By: Yama Hazheer
Reminiscing is a key theme for David Lee’s season. A couple of years ago, Lee was injured in his first ever playoff game. He was limited and barely played, but he was able to gut through his injury and had some decent stretches on the court. It gave the Warriors an emotional lift to pull off the upset.
After an embarrassing playoff outing against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (without the aid of Andrew Bogut), Lee became the odd man out.
There were several rumors that the Warriors wanted trade the power forward in the offseason, but they were unable to pull off a deal.
Draymond Green jolted into the starting lineup after Lee’s inability play in the season opener. With the amount of success with Green in the starting five, he remained in the lineup.
Lee had a lackluster season. The player who became the first Warriors All-Star since 1997 no longer looked the part. He struggled with his reduced role in the regular season and has yet to play in a postseason game this year due to an injured back.
But Coach Steve Kerr says Lee is healthy and good to go in the series that will feature some tough interior presence.
“David has played well against Memphis, we can use him against [Zach] Randolph and [Marc] Gasol. We could use him against some of their reserves as well,” Kerr said. “David looks good in practice and he’s ready to go.”
Clearly Lee isn’t playing up to the level that Warrior fans have been accustomed too. Many are calling for him to be traded in the offseason and have lost faith in him.
However, this series is the ideal time for Lee to leave his mark on the season. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are considered the best frontcourt in the league by many, yet Lee has done well against the Grizzlies in the past.
“Obviously D-Lee knows Memphis well, [he] has battled with them. With the lineup that they have, it’ll be big to have him back,” Stephen Curry said.
Lee has a career average of 14.5 points on 50 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds in 24 contests against them.
The veteran can provide scoring off the bench in a half court set. The Grizzlies get most of their scoring in the low-post with their duo of big men. While Lee won’t score with the likes of Gasol and Randolph, he can counter some of their productivity during his stints off the bench.
Lee has shown up against some of the better teams in the league this year including the Cavaliers, Bulls, Rockets, and Clippers.
Whether he will play big minutes in the series is still in question due to the unpredictable rotations that Kerr has for every game. Regardless, you can expect Lee to provide help for the team mentally and be prepared if his time does come.
“We need all the bodies we can. Obviously you don’t know with foul trouble and different lineup changes with who we’re going to throw out there,” Curry said.
If Mo Speights struggles against Memphis like he did against the New Orleans Pelicans, expect to see Lee eating up most of the back-up forward minutes. Neither of them can give you much defensively, so you have to go with the guy who can score better in the moment and that can help the team in alternative ways.
Leading MVP candidate Steph Curry believes Lee will bring that strong veteran mentality.
“There will be a game where he’ll help us a lot, there might be a game where he doesn’t play, who knows… I know he’ll be ready for whatever situation he’s going to be going into and have an impact on games,” Curry said.
It’s not Lee’s fault that he is the highest paid player on the team. It’s not his fault Draymond Green emerged as one of the most valuable players on the roster. It’s not his fault for the nagging injuries that won’t leave him alone. He deserves praise for accepting his bench role.
If Lee does get minutes during the series against a tough Grizzlies team, there will be no excuses: he has to show up and the Warriors are confident that he will.