After tearing his right hip flexor in the first NBA playoff game of his career, the Golden State Warriors’ All-Star intends to return to the floor before the postseason is over once again.
Lee already “returned” for Golden State’s first-round series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Denver Nuggets, but he played just one minute, and his presence was meant to boost his teammates’ morale more than anything else.
Speaking with Comcast Sports’ Ric Bucher, though, Lee said that it’s “likely” he will play again this year:
Warriors PF David Lee said on my radio show this afternoon that he will play again this postseason; also said sur-
gery to repair his torn right hip flexor is still “a likely possibility” once the season is over.
The conversation afterward painted it as a likelihood, in order to make sure that he’d be ready to go next season. Forgoing surgery would allow him to come back with greater flexibility whenever he resumed training, but it would leave him open to possibly needing more recovery time and potential setbacks. We want to “make sure the problem is fixed,” he said.
Lee averaged 18.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists during the regular season, earning himself a second career All-Star selection. What’s more is Lee became just the 21st player in NBA history to average at least 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists while shooting 51 percent or better from the field.
Not known for his athleticism, Lee has proved to be an absolute workhorse, someone who can clean up on the glass, put points on the board inside the post (and outside) and just outwork his opponent in nearly every aspect of the game.
In the past, Lee has been construed as a liability, to the point where his teams (the Warriors and New York Knicks) were thought to be better off without him. There was plenty of numbers to support such claims too. As I wrote about earlier in the season, this campaign proved just the opposite. The Warriors were better with him on the floor.
Now, however, there may be some prepared to make that same old case again. The Warriors have made it all the way through to the second round without him on floor, running more of a spread offense. Their success in his absence has been surprisingly tapered—you would’ve expected calls for Golden State to trade him this summer to have started already—but they’re likely to gain traction should he return as more than just an emotional decoy.
I’ve always been of the mind (for the most part), that you want a two-time All-Star in your lineup no matter what. There’s always the potential for stars to help a team, more than there is to hurt it. But even I have to admit I find myself engaging in the perils of thought, wondering if his return would slow the Warriors’ offense and/or stifle the recent success of Andrew Bynum and Harrison Barnes.
In just 30 minutes of play, the Warriors scored at a rate of 71.6 points per 100 possessions with Lee on the floor, compared to the 113.9 points points without him. Though an incredibly small sample size, it lays the groundwork for the inevitable arguments that will come.
That said, the numbers have to be ignored to a certain extent, because the Warriors seem to grasp their offensive concept better than they ever have before. This could have just been an inevitable improvement. And so, they at least need to give the integration of Lee a chance, so that they may see if he can, in fact, make them even better, or at the very least fit into their current scheme.
Should Lee return and the Warriors flounder with him on the court or begin to show signs of offensive (and defensive) vulnerability, expect his future with the team to be questioned throughout the offseason. You should probably even expect it if he doesn’t return. Because the way the Warriors are playing now without him, that’s where this seems headed.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.