NEW YORK (AP) — David Lee had an unusual experience Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, and it had nothing to do with the uniform he was wearing or the locker room where he put it on.
This was about the standings, which are providing such satisfaction to Lee. He actually took the MSG floor with a winning record.
Lee almost never did that when he played for the Knicks, one of the many reasons he’s so happy with his move across the country to the Golden State Warriors.
“I haven’t been on a winning team since college,” Lee said after the Warriors’ shootaround.
The Warriors came in with a 5-2 record. According to STATS LLC, Lee played in just five home games during his five seasons in New York when the Knicks entered with a winning record — and four came in a 2½-week span in November 2008.
Otherwise, Lee reported to the home office with a losing record and usually left for the night with it being a little worse.
“Something that was discouraging is that we never really won enough games to put ourselves into a thing where we had one game to make the playoffs and we won the game, or something like that,” said Lee, who was greeted with a nice pregame ovation. “We never really gave ourselves that opportunity.”
That wasn’t Lee’s fault, though. He was the Knicks’ most productive and popular player, a hardworking forward who came into the league without much offensive polish and developed into an All-Star last season, when he averaged 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Yet when he became a free agent last summer, the Knicks showed no interest in keeping him. Didn’t even bother calling to tell him.
Lee knew, as did nearly everyone in New York, that the Knicks’ goal was to sign LeBron James and another superstar last summer. They landed Amar’e Stoudemire but missed out on the other big names, so there was an opportunity to keep Lee, though he had a feeling long before then that the team wouldn’t take it.
“I heard about every scenario and I think every single one of them was ‘you’re gone’ at the end,” Lee said. “No, I had a pretty good idea towards the last 15 games of the season that it was going to be a tough scenario to come back.”
He couldn’t have asked for a better alternative. The Knicks worked with him to arrange a sign-and-trade to the Warriors, allowing him to earn a more lucrative contract that will pay him $80 million over six years.
Lee’s scoring numbers likely will drop this season in Golden State, where the offensive is tailored around high-scoring guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. But he’s still a reliable rebounder, ranking fifth in the league in that category with 11.4 per game and tied for second in double-doubles.
Lee was disappointed in the absence of communication between the Knicks and his side last summer, though he said he has no hard feelings toward coach Mike D’Antoni or team president Donnie Walsh and thanked them for his success. And though he’ll still live in New York in the summer and misses the fans, he realizes the move gives him a chance to have a winning record for a while.
“I love it here in New York but I’m very happy the way this turned out because I’m very happy with the situation we have in Golden State,” Lee said. “Now if we were coming in here about 1-6 or 1-7 and guys were fighting in the locker room, I probably would say, ‘Hey man, is there a way I can come back and play for free or something?'”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.