David Lee, pictured above, has in all likelihood played his last game as a New York Knickerbocker. After the Knicks ended their season with a 131-113 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, Knicks coach Mike D’antoni said he was excited about the future of the team, and mentioned by name Danillo Galinari, Toney Douglass, Wilson Chandler, and Bill Walker. He did not mention Lee until asked, and when he did, he failed to offer a ringing endorsement.
Despite that and despite some chants about re-signing Lee, last night’s crowd seemed to understand that this was the end of the line for Lee in New York. Oh, there’s a chance he’ll be back with the team, but not in the same role and not with the same importance. Lee can’t be the best player on a team that’s going to the playoffs, something Mike D’Antoni admitted when asked if he’d like Lee back on the team next season.
“He just needs a long athletic guy besides him.”
It’s hard to wax nostalgic about Lee and the Knicks era he was a part of, even though Lee was not a function of the Knicks woes. Since Lee has joined the team, the Knicks have a 140-270 record, despite Lee’s career averages of 13.0 ppg and 9.6 rpg. In fact, Lee has some of the finest individual stats in franchise history:
Career Season Averages
Lee has set Knicks rookie field goal percentage and regular season Knick field goal % records, shooting .596 in 2005-06 and .600 in 2006-07. He has also averaged double digits in both rebounds and points in 3 out of his 5 seasons in New York.
More than that. Lee has improved every year. He got here as a guy who had no offensive game except for layups and put backs. He added a 15′ jumper to his repertoire and then added even more range to that shot, to the point where the pick and roll where Lee shoots from the perimeter was one of the few successful plays the Knicks could run. And Lee, proving that he is an all-around player, averaged 3.6 assists per game this year, which led all players at his position.
Lee has also become as true a Knick as he could, despite the losing. He has made no secret of his desire to remain in New York. Lee dates model Sabina Gadecki, pictured below.
Those are some of the best shots we’ve seen this side of Brooklyn Decker. Gadecki is New York based, giving Lee further incentive to remain in the area.
But let’s be honest. What do we really have Lee to thank for? When Kobe dropped 60-plus on us?
I’d thank him for playing hard in an impossible situation with no hope in sight and with no relief on the way. For playing hard for incompetent coaches and for playing hard while everyone has you written off and somewhere else–a living Knicks ghost this season, that averaged 20 and almost 12.
The memories might suck, but the player did not. He always did his best. If he can’t be a Knick anymore, maybe he can still remain in the area. We have heard speculation that the Nets and their new billionaire owner would love to put Lee next to Brook Lopez–someone long and athletic.