All-Star forward David Lee made a surprising return for the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night after not dressing the previous four games with what the team had called a season-ending hip injury.
Lee didn’t participate in early pregame warm-ups, then sprinted out of the tunnel second behind Stephen Curry about 15 minutes before tipoff, ripping off his jacket and getting a rousing ovation from fans when he was shown on the videoboard.
With 6:05 remaining in the first quarter, Lee took off the shirt over his uniform and began to check in at the scorer’s table. As fans started to roar to its feet, Nuggets coach George Karl quickly called timeout and quieted the crowd.
Lee didn’t come in following the timeout, then went back to the scorer’s table once played resumed. He finally entered the game with 2:23 to play following a timeout by Warriors coach Mark Jackson, getting a standing ovation from fans as he jogged to center court and pointed to the sky with both hands.
Lee had one rebound and missed his only shot in 87 seconds of play in the first quarter as the Warriors beat the Nuggets 92-88 to advance to the second round.
Lee was hurt in the fourth quarter of Game 1, when he banged into Denver’s JaVale McGee on a drive and landed on his side. The Warriors said April 21 he had a season-ending tear of his right hip flexor.
Carl Landry started at power forward alongside point guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, small forward Harrison Barnes and center Andrew Bogut.
Lee gave Jackson a hug and the two spoke for a few seconds while the lights dimmed during player introductions. Lee led the pep talk in the huddle after starters were announced.