When he worked as a broadcaster, Mark Jackson was adamant that David Lee didn’t deserve to be an All-Star with the New York Knicks in 2010. No matter how eye-popping Lee’s statistics looked, Jackson said, the power forward played on a bad Knicks team.
Now Jackson is coaching Lee on the Warriors, and he has changed his tune — but not his reasoning. The Warriors are winning, he said, and Lee has been a big reason why.
“So I’ve got to be one of the guys now that he’s on a good team putting up numbers,” Jackson said, “shouting to everybody that he deserves it.”
Whether Jackson’s fellow coaches heed his call is another matter.
Voting by fans for the All-Star starters was set to end Monday night, and neither Lee nor point guard Stephen Curry — Golden State’s other hopeful to play in Houston on Feb. 17 — are expected to earn that honor, with both far behind in the most recent results released by the league. The reserves, voted on by coaches, will be announced along with the rest of the rosters for both teams Thursday.
With the Warriors (23-13) off to their best start in 20 years, Lee might be the leading candidate to end the NBA’s longest All-Star drought. Golden State, which hosts the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night, has not had a player make the team since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
Lee’s lone All-Star selection came after Allen Iverson dropped out because of a family illness. NBA Commissioner David Stern chose Lee as a replacement.
Lee remembers Jackson, a former Knicks point guard, and ESPN-ABC broadcast partner Jeff Van Gundy, a former Knicks coach, leading the charge against his selection. Lee insists he has never actually discussed the matter with Jackson, though he said he doesn’t disagree with the argument.
“I think that’s the biggest mark of an All-Star is guys that can make their teams better and try to win,” Lee said. “They didn’t sign me here to put up numbers or to have fancy dunks. They signed me to win ballgames.”
Until now, that hadn’t happened.
All five years Lee, drafted 30th overall out of Florida in 2005, played with the Knicks, they had a losing record. Since signing an $80 million, six-year deal with Golden State, Lee has endured two losing seasons in the Bay Area.
New York also had a winning record each of the last two years and made the playoffs a season ago in Lee’s absence.
Lee entered Monday ranking 10th in the NBA in points (19.9) and tied for fifth in rebounds (10.9) per game. He also leads the league with 16 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.