The Warriors have a lot of youngsters. Three rookies, led by lottery pick Harrison Barnes. Three second-year players, including starting guard Klay Thompson.
And David Lee.
Yes, the 29-year-old power forward is in his eighth year in the league. But he is rejuvenated.
“He’s excited, talking a lot in practice,” point guard Stephen Curry said. He’s always going to be the jokester in the locker room, but he has a more animated personality right now and I think that shows his excitement for what’s going on. He’s hungry, ready to go.”
Lee is healthy after successful surgery in April to repair a torn abdominal muscle. For the first time in his career, he’ll be playing next to a legitimate center. And he’s playing for a team with legitimate playoff hopes.
It makes sense considering what he endured last season. After the Warriors traded away Monta Ellis, Lee was the lone member of the core in the lineup. And he didn’t bow out with an injury. Instead, he toughed it out and became the centerpiece of the Warriors’ patchwork squad down the stretch.
“It went a little unnoticed,” Lee said with a laugh. “For a person who hates losing, it was no fun.”
That experience made Lee appreciate what he has now. The question now becomes can Lee produce as well on a winning team.
He likely won’t average 20.1 points and 9.8 rebounds because he likely won’t be called on to play 37.2 minutes per game. But will he be someone who can defend his position? Will he be a reliable option on offense in crunch time?
His teammates said if he plays the way he did last season, that will be enough because he now has help. But Lee said he is eyeing more.
“I’ve got another level I can reach,” Lee said, “but it’s not necessarily from a numbers standpoint.”
Most of the talk this training camp has been about the health of Bogut and Curry, what the Warriors plan to do at small forward, and even center Andris Biedrins’ absence before training camp. Lee has kind of flied under the radar.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Lee doesn’t get enough credit. “He’s just been incredible,” Jackson said.
He said Lee’s in great shape. He’s been here since September working with his teammates, “doing every drill.” Lee has taken on the role of veteran leader, always talking to guys and even paying for lunch. He’s embraced veteran forward Carl Landry, Lee’s worthy back-up.
Lee said he doesn’t mind not getting the attention, not at this point in his career.
“I know when the season starts, I’m going to make my presence felt,” Lee said. “I’m not worried about that. … The days of me being worried about going out there and getting 30 and 15 are over. I can do that. I’ve proven I can do that. It’s a matter of finding a way to do it in a team concept to win.”