BOSTON – For the second straight game, Boston Celtics forward David Lee found himself on the bench … for the entire night.
Lee makes no secret about wanting more of an opportunity to play, even if that means playing elsewhere.
I asked the former two-time all-star if he or his representatives have asked for a trade.
“We’ll see moving forward how permanent this is,” Lee said in response to the trade question. “I’m confident I can help a team win; I’d love for that to be the Boston Celtics. So no, I haven’t spoken really about that and haven’t thought about that yet. Right now, it’s just about continuing to be ready.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has placed a greater emphasis on finding ways to increase spacing on the floor.
That’s why Kelly Olynyk has started the last two games ahead of Jared Sullinger who has been Boston’s best rebounder this season.
But in going small, Stevens has turned to 6-foot-10 Jonas Jerebko more often as well because of his versatility in defending switches on pick-and-rolls. That has left Lee out of the rotation and maybe even more significant of late, not playing at all.
Lee says he has talked with Stevens about the changes, and acknowledged that he told Stevens he didn’t agree with them.
But the 32-year-old Lee made it clear that there was no animosity or contentiousness in their talks.
“So while I told him I disagree with him, I also told him he’s the coach and he can choose to do that,” Lee said.
As far as Lee’s future with the Celtics in terms of playing time, Stevens said there’s a chance Lee could be back on the floor as soon as Thursday night against Chicago.
“The rotation is something we re-assess after every game,” Stevens said. “Tyler Zeller has had a few DNPs and got one tonight. One of those two guys will certainly play (against the Chicago Bulls). Chicago is a much bigger team.”
Lee said he has been getting in additional workouts to compensate for the lack of playing time he’s getting.
“I can be pissed off or I can choose to keep working hard,” Lee said. “And I’m going to keep working hard.”
Lee was acquired from Golden State in the offseason in exchange for Gerald Wallace who was another former all-star who saw his role in Boston’s lineup quickly diminish.
And Lee to some extent dealt with going from a prominent role to not playing at times last season during Golden State’s title run.
Lee began the season as a starter but suffered a hamstring injury. While healing, Golden State inserted Draymond Green into the starting lineup and Lee was never able to get his job back.
And as the Warriors continued to evolve as a team, Lee saw a few DNP-CDs as well.
But he’s quick to point out how things are different now.
“Even last year I didn’t accept that,” Lee said. “Last year was more of an injury-based thing. I got injured the start of the year and I came back. This is a situation that’s a bit more frustrating. And by no means am I accepting this situation. But at the same time I told Brad, ‘He’s the coach. He’s the one making decisions.’ And I also trust my teammates and want what’s best for the team. We’ll see how it plays out. The most important thing is making sure the Celtics get a ‘W’ in the win column; get a victory every game.”
And while he doesn’t agree with Stevens’ decision to take him out of the rotation, he does understand the logic behind what Stevens is trying to do which is to find a way to better position the Celtics to be successful.
“We’ve been up and down as a team, so coach is trying to find a way to find some consistency,” Lee said. “We looked pretty good in Brooklyn. We didn’t look as good tonight (against Detroit).”
With the trade deadline next month, Lee’s name will be among those talked about for sure.
He has an expiring contract worth $15.5 million this season, has an NBA body of work that consists of specific skills (scoring in the post, rebounding) that could benefit a number of teams.
However, the challenge becomes finding a team or teams willing to part with enough assets that 1) the Celtics want to acquire and 2) meet the necessary financial requirements for a deal to be completed.
It’s pretty clear that the 32-year-old forward’s preference is to stay in Boston. But if staying in Boston means staying on the bench, he’s open to the idea of having his talents shipped out somewhere else where his chances of getting on the court are more plentiful.
“I’m definitely going to stay in my lane and play my role,” Lee said.
He has already made it known how he feels about not playing.
While reiterating he doesn’t agree with Stevens’ decision, “I’ve also made it very clear that he’s the coach and I respect him and anyone else making the decisions. And it’s my job to work hard and be ready for my opportunity when it comes back.”