David Lee continues to sit at the end of the bench, his role reduced to clapping for his teammates and playing the part of good veteran. It is a role he's become accustomed to in the last couple of years, but probably not one he's all that happy with. He doesn't even get into games during blowouts, but that's actually a sign of respect by the coach.
Stevens on D Lee sitting in blowouts: "He’s been in the league a long time...I’m not gonna put him in there for 5 mins or 4 mins at the end"— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) January 31, 2016
The problem is that Lee is in a contract year and all this sitting isn't helping him earn himself a big payday. He and his agent approved of the trade that sent him to the Celtics because they thought it was a good opportunity for him to show his worth on a young team contending for a playoff spot. It hasn't worked out that way.
The narrative is that the NBA game has passed him by. The new pace and space offensive systems don't benefit much from his offensive style and his lack of defense is a burden. So when Brad Stevens decided to shorten his rotation, Lee was one of the guys dropped from the mix. And now he sits and awaits his fate.
To the Celtics' credit, they've apparently kept Lee in the loop on their plans going forward.
Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that he has had conversations with Lee and his representatives as far as his future with the Celtics. Ainge declined to elaborate on specifics of those conversations, but he was quick to mention how pleased he has been with Lee handling what most would agree has been a difficult situation for the impending free agent. "All the success he has had in the NBA … he has dealt with it right," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "He knows an opportunity is going to come to him at some points. He’s staying ready."
I doubt that there was anything as formal as a trade request or a promise of a trade. I'm sure that both sides were very aware of what was happening and the lines of communication have been open. For the Celtics part, they want to do right for the team, but if they can, they'll do right by David Lee as well. For Lee's part, he is ultimately responsible for his own interests, but is willing and able to be a good sport and support the team. Contrast all of this with what is happening out in Phoenix with Markieff Morris (not to mention the newly fired Coach Hornacek).
Personally I don't have anything personal against David Lee and I understood why the team made the calculated risk to trade for him. It just hasn't worked out and sooner or later the two sides will be parting ways.
I wouldn't even be surprised if Danny had a contingency trade or two already lined up. The Celtics will hold onto Lee till the deadline, trying to find an advantageous trade to make using his salary to match incoming salaries. If not, then they can go to plan B of dumping him to another team for minimal in return. Or perhaps they'll simply choose to negotiate a buyout that relieves the Celtics of some of the cost of his contract while allowing Lee to recoup that money elsewhere and get a head start on the rest of his career.
This hasn't gone the way that everyone had hoped, but it sounds like everyone has handled it well.