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With the last pick in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft, Isiah Thomas made yet another questionable decision when he selected David Lee, a project out of the University of Florida.
During his rookie campaign, Lee made the most of his limited minutes, but it was too small of a sample size to predict how productive he could be in an expanded role. What was obvious was Lee’s game was built on hustle and enthusiasm.
A spot opened up for Lee in his second season, giving him the opportunity to see drastically increased minutes on a nightly basis. Lee took full advantage, and his blue collar approach sat well with the Knicks faithful.
Lee’s offensive package was elementary, but he was crafty around the basket, a relentless rebounder and surprisingly athletic. By the end of the 2006-07 season, he’d established himself as a fan favorite and averaged a double-double.
After more of the same the following year, Lee finally earned himself a starting job at power forward for 2008-09, his breakout season in which he averaged 16 points and 11.7 rebounds.
The next season, Lee upped the ante with 20.2 points and 11.7 boards per game, proving he could excel as the team’s No. 1 scoring option. He even earned his first All-Star appearance despite the Knicks’ subpar record.
Sadly, Lee entered free agency during the summer of 2010 when New York was looking to add a maximum-contract player to begin its rebuilding process. Given Lee’s rise to stardom and the likelihood of pursuing Amar’e Stoudemire, it would be impossible to retain Lee, too.
Lee hopped to the West Coast and joined a young Golden State Warriors squad, but his short stint in New York was not forgotten; Lee was greeted with a touching video tribute upon his return to Madison Square Garden in 2010.
It was vintage Lee all game, as he carried the Warriors to victory with 28 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. In spite of the loss, Knicks fans were happy to be reminded of one of the lone bright spots to emerge from the Thomas regime.
When Lee played in New York, the Knicks were frequently blown out, but he would still be out there giving it 100 percent.
As much as New Yorkers hate to lose, they’ll love and respect a player who dives for loose balls and kicks it into overdrive even if the team is terrible. The Knicks could use a couple more David Lee's because it’s players with his mentality that bring home the trophy.