David Lee was a workhorse with his significant contributions to the Golden State Warriors this season. He stopped the embarrassing streak of not having an All-Star since last century (1997), made the double-double synonymous with his name and helped the Warriors make the playoffs for the first time since “We Believe” in 2006-07.
So what does he get after working tirelessly to improve his game and making his first playoff appearance of his career? He got injured in Game 1 of the first-round series versus the Denver Nuggets and was thought to be done for the season.
With a surprising move, Lee was active for Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets and played for one minute and 27 seconds in the first quarter. He did not return after going to the bench with one rebound.
However, he continues his team focus, as he is diligent in attending practices and games and assumes the role of off-the-court leader. I respect him for taking the extra effort and giving his team the drive to upset the Nuggets.
Instead of lobbing the “good job, good effort” at him while he sits, let’s take a look at what he did to shape this team and put them in the position to advance in the playoffs.
Lee showed the NBA world that he wasn’t just a numbers guy this season by helping the Warriors transition through the early frontcourt issue with the extended absence of center Andrew Bogut. Instead of pairing with the talented center, he was paired with rookie Festus Ezeli and formerly suitable center Andris Biedrins.
Do you remember that early-season road trip that was supposed to give the Dubs a reality check? Lee put 30 points and 15 boards on the Brooklyn Nets and 22 points and 14 rebounds against the Miami Heat in crucial wins.
As a result of his nightly performances, Lee became the first Warriors All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. Yes, it had been that long of a drought.
He was very close on occasion in pressing the double-doubles to a triple-double, and he finally accomplished the goal once this season versus the Charlotte Bobcats on December 21, 2012.
As you can see from the highlights, Lee was not only a great scorer and rebounder, but he also was very efficient with his passes. His all-around game makes him such a diverse weapon, as he opens up the court for his teammates.
He also formed one of the deadlier pick-and-roll combinations with burgeoning star Stephen Curry. The duo was picked as one of the best pick-and-roll teams at the start of the NBA season.
Both players upped their game and improved their skill level to really break out this season. As you can see in this highlight, this is an example of the offense they can create. Lee sets the screen-and-rolls off to an open lane, where he finishes easily.
Lee has also stepped up as a team leader, as he has had his fair share of run-ins with opponents’ frontcourt stars. One of the best examples was when he encountered the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin.
Lee is not a pushover at all, and with his recently cemented All-Star status, he has legitimacy. He was also forefront in the conflict with Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers, where he wasn’t ejected, but he received a technical foul and a one-game suspension.
At least Hibbert tweeted out that he hoped for a speedy recovery for David Lee, even though he did not like him.
Lee confirmed the dislike, but appreciated the tweet.
Lee helped the Warriors secure the Western Conference sixth seed on the final night of the season in a game at the Portland Trailblazers. He scored 20 points and captured 10 rebounds to put the team in a more favorable matchup than having to face the San Antonio Spurs.
Lee really caught a bad break, because he had a lot of success against the Nuggets in the regular season. In their November 29, 2012 meeting, Lee put up 31 points, pulled down nine boards and distributed six assists.
Here are the highlights of his dominating night:
Lee is signed for the next three seasons at salaries of $13.87 million, $15.0 million and $15.49 million and looks to keep his one-year All-Star streak alive. If everyone stays healthy, he can use frontcourt mate Andrew Bogut to his advantage and establish a more balanced game strategy.
Lee wants to return to the playoffs because appearing in one-plus playoff games during his eight-year career is dissatisfying. He is there to take the Warriors to the next level, which is being a perennial playoff team that has aspirations of winning an NBA Championship.
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