January 28, 2010
He's averaging 19.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. The last statistic on the list is tops among NBA centers. The other two statistics are veddy, veddy fine.
And he's not an All-Star. Or, he's not on the All-Star team. But he is an all-star. Capitalization, non-capitalization, intended.
You see, Kevin Garnett(notes) made the All-Star team as a starter, and while Kevin Garnett might be one of the more unheralded NBA legends of any generation, despite all his popularity and status, he didn't deserve to make the All-Star team. And that moved everyone down one spot. And Al Horford(notes) made the team, because Al Horford's having an All-Star season. Same with Josh Smith(notes), who didn't make the team.
And because the Knicks will probably not make the playoffs, because Lee's defense is worse than Horford's, and because people think his stats are completely inflated by the pace of Mike D'Antoni's whims, David Lee is not an All-Star.
The problem I have with that — and the problem I'm sure you have, Knicks fans — is that David Lee is an all-star.
And for now, for this season and as it's been for the last few seasons, you're just going to have to be cool with that.
Cold comfort, I know. Because it's been a miserable run since Jeff Van Gundy stepped down in the winter of 2001. Or since the Raptors semi-surprisingly dismissed the Knicks in the 2001 playoffs. Or since you guys fell short against Indiana in 2000. Or the Bulls or Rockets in years prior. Or since 1973. However you want to call it, I know it hasn't been easy.
But Lee was your guy since the beginning. He was the reason you knew Larry Brown was a right nutter, bent on losing games on purpose in order to drive Isiah Thomas from the GM position. How he started Lee in Memphis because Lee is from the St. Louis area, which is not the Memphis area, during his rookie year. You ever driven to Memphis? You hit St. Louis, a fabulous town in its own right, and you go, "[Shoot], we're just now getting to St. Louis? We still have two hours left?"
Memphis ain't St. Louis, David Lee was only a starter as a gimmick. And once the Knicks started to win in the winter of 2005-06, because Lee was playing so well, Larry Brown sat him. Because he wanted to lose games. Yes, I'm a mainstream writer on a popular website, and I'm admitting that Larry Brown lost games on purpose in order to put a like-minded lackey in at the GM position.
Lee sat and he dealt with it. And likely, around the same time, Mike Kurylo taught you about per-minute, pace-adjusted stats. And he told you what you probably already knew - that Lee should be playing more. But the Knicks didn't want to hear it. They had Eddy Curry(notes). They flippin' traded for Zach Randolph(notes), who was bloody awful back then. They played these two lugubrious doofs ahead of Lee, who should have been starting.
Thomas was chased out, Randolph was miraculously dealt and Lee got a gig — a starting gig — in 2008-09. Just in time for Mike D'Antoni. And when Lee put up the same stats he was averaging (a bit worse, actually) per-minute with the new guy at the helm, while starting, people passed it off as a system thing. Numbers due to pace.
Never mind that these people never paid attention to pace in any other instance. Never mind that these people didn't seem to holler when another fast-paced function of Mike D'Antoni's system won two dubious MVP awards.
Then this year? Lee learns to shoot. He racks up big assist totals on a team that doesn't really shoot that well. Or, at all. He puts up more than 19 points and 11 rebounds. He's flippin' fantastic.
And the Knicks? They're eighth in possessions per game. Eighth! Not first or second, fighting with the Warriors and staving off the Suns. They're slower than the Lakers, who feature an oak tree at point guard, a guy with nine fingers at off guard and a 1983 Range Rover at small forward.
But, somehow, Lee is a "system guy." Only gets his stats due to that fast pace. That eighth-ranked pace.
You're used to this, NYC. You might have the world's biggest persecution complex, but guess what? So do the world's biggest religions. And with Lee? Well, you're used to him getting screwed over. This is nothing new. This is nothing you're not used to.
It won't help things, not when Chris Duhon(notes) is shooting 1 for 7 again and Al Harrington(notes) is writing "MLE, Lakers, K, thx" on his sneakers. But you know what's up. You've known for a while, now.
David Lee's an all-star.