Houston • David Lee can relate to the plight of the Jazz big men. In each of his first five seasons in the NBA, every suggested trade involving the New York Knicks centered on Lee, the workaday power forward.
Those days are far behind Lee. Acquired by Golden State in 2010 in a sign-and-trade deal, Lee is the face of a resurgent franchise. On Sunday, he became the first Warrior to play in an All-Star Game since Mitch Richmond in 1997.
“It just makes things a lot easier to be winning right now,” Lee said. “That makes life completely different as a basketball player.”
Lee averages 19 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Warriors, who are 30-22. However, they will bring a five-game losing streak to EnergySolutions Arena when they play the Jazz on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Jazz frontcourt is full of uncertainty, with both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson rumored as candidates to be traded by Thursday’s 1 p.m. trade deadline. Unlike the Jazz, the Warriors’ lineup of the future is largely set.
Harrison Barnes and Stephen Curry represent the athletic, limitless potential of the Warriors, while Lee is the organizational staple alongside injury-prone former University of Utah center Andrew Bogut.
Big men always serve as the convenient metaphor for stability, but Lee is hardly a cliché. He has quietly developed into one of the league’s best power forwards. He is the only player to average at least 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, and leads the NBA with 33 double-doubles.
“He started off as just a rebounder,” Jazz forward Paul Millsap said, “coming in and rebounding, pretty athletic, and just over the course of the years he got better. He worked on his game and he’s transformed into the guy he is right now.”
Lee played 13 minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game, scoring 6 points and grabbing 2 rebounds to play a small role in the West All-Stars’ 143-138 victory at the Toyota Center.
The weekend is full of frivolities and relaxation. It’s always a question coming off the break of how players will respond. Can the Jazz jump the Warriors coming off the break? Will it go the other way?
The Warriors backed into the All-Star Break, and while they spent the first half of the season threatening to crack the top half of the Western Conference, find themselves just one game ahead of the Jazz in the playoff race and as the Warriors struggle, the back end of the conference gets more crowded.
“There’s a bunch of teams that are in that mix,” Lee said. “We’re a couple of games ahead of it right now and hopefully we never enter that mix, we stay above it.”
However, Lee said the All-Star experience would re-energize him.
“To see the intensity, coach [Gregg] Popovich wasn’t allowing anybody to joke around,” Lee said. “It was something that I think is going to propel me into the second half of the season.”
While it was his second appearance, it was his first as an original selection. He was a replacement in 2010, his last year with the Knicks.
“It all seemed kind of like it was a blur,” Lee said. “This season I come from a winning team now and that makes a huge difference, feeling like you’re the product of the team having a resurgence this year and getting recognition because of that.”
Golden State at Utah
P EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 30-24, Warriors 30-22
Season series • Warriors 1-0
About the Jazz • Guard Gordon Hayward practiced Monday and coach Tyrone Corbin was hopeful he would return to the Jazz lineup after missing 10 games with a sprained right shoulder. Officially, he is a game-time decision. ... Mo Williams had two pins removed from his surgically repaired thumb last week, but did not have a timeline for when he would return. ... The Warriors beat the Jazz 94-83 on Dec. 26 in only other matchup this season.
About the Warriors • Former University of Utah center Andrew Bogut has appeared in 10 games this season, and averages 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. ... David Lee became the Warriors’ first All Star since Mitch Richmond in 1997. ... Stephen Curry leads the Warriors with 21 points per game.
Warriors at Jazz
P Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT