Overpaid and Underappreciated

David Lee goes to work against the Hornets last night at Oracle.

There isn’t much that can be taken away from last night’s debacle that was the Warriors’ 15 point loss to the lowly Hornets (unless of course you are a passenger on the Tank Express headed to “Keep-Your-Draft-Pick” Town). There was the somewhat joyous news that former coach Don Nelson is finally going to get inducted into the Hallf of Fame (broken by none other than Nelson himself). Other than that,  the crowd was pretty much dead throughout the game. The post game press conference was dead. The vibe in the locker room after the game was dead. Last night, Oracle Arena felt like a place where everyone has realized the season is basically over – and they were right.

While watching the Warriors get outplayed, outhustled and outshot by a team missing four or five starters, I began to notice that there was one player who would not give up hope on the game at hand: David Lee. As ridiculous as this sounds, Lee has become very under-appreciated this season. His mammoth contract can sometimes make fans forget how talented and skilled he really is. Yes, he is severely overpaid for someone who doesn’t play a lick of defense but he does possess skills that will help this team starting next year (which is what they’re solely looking at now).

Lee posted 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against the Hornets on a night where he had little to no help. While all the other Warriors seemed to be hungover from the battle against the Lakers the night before, Lee was out there battling (to steal a term from Mark Jackson) and proved that he is one of the true professionals not only on the team, but in the NBA.

Where some players may have just chalked up the loss to putting all of their energy forward in the previous night’s game, Lee made no excuses. “Terrible game by our team all the way around. They were the aggressors from the start. They hit shots, we didn’t hit shots. Our intensity wasn’t there on either end and it’s a real disappointment. I put this with the Memphis [loss] at home, Houston [loss] on the road, the couple games this season where it’s going to be tough to sleep after a loss like this, just ’cause our effort wasn’t there. Forget our execution, just the effort – we got outplayed tonight.”

In a season where injuries have kept the team from being at full strength, Lee doesn’t lean on that as a reason for the Warriors’ struggles. He expects 100% effort from himself and the team on any given night, no matter what the circumstances or the team they are playing.

Deep down, Lee (like the other Warriors) has to know the season is over and that all they can look forward to is next year with what is hopefully a healthy lineup featuring Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. Lee will finally have the defensive minded center he needs to cover up his deficiencies thus making him more effective on both sides of the court. Despite the optimism for next year, it was fairly obvious that the losing is beginning to take a toll on Lee – which is a good thing. It shows that he’s a competitor and someone who doesn’t take kindly to losing. That type of mentality may not pay dividends for the rest of this season, but it will next season and every season after that.

While the rest of the year looks bleak for Golden State, it has to be somewhat comforting for Joe Lacob and co. that they have someone on the team in Lee who still goes all out every game even when he and everyone else knows the Warriors will more than likely lose.

It probably also helps that with Lee out there giving it his all, it makes their attempts at tanking less blatant and obvious.

Oops. Is that still a secret?

Notes from Oracle:

- My seat on press row was right next to Al Attles. That guy has to be one of the nicest human beings ever. He chatted with fans who stopped by, signed autographs, took pictures and genuinely seemed to enjoy the company of others. His voice is fantastic as well.

- Mark Jackson’s postgame press conference took a little longer to get underway as supposedly he was talking to the team longer than usual. It makes sense. Lose badly to a 12-win team, get a long lecture.

- The crowd started to leave around the nine minute mark in the 4th quarter. That was a new record for me. People usually start to leave at around the five minute mark. I’m not complaining though. It made it incredibly easy to get out of Oracle’s parking lot.

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