Depending on how free agency pans out, tonight's game could be Madison Square Garden's last chance to see David Lee balling in home whites. Lee has weathered five years of turmoil, consistently improving in the eye of a storm. In today's Fix, Alan Hahn emphasizes Lee's loyalty and durability amid constant change.
The most compelling number associated with Lee's NBA career thus far is this: in five seasons with the same team, he has had 49 teammates.
Fourty-nine teammates. In five seasons. With the same team.
From Trevor Ariza to Bill Walker. From Steve Francis to Tracy McGrady. From Cato to Darko. From Qyntel to Quentin. From Barnes to Butler to Balkman to Bender to Barron.
"Especially when you're not a winning team, but in the NBA overall, just to be in one place for five years . . . you don't see that a whole lot nowadays," Lee said. "You see so many people traded left and right . . . I'm grateful to have been here this long and we'll see if I'm here even longer. I hope that I am."
First of all, "From Barnes to Butler to Balkman to Bender to Barron" is the coolest line ever written. That's three P&T legends and 2 P&T legends-to-be all in one sentence. Well done, Alan. Anyway, it should not be taken for granted that, through all the ugliness that's transpired over the last five years, Lee has stayed healthy, held his head high, and grown from a scrappy but undersized cult hero into an offensive leviathan, and an All-Star to boot. What would it take to keep somebody like that around? Frank Isola asked Mike D'Antoni:
Mike D'Antoni praised Lee as an ambassador for the organization last week, saying he is good in the community. Sunday, the head coach made a pitch for Lee as a basketball player, telling reporters that he'd like Lee to return to his natural position, power forward, next season. But on one condition.
"He just needs a long athletic guy besides him," D'Antoni said.