OAKLAND — David Lee is a walking double-double. He leads the NBA in the statistical category this season with 33 in 52 games, and his career numbers are just shy of the mark at 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
But Lee is often overlooked, accused of producing bloated stats on losing teams in New York and here in the Bay Area. Prior to this season, an anonymous scout in Sports Illustrated blasted him, saying he is “overrated” and “looking for his own numbers big-time.”
Now, the reputable magazine looks imprudent for running the quote. Lee’s numbers are as good as ever this year (19 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game and 51.4 field-goal percentage), and he’s the centerpiece of the Warriors’ turnaround season, earning the franchise’s first All-Star selection since 1997. He’ll suit up for the West in today’s game in Houston.
“He’s been doing the same exact things,” coach Mark Jackson said. “What has taken place is you now have a good team, so we’re able to put him on a platform and you don’t just throw it away as just numbers on a bad team.”
Lee is known for being strong on the glass, but his ability to find open shooters out of the post and kick-start the team into its transition offense is often underappreciated.
“He’s a weapon that we certainly want to use,” he said.
While Lee’s offensive prowess is unquestioned, in past years he’s been criticized for being soft on the defensive end. But those attacks are diminishing, and Lee credits Jackson for improving the team’s defense across the board.
“There’s been criticisms on Steph [Curry] in the past, criticisms on Carl [Landry], criticisms on a lot of guys on our roster,” he said. “Coach has done a great job of putting us in a simple defensive scheme that is consistent each game we play, so it makes it easier for us to get really good at the things he wants us to do.”
Jackson also challenged Lee to be more of a leader with so many players on the squad.
“We came in here a month early. I wanted to be in good shape to show the rest of the guys that if they were out of shape they needed to catch up,” he said. “I think that month before the season that everybody was here has made a huge [impact] on us getting off to a good start this year.”
Lee will be making his second All-Star appearance today, but he said this year’s selection is more gratifying because he is playing on his first winning team in eight seasons.
“When I made the All-Star Game in 2010 [as a member of the New York Knicks] it was a situation where I was on a losing team and put up big numbers,” he said. “The fact that we’ve turned around the culture here, the fact that our team’s playing better and that we’re winning for the first time in a long time in this organization — I’m going as a representation of that.”