It was a sad and unfortunate scene on Saturday in Denver as the Golden State Warriors lost a lot more than a series opening playoff game.
Their All-Star forward and second largest investment fell to the floor after a mid air collision with JaVale McGee and barely made it back up the floor. After knocking down one of two free throws, Lee hobbled up the court a few feet and quickly buckled under the pain of a torn hip flexor.
The injury spells disaster for Golden State and their playoffs as the loss of their second leading scorer and top rebounder creates a difficult void in the lineup to fill, but even tougher to stomach than that for the neutral fan is seeing Lee suffer the injury at all.
Few players work as hard as Lee with little to no reward, as has been the case throughout most of his career. Since being drafted 30th in 2005 by the New York Knicks, Lee has played gritty, workmanlike basketball that is often skipped over when it comes to highlight reels. It was enough to attract Golden State to make a trade and take on his sizeable contract and use him as a centerpiece to build this current Warriors unit that has achieved a significant feat in reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007.
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Since becoming a key component of the Warriors team, Lee has continued to polish his game, tirelessly developing his post moves and continuing to be one of the best rebounders in the league. This season, he has been particularly crucial in the team’s success, leading the league in double-doubles and making his second all-star appearance in his career.
For the most part, Lee has maintained his health throughout his career, having to play through only minor injuries at times. Thanks to this, he has played in 70% of his team’s contests over the years and his honest, blue collar efforts have made him one of the best power forwards in basketball.
This injury is disappointing because it is damaging for one of the league’s good guys. Throughout his career, Lee has played on weak teams that didn’t have the gusto to get to the postseason, and now that he is a part of a group that has what it takes to compete at the level Lee so desperately wants to play at, he will miss out due to a difficult injury.
In an age where athletes are questionable role models at best most of the time, Lee is the exception. Clean cut and fundamental, Lee is the answer to why young players need coaching. He is an example of how for a heady player who hustles and works his tail off can go. The most athletic guy isn’t always the guy on top, sometimes brains beats brawn.
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For the 29-year old Lee, recovering is now the next challenge he faces. He’s played through pain and mediocre teammates to make that one postseason appearance, but he’ll have to play after a major injury and rehab period for the first time in order to make another. From here on out, we really find out what David Lee is made of.