Saturday, April 3, 2010

David Abdul JaLee

The Knicks lost to the Warriors on Friday night because they were outscored 31-19 in the second quarter. They won the rest of the game by a point but couldn't overcome the walloping that Don Nelson's track team gave them in the second.

David Lee had 9 points 4 rebounds and an assist in that second quarter while his teammates combined for just 10 points, 8 boards and 3 dimes. And, it's worth noting that two of those three assists were converted into buckets by Lee.

The rest of the team didn't play markedly better in the other three periods but, remarkably, Lee did. He finished the regulation-length game with a staggering tally of 37 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 1 blocked shot. He accomplished this triple double while sparing two minutes of playing time for sitting on the bench to argue with the mysterious Earl of Barron about the best spot to get some dim sum in Oakland after the game.

The last player to post a 35/20/10 game was Kareem Abdul Jabbar in March 1976. Kareem also notched one such game in 1972. George McInnis, who managed to snag an ABA MVP Award away from Doctor J in the mid-70s also managed a game like this one time. But all three of those efforts came before the merger of the NBA and the ABA. Which means that Lee is the first person with a 35/20/10 in the "modern" NBA.

I'll admit that may seem a needless qualification when talking about something that only two other dudes ever pulled off, but it's one that I'll make all the same since someone (or, more likely, someones) will write off this statistical accomplishment because it came in Oakland against the uptempo Warriors. I'll pre-emptively remind the skeptics that Kareem's Lakers were putting up 106.9 per night during the 1975-76 season while allowing 106.8 the last time this feat was accomplished. Lee's 2009-10 Knicks are below that output and allowance while this year's Warriors are only a few points above in each category.

From the outset of the Donnie Walsh era it's been widely noted that Lee is expendable if the team can acquire max-contract talent during the summer of 2010. And, I agree that he should be. But, his well-known dead-Knick-walking status has undermined his stature among casual fans and has obscured how much he's really developed since Walsh took over.

Lee may still be on his way out of town. But he's a better That midrange jumper wasn't there a few years ago. It wasn't there last year. Neither was the ability to pass the ball or get the team into its offense from the top of the arc. People still think of him as the hardworking rebounder that he was early in his career but he's as versatile an offensive big man as there is in the East.When he has every reason to be playing for himself, Lee has dished out 53 assists from the center position in his last 12 games. The guy may still not be able to defend a seven footer in the pivot but he looks to have a shot at an All-Star spot for the next five years.

Had Lee been drafted two spots earlier in the 2005 draft by the Spurs, three spots earlier by the Blazers or five spots earlier by the Sonics then he's likely already been signed to a long-term extension and is a franchise cornerstone. And, he might even have a championship ring.

But he was drafted out of Florida with the 30th selection of the 2005 NBA draft into the NBA's most dysfunctional family by Isiah Thomas. Since then, he has been written off despite being consistently written about by the media in the Big Apple. The rest of the country's healthy anti-New York bias thas kept outsiders from beleiving in him and our internal dreams of free agent signings have led us to take him for granted.

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