K.J. McDaniels should start for Sixers
K.J. McDaniels' first tattoo was his initials, K.J., on his left bicep. He got the ink the summer after he had completed eighth grade.
Situated slightly below his initials on that same arm is another tattoo that reads 'God's Will' in a cursive font.
While McDaniels' upper body is covered in ink, those two tattoos are of particular importance. What they represent to McDaniels are confidence and faith - two pillars on which he has begun to build his basketball career on.
Instead of feeling slighted however, McDaniels saw his college recruitment process as an opportunity, a blessing, and, most importantly, part of a greater plan.
"God's will is because I'm fortunate enough to be out of 'Bama and get somewhere," he told me recently.
McDaniels is used to overcoming odds and obstacles. He'll tell you he believes that people are placed in certain situations for a reason, so it's his duty to find that reason and make the most out of every opportunity.
It must have felt like deja vu, however, when after a successful and solid stint in college he again found himself flying under the radar in a highly-hyped NBA draft. Projected as a first-round talent, McDaniels fell to the second round before the Sixers scooped him up with the 32nd overall selection.
But again, rather than ruminating on all the teams that passed on his services, McDaniels embraced the opportunity to prove himself - this time in Philadelphia.
It didn't take long. Thirteen games into the season, McDaniels is standing out among a deep rookie class. He is fourth among all rookies in points per game, and second in blocks per game. His skill set has drawn wide praise, as have his his blocks and alley-oops.
Still, despite all the promise he has shown, McDaniels remains a reserve for Brett Brown's bottom-dwelling Sixers.
"It's frustrating, but I've just got to deal with the minutes I do get and play as hard as I can," McDaniels told The Intelligencer's Tom Moore recently.
In last week's loss to the Boston Celtics, McDaniels saw only 11 minutes of action despite hitting all three of his shots.
"I can't determine playing time," McDaniels said. "It's happening. I have to deal with it. I've just got to stay humble about it and keep grinding."
It's the same attitude McDaniels has continued to employ throughout his basketball journey, and thus far it has paid dividends. At the same time however, considering the current state of the Sixers, McDaniels should be seeing more minutes.
It would be one thing if McDaniels wasn't receiving near-starter minutes on a contending team with an established core, but the Sixers are far from that. Yes, he has a lot of areas he needs to work on, and at times he looks overwhelmed. But what is this season about for the Sixers if not providing the young players with ample opportunity to learn and grow through in-game experience?
(And by the way: the team has to make financial decisions about McDaniels next summer.)
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is getting 27 minutes of action each game, and has started in 11 of the team's first 12 contests. He could be a solid role-playing piece in the right situation, but he has no long-term future with the franchise.
It only makes sense to give more minutes to McDaniels, a player who may play a big part in the franchise's future -especially in an otherwise lost season.
Above the 'K.J.' and crown the accents it on McDaniels' left arm is another phrase inked skin-deep: 'Sky is the Limit.' A month into his rookie season, the Mobile, Alabama native has shown signs of how far he can rise. Now he just needs the opportunity.