X-Man Making Presence Felt

October 22, 1992

Xavier McDaniel appears to have resumed where he left off last season; he has been leading with his elbows and forearms during the Celtics' exhibition games. Are fists next?

"I'm not going to back down from anyone," McDaniel said. "What would you do if someone was going to hit you? I'm going to fight back."

McDaniel tangled with Charles Barkley in Phoenix and Karl Malone in Salt Lake City, despite being at a 50-pound weight disadvantage. Among other things, the matchups raise the question of whether a 205-pounder such as McDaniel should be expected to compete with the elite power forwards of basketball. McDaniel has said he is willing to fill the power forward role, but not permanently. Apparently, he will attempt to do so on his terms.

"I said I was going to play hard for 82 games," McDaniel said. "I can't guarantee anything else. I can't guarantee there won't be a shooting slump; all shooters go through slumps. But I can guarantee I will play hard all the time."

McDaniel's definition of extra effort apparently includes pushing opponents to the brink of fisticuffs and antagonizing referees.

"I'm not afraid to go to war with Karl Malone," McDaniel said. "I'm not afraid of any of them. It's all about playing hard, playing physical.

"That's the type of person I am. I'm not going to back down from Charles Barkley or anyone else. It's not personal. It's about respecting me as a player. Karl almost took it personal, but he held back."

And if Malone had not controlled himself?

"They would have sent me to the Utah jail," McDaniel said. "I'm not going to just let someone hit me. I have a right to defend myself."

McDaniel, 29, said he also cursed at official Eddie Rush, but that the expletive was uttered in the heat of battle.

"He took it personal and called four fouls on me," McDaniel said. "All I told him was to respect me as a man.

"I just have to stop fouling people and play better defense. We've got officials in the game and we have rules, so if you go over the limit, you're out. I just want to make sure we win, and I'll score points, rebound and do everything it takes to win. That is why athletes are so high-paid, because every organization wants to win the championship."

Professional franchise owners also want their highly paid players to avoid injuring themselves. The downside of a punchup is that both parties are at risk; the most graphic example in the NBA is probably the 1977 Rudy Tomjanovich-Kermit Washington brawl.

"He will play hard and I expect that some guys are not going to like being pounded by the X-Man," Celtics coach Chris Ford said. "He might force our guys to play physically as well.

"Once the regular season begins, X will know how far to push. He knows the officials and what they will call. Every night the game is officiated differently. The officials have been told to clean up the post play, and I'd like to see that for our sake.

"But I don't think red flags are going up in the NBA for the officials to look out for X. He'll adjust. It won't do anyone any good for him to get thrown out of games."

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