That picture you are looking at is of a shirt I bought online at the Lenin Closet. It is a representation of the roster for the 2007-2008 New York Knicks. The names on it are mostly familiar, although some of you may not recognize or remember the likes of Fred Jones, Renaldo Balkman or Randolph Morris. Those names that you do recognize are drenched in the stench of Isiah Thomas, who inherited the reigns from two of his former division-mates, Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, of running the Knicks into the ground. Unfortunately, due in large part to truck parties, domino draft pick giveaways, blasphemous contracts, and a woman named "Anucha Browne Sanders," Thomas did not just oust the Knicks from the playoffs year after year. No, what he did was worse. He took a franchise, whose fanbase’s collective fingers were already smashed by various hammers (Spring 1999, Ewing’s departure, Houston’s contract, etc.), turned it upside-down, and shook it until most of its fans had fallen to the floor. From there, he took a once-proud Manhattan-based franchise, whose fans bordered on psychotic during the 1990s, and locked the doors. He traded for talented but directionless combo guards (Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, even reigning rookie of the year Jamal Crawford) and big men who sat in chairs for years at a time (Jerome James, Eddy Curry).
But that’s not the purpose of this story. I don’t care about Isiah Thomas anymore because he is not worth it. Neither is Marbury, Crawford, Randolph, Robinson, Curry, Jeffries, Collins, James, Richardson, Morris, Balkman, Jones, or even Malik Rose. Wilson Chandler is still in limbo in terms of both person and player evaluation, leaving us with only one name.
David Lee, who was drafted with the last pick in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft, has really been something. If you start from the year 2000 and work your way toward right now, the best player on the Knicks during that stretch was the white forward who played four years at
- Shooting 55% from the floor
- Averaging about 12 rebounds per 40 minutes
- Increasing his points-per-40 minutes every year of his career
- Increasing his assists-per-40 minutes from 1.5 his rookie year to four per game this past season
- Finishing in the top 50 of True Shooting percentage every year of his career, including top 10 twice
- Increasing his quantity of steals every year of his career
- Playing in 243 of a possible 246 games over the past three seasons, recording a double-double in 57% of them
I think you get the point. Additionally, I would like to name some of the lists on which David Lee would find himself should he sign somewhere else this offseason or otherwise retire from the Knicks:
- Among the best pick-and-roll players in Knicks history
- Among the best power-forwards in Knicks history
- Among the best rebounders in Knicks history
- Only Knick ever to record 35-20-10 in a regular season game, and first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Get the point even more? Now for some brain-busters:
- Among active players, David Lee shoots fifth-highest from the floor behind Shaquille O’Neal, Andris Biedrins, Kendrick Perkins, and Dwight Howard.
- If he were to retire today, he would retire with the best shooting percentage in franchise history, both career shooting and single-season shooting
- He would also rank 14th all-time
David Lee has been with the Knicks for only five years, but this much is plain to see:
- He is of a rare breed of basketball players who get better every year they play in the league
- He refers to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as "top free agents" when discussing this July, as opposed to the likes of Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer, who see themselves as more grandiose than reality dictates. He is humility incarnate.
- One of the most emotional times in the history of Posting & Toasting was when Lee’s grandfather, E. Desmond Lee, passed away.
To return to original tangent of this post, a tangent whose villain is clear and will continue to leave a footprint on the Knicks franchise, I would like to say that David Lee is what has gotten me through this period in my sports life. He has hit shots I will never forget. He has set the standard for insightful, honest interviews. He has never demanded more touches, yet he has never been afraid to take the last shot.
I’m sure a lot of you will take this article as a way to knock David’s defense, on which he is reportedly working. Or maybe you’ll say he’s never been on a winning team, or maybe you’ll say "Amare is better" or "Bosh has better stats" or "The reason he gets so many rebounds is because no one’s fighting him for them."
Say whatever you want. But David, if you’re reading this: please come back. You have a chance to be an all-time Knick and