David Lee didn't play last night and he didn't play in the previous game either. In fact, he has played in just 2 of the last 6 games dating back to the day after Christmas.
It sure seems like he's the latest odd man out of the rotation right now.
"Coach [Brad Stevens] came to me and said we’re going to try and go small at the 4, which means Kelly [Olynyk] and Jonas [Jerebko]," Lee said. "That’s why [Jared Sullinger] has been out of the starting lineup. That was his theory on some changes he wanted to make after us losing a couple of games, so I told him while I disagree with it, I also told him he’s the coach and can choose to do that."
If you read the rest of the quotes you can tell that he's frustrated but willing to do and say the right things for the team. He even mentions the classy way he handled a similar situation last year. But as he notes, the circumstances were different last year and this team doesn't look to be the rolling-downhill-juggernaut that was the Golden St. Warriors of last year. This team is struggling to win and Lee (understandably) believes that he could be helping them win more.
From the start, the Lee trade made sense from an X's and O's standpoint. He had more in the tank to offer than the outgoing Gerald Wallace. Lee costs about $5M more than Wallace but his $15M expiring contract could be used in trades at the deadline. That's all well and good, but it is easy to forget that Lee is a human being, not a walking trade chip. All good NBA players have a healthy element of pride. Proud players don't like to sit, just ask Kieth Bogans.
Part of the appeal in coming to Boston was the opportunity to get playing time and show that he's worth another contract at the end of this season. That's not happening right now. So with the trade deadline approaching in a little over a month, is Lee contemplating a request for a trade? According to him, no... not yet at least.
"We'll see moving forward how permanent this is," Lee said Wednesday night after his second straight DNP-CD resulted in a 99-94 loss to the Detroit Pistons. "Obviously I'm very confident I can help a team win. I'd love for that to be the Boston Celtics. So no, I haven't spoken about that. I haven't really thought about that yet. Right now it's about continuing to be ready, and if that was talked about it would be between my agent, the Celtics and other teams. At this point I'm excited to get back on the floor and play minutes for the Celtics, and hopefully that will be tomorrow night, and play minutes, and help us win the game."
Brad Stevens and the Celtics have to play this one carefully. Their primary mission should always be to win basketball games and if Lee isn't the answer, they shouldn't play him. However, the downside is that he's going to be frustrated and his potential trade value is going to diminish with every DNP-CD.
Granted, teams probably have a very good idea of what Lee brings to the table and what he's got left in the tank by now. There really isn't any need to "showcase" him to potential "buyers." Most likely, anyone trading for Lee is probably going to be in tear-down mode rather than a team looking for a final piece of the puzzle.
Lee is a professional and he's proven that he can handle setbacks like this like a man. Still, he's bound to be frustrated and guys around him are bound to feel that. The whole situation with the overcrowded roster is going to produce that impact, regardless if it is Lee or Zeller or another guy that has fallen out of the rotation. Locker room chemistry can be a touchy sort of thing, and when the win's aren't coming fast enough, things can go sideways quickly.
IT: "I’m not going to blame just one thing but we still don’t really have a set rotation." Went on to say "not to blame coach or anything."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 7, 2016