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Eric Byrnes: 2013-14 was David Lee’s “most miserable basketball season”

david lee warriors

David Lee crazy eyes

Current/former(?) KNBR host Eric Byrnes went on with Tom Tobert and Ray Ratto yesterday afternoon, and in the course of some Warriors smalltalk dropped a “juicy, juicy, juicy” (as Byrnes himself might say) nugget.

“One thing I heard, and this was interesting. And I don’t know what the reason was. Now I heard this secondhand, and of course we like to take secondhand stuff and throw it out over the 50,000-watt flamethrower just to stir up the controversy a little bit. But … according to a source, supposedly David Lee told him that it was the most miserable basketball season that he had endured,” said Byrnes.

“There’s so much internal dissension that was going on … I think if you had that much weird stuff going on, with the assistant coaches potentially taping guys and all the other nonsense, something had to change.”

Byrnes made it sound like Lee’s state of mind was due to the weirdness that came about during Jackson’s third and final year as Warriors head coach. In actuality, there are several things one can point to if they’re looking for reasons why Lee was miserable, if that was indeed the case.

  • Lee missed 13 games due to injury, his highest total since 2006-07.
  • His midrange jumper completely vanished in 2013-14.
  • His minutes dropped from 34.1 per game before the All-Star Break to 30.8 after.

Those are personal, numbers-based reasons. If we’re looking into the Jackson angle, there are a couple things that stand out.

Jackson’s top priority was defense — not exactly Lee’s greatest strength. At times throughout the season, Jackson (perhaps no longer worried about hurting one of Joe Lacob’s favorite player’s feelings) removed Lee for defensive purposes. That continued in the playoffs.

When asked about his reasoning for pulling Lee, Jackson answered, “Defensive. Obviously we want to be able to post up David and make plays offensively. We feel like we can have success that way. But defensively, I thought things were happening a little too easily.”

The next reason is a little more complicated. Lee has long considered himself one of the co-leaders of the team with Stephen Curry, the player he races (in a friendly way) from midcourt to the baseline before every game. That equality was hammered home when Lee made the Western Conference All-Star team over Curry last season.

(Side note: I recall hearing an interview on 95.7 The Game with Lee in the middle of the 2012-13 season where Ric Bucher asked who the team’s MVP was — if Lee took himself out of the equation. Even though Bucher made the instructions quite clear, Lee couldn’t help himself. He mentioned how both he and Curry were the team’s leaders, and therefore they shared the title of MVP.)

As Curry raised his game throughout the second half of the 2012-13 season and became a nationally recognized star in the 2013 postseason (while Lee nursed a hip injury), Jackson started to mention publicly how Curry is the team’s best player.

This isn’t exactly a secret. Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson have uttered the same words. But Jackson made it clear who “the guy” was throughout 2013-14, and that’s something he didn’t do in his first two years as head coach.

Granted, Byrnes is coming through with a “secondhand” source. Maybe Lee wasn’t all that miserable. And if he was, maybe it stemmed from losing a couple assistants late in the season and dealing with all the questions about Jackson’s future as the year went on. But I remember asking Lee if he paid attention to questions about whether he should start, or if his presence even helps the team.

“No, I don’t pay attention to what Tim Kawakami writes. By this point, you ought to know that it’s rather biased. I’m not taking shots at him, but I think he just took Harrison’s name out of the article and inserted Draymond’s this year.

“I think I’ve been a guy that’s worked my butt off for this team, been a leader on and off the court. A huge stat they say is plus/minus. I think I’m ninth in the league in that right now. So if I’m hurting the team, I don’t see it. There’s a lot of things I can get better at, and I’m going to keep doing that. And I think I can help this team do a lot of things in the playoffs coming up if I get healthy.”

Based on Lee’s response, I’m not surprised to hear he didn’t enjoy last season all that much. We’ll see if the addition of Steve Kerr changes things.

23 Comments
23 comments
ChathamHaleForbesSr
ChathamHaleForbesSr

This writer is very obviously adversely criticizing David Lee. Yet Lee is a very positive asset in every game in both scoring and rebounds. His defense is certainly at least adequate. His slightly reduced playing time was to accommodate Draymond Green's remarkable contribution, which no other player provides. Lee is really invaluable to the Warriors, because he is a great passer who makes plays around the offensive basket. He is a smart player at both ends who has that special ability to position himself where he can make plays. The writer refers to Lee's injuries as though they were a disqualifying factor. That is obviously untrue and simply gratuitous. Many  Warriors lost time because of injury. Lee is commendable for playing through injury, in fact. The truth is that people often catch the old fever to solve perceived deficiencies by trading a player to bring in someone who they believe will magically guarantee an NBA championship; the next Great White or Black Hope. That seldom succeeds, as we have all seen many, many times.  The honest, objective fact is that the team is lucky to have Lee, a long established All-Star power forward who has notable finesse, intelligence, and team attitude.

coltraning
coltraning

IMHO, Lee was his own worst enemy.  His mid-range jumper, so deadly in 2012-13, completely deserted him. So even though his numbers looked similar to last year, he hurt the spacing even more.  When he and Bogut were on the floor at the same time, the spacing was just awful, and you didn't have to take either one seriously outside of 8 feet (5 feet in Bogut's case).  


