New York Knicks’ David Lee is Upfront and Center...
The Knicks Have Seen Some Lean Years, but there’s Hope for the Future if they keep him...
In 2000, the New York Knicks saw the Patrick Ewing Era end.
With the exit of Ewing, the Knicks started a decline that would quickly see them become one of the least competitive teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
On Sept. 20, 2000, Ewing was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics and at the end of the 2000-2001 season, the 48-34 Knicks took a first round exit in the playoffs as they lost to the Toronto Raptors in five games.
It was the first time in a decade that New York had not made it past round one.
After Ewing left, a succession of coaches and various unsuccessful trades and changes in administrative personnel defined the Knicks as a team in search of an identity. Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, and Allan Houston had been the lynchpins for exciting, competitive, skilled, and talented teams.
The club was having a hard time defining its center.
In 2005, the Knicks took Florida forward-center David Lee as the 30th overall pick in the NBA Draft. Lee had been on many college and NBA radar screens when he played at Chaminade College Preparatory School.
At that time he was a left-handed player, but Lee broke his left hand and had to learn to use his right hand, making him an ambidextrous player.
In 2001, he was a McDonald’s All-American and he won the 2001 Slam Dunk competition.
Lee elected to attend the University of Florida where he played as a power forward for famed college coach Billy Donovan. As a freshman, Lee proved to be the real thing, playing in 31 games and hitting 57.9 percent of his shots from the field.
He was named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
As a sophomore, Lee averaged 11.2 points per game, putting in 64.8 percent of his attempts and hitting 62.4 percent of his frees. He averaged 6.8 rebounds, blocked 1.5 shots, and stole 0.7 balls a contest.
He worked on his free throws and in his third college season upped his accuracy rate by almost 15 percentage points, hitting 77.2 percent of his frees.
The same season, he was good on 58.8 percent of his field goals, proving to be a potent point maker. In his junior season, he averaged 13.3 points per game and grabbed 6.8 rebounds.
That year he was named Second Team All-SEC.
In his final college season, Lee took down an average of 9.0 rebounds and put in 13.6 points per game, stole 1.1 balls, and blocked 0.8 shots a contest. He had developed into a solidly skilled frontcourt player.
The 6'9" and 240 lbs. draft pick looked to have the bulk, skill, and drive to play in the pros. In his initial season with the Knicks, which was played in 2005-2006, he appeared in 67 games and starting 13.
Initially a backup, he averaged 16.9 minutes per game, hitting .596 field goals, and averaging 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.
After a promising first season, Lee saw his playing time expand from 16.9 minutes per game to 29.8. In his second year, he hit .600 of his shots from the field. His foul shot percentage improved from .577 in his rookie season to .815.
That was a huge change.
Lee averaged 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, making him a daily double-double threat.
The 2007-2008 NBA season saw Lee’s involvement expand as he played in 81 of 82 regular-season games. He started 29 contests, which was 17 more than he had started in the prior year. Although his field goal percentage fell from .600 to .552, Lee’s average points per game rose from 10.7 to 15.8.
He brought in 11.2 rebounds a contest and put in .819 of his attempts from the charity stripe—all of which are fine stats.
In 2008-2009, Lee averaged 35.3 minutes per game at power forward. Hitting .552 of his shots from the field and .752 of his foul shots, he’s proven to be a solid and reliable force on the Knicks.
In his fourth year, Lee has taken in 11.8 rebounds and scored 16.1 points per game. In each and every contest, the hardnosed Lee has revealed the potential to be a double-double guy.
Additionally, true to Knick tradition, he is a fine defensive player. In 2008-2009, Lee has averaged 1.01 steals and .26 blocks while causing 1.89 turnovers per game. Although the Knicks posted another losing season, it became apparent that Lee was a true bright spot and a fine talent around which a team could be built.
In a short time he’s put in some awe-inspiring performances.
The power forward had 37 points and 21 rebounds on Nov. 29, 2008, versus the Golden State Warriors. Those were the highest for any Knick player since Patrick Ewing put up 34 points and took down 25 rebounds on Feb. 23, 1997.
And again, against Washington on Jan. 14, 2009, he notched 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. When the team played the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 9, 2008, he became the 11th New York Knick to score 10 consecutive double-doubles.
Lee brings a competitive spirit, fine work ethic, and tough mental attitude to the court each and every day. He’s constantly developing his skills in both the defensive and offensive realms.
In terms of output, he’s shown marked improvement. Lee is the type of upfront foundation player that New York has utilized in the past when developing teams that have been competitive in the regular season and playoffs.
The New York Knickerbockers have not had a winning season since 2000-2001. Since that time, they have been to the postseason once. That was when they sported a regular season mark of 39-43 in 2003-2004, earning them a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
They were easily swept in the first-round by the New Jersey Nets. In eight NBA seasons, they have not been able to compile a winning mark with their best year being the 2003-2004 season. The Knicks do have a future and a major part of it will prove to be Lee.
Do you agree?
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Video: Lee Buzzer Beater Tip In
Video: 2001 Dunk Contest