There are few reasons to subject yourself to a Philadelphia 76ers game this season. It’s ugly basketball. They play fast but in the way a four-year-old runs fast — out of control and doomed to fall hard. There is talent to develop, but sorting the wheat from the chaff is not a simple job for Brett Brown. He has to find the pieces the Sixers could use going forward.
K.J. McDaniels is one of them.
Coming into the league there were questions about his offense, but he has proven to be a much better shooter than expected. What people thought when he was drafted at No. 32 is he could be an energy guy, one who can defend and maybe block a few shots.
Oh, he can block shots. He may be just 6’6” but he has quickly established himself as a threatening shot blocker in the paint. To the point he gave a lady at a game a concussion, McDaniels told our old friend Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated.
“I used to watch a lot of [Dwyane] Wade and LeBron [James] when they came into the league,” McDaniels said. “I used to watch Michael Jordan a lot, too – the way they were versatile in how they defend multiple positions and use their athleticism to block shots. I just figured since I’m athletic and I can jump and have good instincts, I can go up there and get shots as well.”
That particular skill has translated brilliantly to the NBA level, where McDaniels succeeds the aforementioned Wade and James as one of the most awesome and surprising help-side shot blockers in the league. The jewel of his rejection résumé might just be the play of the season to date: A complete demolition of a Greivis Vasquez runner, rocketed into the stands at such a violent velocity as to cause actual injury.
“I surprised myself,” McDaniels said of the block. “There was a lady who got hit by the ball who got a concussion, I believe.” McDaniels, upon hearing what happened, sent flowers.
Here’s the play in question, but we don’t see the lady getting hit.
This is from the “I don’t care if the story is actually true” file, I want it to be. I want it to be part of the McDaniels’ legend. So I will believe it like some people are convinced Bigfoot walks the Pacific Northwest. Or they believe in the chupacabra.
The Sixers have found something in McDaniels. Now they just have to keep him (he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and he will have suitors).