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UCLA's Lee insists controversial tweet was misinterpreted

Jeff Eisenberg
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LOS ANGELES — If Malcolm Lee is frustrated with his role in UCLA's regimented offense, he isn't saying so publicly.

The sophomore guard insists he was simply expressing himself as a poet and not talking about basketball when he tweeted Thursday night that he feels "like a caged pitbull that been on a chain for 2 years."

Lee since has deleted the post and other basketball-related tweets in response to the torrent of criticism he received on UCLA-themed Internet forums.

"They said you're trying to stir stuff up, and I was like, 'No,'" Lee said Saturday. "That's just a phrase from the poetry I've written called, 'Muzzle.' It don't got nothing to do with basketball. It's just talking about society as a whole."

There's a history of UCLA players complaining about a lack of freedom in Ben Howland's offense, so it's easy to see how some would interpret Lee's tweet as a sign that he too is frustrated.

Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo both said they felt the system hurt their draft stock when they left school early a few years ago, while starting big man Drew Gordon left the program earlier this season in part because he wanted to play at a higher tempo.

Lee said he learned fans had misinterpreted his tweet when UCLA academic coordinator Kenny Donaldson called and asked him about it on Friday. The UCLA coaches apparently didn't punish Lee, but they did preach caution.

"They were like, 'You've just got to watch what you say because some people might take it a different way," Lee said. "I just deleted it because I didn't want to cause any more trouble."

A McDonald's all-American as a senior at North High in Riverside, Calif., Lee played sparingly behind Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday as a freshman but was expected to emerge as UCLA's defensive stopper and go-to scorer this season. He has averaged 12.5 points per game, but is shooting just 40 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range.

With sophomore Jerime Anderson fighting injuries and struggling even when he's on the floor, Lee has been forced to assume point guard duties more often than he expected this season. He struggled Saturday in a 72-58 loss to Cal, scoring just seven points on 3 of 4 shooting and committing five turnovers compared to just two assists.

"He's playing a lot of his minutes at the point," UCLA coach Ben Howland said "That's probably taken away from his offensive production because he's so concerned about getting the ball to the right people."

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