Dyson Daniels reflects on run-in with LeBron James and other NBA rookie lessons

Just a handful of games into his NBA rookie season, the Bendigo-raised playmaker saw James attack the basket and did what he was taught to do.

New Orleans guard Dyson Daniels attempts to stop a drive from LA Lakers superstar LeBron James. AP

He stood his ground and waited for the collision, and the inevitable whistle.

“I was playing against LeBron and I stood there, took a charge and he just ran right through me. And I got no call,” Daniels said.

“I was just sitting there, on my arse, with LeBron standing over me and no idea what to do next.”

Does it hurt to have the NBA’s best wipe you out?

“It stung a bit – I’m not going to lie,” Daniels said with a laugh.

“I flopped a little bit too but if it was anyone else, I’m sure I would have got the [charge] call.”

The past year has been both a dream and a reality check for the 20-year-old .

Daniels loves his new city but admits the NBA travel schedule gives you little time to really discover your new home beyond a few restaurants and local attractions.

“It’s a great lifestyle but the travel schedule, it feels longer than 82 games with so many games, so many back-to-back days. It is really taxing,” Daniels said.

“But on the flipside, it is really cool to get to experience so many different cities and what they are like.”

The Pelicans entered the season with hopes of pressing for a long play-off run but were eliminated by and the Oklahoma City Thunder in their play-in game in April.

Daniels played 59 out of 82 games during the regular season and he had some special moments including a 14-point, eight-rebound, nine-assist performance against Toronto on December 1.

“I had a few ups and downs with injuries and not being in the line-up and stuff, but it was a lot to learn for my first year and I will take that into my second … I’m looking forward to getting into it,” he said.

He also won praise from coach Willie Green and his teammates for his ability to make an impact even in small minutes by playing strong defence and coming up with steals, deflections and other effort plays.

That was helpful for a Pelicans team which had star forward Zion Williamson repeatedly forced out due to injury and other stars miss key periods or play hurt.

Some parts of the season, Daniels had a regular, nightly role for the Pelicans but by the play-ins, his minutes had slimmed.

“It’s tough but it’s part of the game,” Daniels said.

“The coach is paid to win games and whether you are playing or not, you have to turn up, you have to be a good teammate and, if you are on the floor, you have to do your job out there.

“We have a really good team, so it is going to be hard to be in the line-up but I’m looking forward to having a really good off-season and showing the coach I can play on this team.”

Daniels has been working on his body strength, shooting and ball-handling while back home in Australia.

While some young players get their heads stuck in the clouds about their NBA prospects, Daniels wants to be a solid performer as he knows his side, led by Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, needs role players.

“That is what I do,” Daniels said. “When you are playing limited minutes, you need to come on and immediately make an impact whether that be make a stop or get a bucket, but it is also about being solid and not trying to do everything.

“It’s about helping the guys around you, playing your role and giving the coach trust that he can leave you out there.”

Off the court, Daniels has embraced the seafood and Cajun food in New Orleans but looks forward to seeing more of his new home.

“The jambalaya and the gumbos – they are some of my go-to [orders] when I go to the restaurants,” Daniels said.

He is also expecting to push for a place in the Australian side for the FIBA World Cup in Asia at the end of August, although he faces a tough battle with Matthew Dellavedova and others for one of the 12 spots on the Boomers’ roster.

Since coming home from his rookie season, Daniels has noticed locals fans are quicker to recognise him.

“I’m getting asked for a few photos and autographs – it’s pretty cool seeing people wear my jerseys and that sort of thing.

“I’ve been in Melbourne for about a month and people notice me everywhere. Australian basketball is growing and I hope we have a few more Australian NBA players coming through.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top