Lee has always had a superb work ethic, making the most of his abilities, but as the Ws raised their defense to an elite level, and even Curry stepped up in that area, the defensive weakness in Lee was glaring, and sometimes it could not be hidden.  As Draymond improved (he actually is a much better outside shot than is Lee), his superior skills as a defender and screener coupled with a pretty credible 3 to space the floor, so it is no shock that Jackson started leaning towards Green.


That said, I am wary of unnamed sources - that was the same game used to cut Jackson with a 1000 front office knives.  What is notable is that Kerr is calling for a stretch 4, and Lee is surely not that. I have fairly little doubt that whether Jackson or Kerr coached the team going forward, Lee was heading to the bench or to a trade. On the other hand, his numbers look great to the casual fan, and I can imagine that a 2-time all-star who is going to give you 18-20/9-10 every night could become a real fan favorite on a bad team, esp. since he is a rarety in the NBA, a very good white American player in a game where the list of very good to excellent white American players is very short and the % of fans who can afford tickets is still largely white.

Isbonifacio
Isbonifacio

The question, after the Warriors' first round exit, is where can they improve to go further in the playoffs and challenge for the championship.  The answer is at center and power forward.  Bogut must remain healthy and available to protect the rim and Lee's defensive liability and mid-range jumper. Obviously acquiring Kevin Love would begin to answer those issues.  Keeping Bogut healthy or finding a competent backup (Ezeli?) would answer the other part.

Otis Byrd III
Otis Byrd III

Lee didn't have that bad of a year this season. What is Byrnes talking about? It's comments like these as to why he probably isn't on KNBR right now. Yes, it's a money thing, but comments like this don't help his cause.... I think Lee had his real miserable years when he was with the Knicks, even though he put up big numbers there. When Lee talks about his Knicks days, he doesn't sound like he enjoyed playing for them. Yes, he enjoyed playing in NYC, but he didn't like being on losing teams.

Lee arguably could've been an All-Star this season too. Yeah, Lee isn't great and I would take PF's like Aldridge and Love over Lee, but Lee is still a decent PF, puts up big numbers, and is key to this team as it's currently constructed. You know what you're going to get with Lee.

Lime
Lime

Lee will have a great season next year....as a Minnesota Timberwolf!

rick man
rick man

its no secret Lee is a poor player, defensively. I dont care what +/- says, the dude doesnt have the mobility in the lane nor the explosiveness to challenge guys at the rim.  His offense does make up for his lack of defensive ability, but (like this article mentions) when the jumper isn't there, Lee becomes a liability.

Bay Area Sports Guy
Bay Area Sports Guy moderator

@ChathamHaleForbesSr  "His defense is certainly at least adequate." - It wasn't in Jackson's mind.

"The writer refers to Lee's injuries as though they were a disqualifying factor." - No, I wrote that his injuries may have led to him being frustrated with how last season played out. 

You wrote this comment as if "this writer" (me) is actually Eric Byrnes. He's the one who said he heard David Lee was miserable, and if that's true there are several reasons one can point to. But if you want to think I'm bashing Lee gratuitously, that's your prerogative. I do think he's a very skilled player around the basket, though he's definitely overpaid.

thecity2
thecity2

@Otis Byrd III  "What is Byrnes talking about?" You have to ask the guy who told the guy who told Byrnes.

paperback writer
paperback writer

You miss the subltle parts of his game like his in close offensive moves and help on D.

Look, if there was a guy on the trading block or free-agency that posted over 18 points, over 9 rebounds and over 2 asists a game - - most fans would be slobbering to get him, pronto.

Those are David Lee's stat lines in just 33 minutes a game.  Play-off stats almost as high.

paperback writer
paperback writer

Your way off, Lee was NOT terrible - but he was good to excellent on a consistant basis.

I never understand the Lee bashings.  Never.

paperback writer
paperback writer

Quoting Eric Freakin' Byrnes quoting an un-named source will invite criticsm, also that picture of David Lee seemed to have some editorial slant.

coltraning
coltraning

@paperback writer  Not at all terrible, but once he lost his jumper he became less of a threat, and clogged floor spacing. as for his inside game?  The dude led the league in having his shot blocked -look it up. And his defense was far poorer than either Green's or Barnes.  

ChathamHaleForbesSr
ChathamHaleForbesSr

@coltraning @paperback writer  Lee hasn't lost his jumper. The Warrior's plays put him inside, where he's excellent in all phases offensively. Curry and Thompson were expected to take care of jumpers, and did. Lee is adequate defensively. He isn't Carlos Boozer, but Boozer can't equal Lee offensively or in all-court instincts.

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