David Lee: Warriors All-Star
(originally written 2/18/13)
Do not attempt to adjust your TV when you tune into TNT to the NBA All-Star Game tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Your eyes will not deceive you. That is David Lee of the Golden State Warriors suited up on the West bench.
The Warriors did not and will not trade their star power forward, not even if they can get another injured center in return.
Off-topic: I told you it was for the best to trade Monta Ellis, didn't I? Took quite a beating for that suggestion, but I knew I was right and time has proven such.
Lastly, do not conclude that TNT has made the unheard-of decision to air a classic All-Star Game prior to the current one, that the classic happens to be from David Lee's New York Knick days, and that back then (2005-10) the Knicks played in the West.
None of it is true.
As hard as it may be to grasp, the Warriors have a legitimate All-Star representative for the 2012-2013 season, with the key word being legitimate.
For much of the season, Lee has been the NBA's only 20/10 man (although his scoring has recently trended downward). While I'll stop short of calling him a force in the low post, he's definitely been effective down there, as well as from the elbows. He's a lefty who can score just as effectively with his right hand, uses the glass well, can penetrate as well as spot up, knows how to draw-and-dish, and doesn't seem to ever tire.
He does it all quietly.
Warriors teammate Stephen Curry deserved to go with him, by the way. He is playing some serious ball this year and it's no fluke that Golden State's ascension in the standings has coincided with Curry's regular presence in the lineup. One positive, however, is to be taken from Curry's exclusion: there is now no chance of the signature Curry/Lee pregame halfcourt sprint, pretty much the only complaint I've got for the 2012-13 Dubs.
There's a bit of a defiant, rebellious streak in Lee, which I love. It is most apparent when he fouls an opponent to the floor and simply walks away as if to say "Them's the breaks". He'll sarcastically applaud a referee whose call he does not agree with. His stoic, focused demeanor is as consistent as his play, although he can barely hide his disdain for "How do you feel?" postgame interviews.
I admit to knowing very little about David Lee before he came to Golden State after the 2009-10 season; there was his infamous 0.1-second tip to down Charlotte in 2007 and...that's it. (Only Charlotte could lose that way.)
In hindsight, every time I recall my audible groan upon learning GS swapped three precious bodies (the 2010 team was historically wrecked by injuries, forced to use fouled-out players one night just to prevent forfeiture) for what I felt was a so-so forward at the time, I want to bang my head on the nearest pole.
Yes, I actually hated the Lee deal at the time. Nevermind that Lee was an Eastern All-Star in 2010. Nevermind that those precious bodies consisted of one-legged guard Kelenna Azubuike (three NBA games in the three seasons since tearing his patella tendon in late 2009) backup center and cheerleader extraordinaire Ronny Turiaf (just 42 games in '10) and a key member of the All-One Facial Expression-Team, F Anthony Randolph, who executed some of the most awkward and ill-advised dribble-drives in history during his Dubs tenure.
Looking back, however, what a coup. The three ex-Warriors played a combined 81 games for the Knickerbockers, averaging less than three points per game. Lee, despite a recent slump (held to 14 or fewer points in three of the Warriors' last four games), is a deserving All-Star. It's been a long time coming.
Lee's selection counts as a pivotal step toward respectability for the embattled Golden State Warriors, entrenched between irrelevant and terrible for most of the past 19 years. Their last representative: Latrell Sprewell in 1997 (coincidentally traded to the Knicks less than two years later).
That was 16 years ago, though. The entire NBA careers of two potential Hall-of-Famers (Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady) occurred during that stretch. So did the careers of Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, Bruce Bowen, Michael Redd, Steve Francis, Zydrunas Ilguskas, Jason Williams and many others.
But I'm not here to talk about the past. With their four best players all under 30 (Lee completes his third decade in April), a respected coach and groundbreaking on a new arena due to commence by 2015, the Warrior franchise is on the rise.
Congratulations to 2013 Western Conference All-Star David Lee, a key reason why for the Warriors' recent success.