David Lee had to laugh. Has it been that long?
It’s been 10 years since Lee was named an All-Star as a Golden State Warrior.
“God, that’s crazy,” Lee said in a phone call Saturday afternoon.
And it’s an anniversary to be celebrated near Golden State. Not only did Lee become the organization’s first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but his selection then unknowingly marked the beginning of an NBA dynasty.
“I remember our fanbase was very, very proud,” said Lee.
Now news is if the Warriors are underrepresented on All-Star weekend. They have had 22 All-Star selections since 2013 and at least two representatives in each of their last four championship years.
Steph Curry, voted their only All-Star this year, will miss his ninth appearance with a sprained leg. Draymond Green has been selected four times and Klay Thompson five times since winning the title in 2015; both missed the cut this year as the defending champion struggles to stay above .500.
A mediocre season and an All-Star weekend without a warrior is perfect prey for experts who want to declare the dynasty dead. For Lee, the Warriors’ time-tested reign at the top is a reminder of what he’s sacrificed since his All-Star berth in 2013 to take the team from laughing stock to the NBA’s toast.
“The year I made the 2013 All-Star game,” said Lee, “finally started to gain some traction. We went from being a team that beat everyone up to earning respect.
The Knicks signed and traded Lee to Golden State in 2010 with the presumptuous goal of clearing space for free agent LeBron James. Lee was in strange territory. None of his friends knew where the Warriors played – “I know it’s in California… right?” they would ask.
Lee already arrived in New York as an All-Star, a 27-year-old entering his prime. Signed to a six-year, $79.5 million deal, Lee was a walking double-double with an enviable ability to finish on the brink. An asset to any contending team, he was too good for this rudderless organization.
Then Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team, hired Mark Jackson as head coach, and the culture changed.
He still heard the laughter. Like when a Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach giggled at them during pre-game warmups at Oracle Arena. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant surrounded by a huge front of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, no match for Warriors’ Lee and Andrew Bogut.
“He looked at Andrew Bogut and I, laughed and said, ‘We’re going to have fun tonight with this team,'” Lee said.
They would soon show the world that they were not the same old joke. The Warriors started the 2012 season at 22-10 by the new year behind Lee’s consistency. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds before the All Star break, the face of a fast-growing team and the veteran for a young group of players preparing for their first taste of the postseason.
But then Curry scored 54 at Madison Square Garden in February. Even if he was rejected for the All Star game alongside Lee, his 3-point spectacle turned into the Splash Brothers special with Thompson.
“I remember giving the interview when I made All-Star saying, ‘I feel really sorry for my teammate Steph because I feel like we both should have made it. I really hope he gets this chance because he’s had all these ankle injuries,” Lee said.
“Looking at it now, you think, ‘David, you should be worried about trying to make another one.'”
Draymond Green sprinted towards Lee with a huge grin on his face. It took mere minutes for the Warriors to tip-off against the New Orleans Pelicans for their 2015 first-round playoff opener, and Green caught a glimpse of himself on the Jumbotron playoff poster alongside Curry and Thompson.
“Big brother. Guess what? They put me on the pregame poster with Steph and Klay,” Green said. “How cool is that?”
“Draymond, they took me off the poster and put you on it,” he said. Green’s smile faded and he apologized until Lee assured him it was okay.
“We cried on the field, we laughed so hard,” said Lee. But you could understand if Lee took offense.
Lee was sidelined early that season with a hamstring injury, allowing Green to start. Lee watched from the sidelines as his team became downright dominant with Green on the field, their offense and defense skyrocketing to top-level efficiency.
So even when Lee got permission to play, there was no more role for him. Head coach Steve Kerr pulled him aside.
“I know you really want to get back into this starting lineup. But what do you think of what we’re doing now?” Kerr said at the time.
“Coach, I’ve had the opportunity to do everything individually that I’m probably capable of in the game of basketball. I’ve been an All Star twice,” Lee said back. “If we have a chance to win a championship, you play me how you think we can best win.”
Green started those playoff games and the death lineup featuring him, Andre Iguodala, Curry, Thompson and Harrison Barnes helped not only secure the Warriors’ first NBA title since 1975, but also ushered in a small-ball phenomenon.
“If I put my foot down and said, ‘Hey, I’m the highest paid guy on the team, I deserve to play, and who’s this Draymond?’ and if I had my way things might have turned out differently,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that at the beginning of my career. Putting my ego in my back pocket and saying let’s do this for the team doing.”
Lee didn’t watch last year’s NBA Finals. Not because of a lingering bitterness or lost interest.
It was just awkward.
Games air at 3 a.m. in Monaco, where he spends his summers with his wife, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and their two young children since he retired from the NBA in 2017. morning.
He hoped that Jayson Tatum would score high – he and Lee both attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis. But for the Warriors to win.
After all he’d been through with them, he had a feeling they would.
That’s why he can now look at the Warriors’ .500 record, without a healthy All-Star, and feel confident. In a copy-cat competition, he still sees the pioneering core that his sacrifice helped build as the ones to be beaten.
“I wouldn’t want to be the team facing them in the playoffs when you have Steph, Klay, Draymond and the winner’s mentality,” said Lee. “I wouldn’t want to be the team facing them.”