After spending the past two weeks on the sideline nursing a sore back, Golden State Warriors forward David Lee was happy for the chance to get back out and play full-court basketball – even if it was only in a scrimmage.
Lee is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Warriors getting at least a week off after sweeping New Orleans in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The extra time off gives Lee the chance to heal even more and the opportunity to find his rhythm again with the extra practice time created by the time off.
The Warriors won’t start the second round until Sunday at the earliest. Game 1 might be pushed back until May 5 if the Memphis-Portland series goes seven games. The Grizzlies lead 3-1.
”It’s good to go out there and get a rhythm again,” Lee said Tuesday. ”My back feels really good. It was the first time I had played full court in a while. It was important to get that rhythm back and the cardio.”
The Warriors held their second practice Tuesday since finishing off the sweep of New Orleans on Saturday. Coach Steve Kerr worked the players hard during a lengthy practice that included two quarters of a full-court scrimmage to prevent the team from getting rusty during the break.
”We tried to make it feel like a game with the conditioning level,” Kerr said.
The Warriors will take Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday when they could know their second-round opponent if Memphis wins at home Wednesday night.
Lee did not play at all in the first round but was able to be in uniform in New Orleans when the team clinched the series and said he will be ready for round two.
”It’s always frustrating not being able to help the team out,” especially being in a suit the first couple of games,” he said. ”You feel like an assistant coach, you don’t feel part of the fun. At least on the road I was able to dress and I was available those last two games if needed. That really makes you feel better to be a part of that.”
While the Warriors often were forced to use a smaller lineup against the Pelicans, they might need to play bigger if Memphis is the opponent in the second round in order to match up with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Starting power forward Draymond Green picked up two first-quarter fouls in the past two meetings against the Grizzlies, forcing Lee into the game earlier than usual. He averaged more than 15 minutes in those two contests and played a key role in the 107-84 win in Memphis on March 27 with six points.
”He’ll have to come in and play 20 minutes and anchor our second unit,” guard Stephen Curry said. ”He’s a guy who’s always ready. He’s done that all season. I know he just wants to be available and be healthy.”
It’s been a tough season personally for Lee, a former All-Star who was Golden State’s best players in leaner years and remains the highest-paid player on the team.
He was sidelined by a hamstring injury early in the season and lost his starting job when Green excelled in his place. Lee got only sporadic playing time during the season depending on matchups and had several games when he didn’t play even when healthy.
Lee played the fewest minutes of his career and averaged just 7.9 points per game – the lowest since his rookie year with the Knicks in 2005-06.
As much as Lee would like to get more playing time, he understands why Kerr has utilized him the way he has.
”This is about the team,” Lee said. ”If we were a terrible team it would be a different story. I’d be saying, `Let me go in there and do something.’ We’ve been successful and I’ve played a role and helped us win games. All that happened during the season doesn’t matter now. All that matters is we’ve gotten ourselves the number one seed and we will need every single guy on this team to try to win games.”