on the floor,” Grunfeld said. “We’ve added some very solid players, players with toughness and experience who play to win. We like all those things.”

Daniels, in his second season with Seattle, played a huge role last season in helping the SuperSonics finish with the third best record in the Western Conference after being 11th the year before.

“The best evaluation I got [from his coaches] was that all three of them would like to have him as a son,”Jordan said.

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