We got up with David Lee to talk video games, Andrew Bogut, St. Louis and more.
The past two seasons have been, aside from an incident where a tooth got lodged in his arm, relatively quiet for David Lee. Yeah, there have been some highs (17 points and 15 rebounds in his Warrior debut, a win; a 6-2 start to his tenure in Golden State) and many lows (that freak arm injury that hampered him for much of 2010-11; two straight losing seasons). But mostly, there’s just been national silence, as if people have forgotten about his statistically stellar existence. That’s just what happens, seemingly, when you move from the overhyped and underachieving New York Knicks to the under-covered and underachieving Golden State Warriors.
With his third season as a Warrior set to kick off Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns, Lee spent some time with us this past week to discuss former teammates, current teammates, the St. Louis Rams, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and more.
SLAM: You get your copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 yet?
David Lee: No, but it’s on the way. I’m excited.
SLAM: I’m sure you’re looking forward to that. Have you always been into the Call of Duty series?
DL: No question. Since, I want to say, about five or six games ago. I got into it—a bunch of my teammates always played. Nate Robinson is kind of the reason I got into the game. He has a whole entire crew on line, BFAM, that rarely loses online in all the hardcore team death matches. But, yeah, we definitely play that quite a bit. Now, me and five or six of my teammates on the Warriors all clan up together and play. It’s a good way to sit back, get your rest and do something that’s enjoyable.
SLAM: I was gonna say, I remember when Nate Robinson saluted his COD fans back when he was on the NY Knicks…
DL: Right (laughs). Exactly. His crew is really good. I still play as one of his crew, or, like I said, we got our guys now. It’s good, but I can get overly competitive and angry when we don’t do well. It’s a fun hobby, though.
SLAM: You were saying, a couple of guys on the Warriors are into it?
DL: Yeah. Steph Curry plays; Klay Thompson plays; Brandon Rush, Jeremy Tyler, so we have a good fun little group.
SLAM: Who has bragging rights?
DL: I’ll say on our team that I have the bragging rights. In Nate Robinson’s group I think I’m lucky to even be a part of the crew. They have some really, really good players on their team—they have a couple ringers that tend to have a 10:1 kill-death ratio. They take care of business.
SLAM: Do you know of other guys in the NBA who play? I mean, do you ever play with guys from other teams in the NBA, other than Nate?
DL: No, we don’t. I mean, I know a ton of guys play it. I know guys in the NBA play a lot of sports games, but me personally, I play enough basketball all day long that I don’t want to go home and then play 2K, know what I mean (laughs)? So for me it’s a good change of pace, and it keeps my mind busy and at the same time it’s a hobby where I can lay up my theater and just relax and play.
SLAM: So you have a good setup for it?
DL: Yeah, in San Francisco. I have a nice little third bedroom converted into like an office-thing with a comfortable place to sit and a big screen to watch it on.
SLAM: Last year Mike Conley told me that in a lot of ways playing games like Call of Duty correlates to basketball, just in terms of leadership and playing off of your teammates. Do you feel that way at all?
DL: No question. I think it’s a situation where you have to work along with your teammates and communicate, and definitely guys who are competitive on the court are competitive on there. Nate Robinson and I have had times we’ve been screaming at our teammates if they do something stupid (laughs). It’s a very competitive game and there are times, like in basketball, where you play better than other days.
SLAM: It’s also just a good way for a team to bond, right?
DL: No question. We’ll always get to the locker room, if five or six of us played the day before, and give trouble to the guy who had his two kills and 14 deaths. Yeah, it’s a good way to bond. It’s something a lot of the guys on the team have in common.
SLAM: When you’re joking about it in practice or in the locker room, does Coach Jackson have any idea what you guys are talking about or is he clueless?
DL: I don’t know if he specifically knows too much about the game, but his kids play a lot of video games so he’s aware of it. And of course he’s happy that off the court the guys are doing something with a common interest.
SLAM: You’ve played for a lot of coaches already; obviously you’re not going to say anything negative, but what do you think about Coach Jackson’s style and how does it compare to what you’ve seen?
DL: I’m always going to be honest, and to me he’s an unbelievable coach. I think a big part of being a coach in the NBA is being able to relate to your players and getting the most out of the team you have. Being a former player, he understands the NBA, understands that there’s days you have to go out the guys, there’s days you have to hang back and let guys take care of themselves, and he’s very good with managing players and managing situations. And then, Xs and Os wise, our coaching staff works as hard as anybody in the League. I’ve been very happy playing for Coach, and I think he’s going to be an even better coach this year.
SLAM: Because of the lockout last year you didn’t get to have a training camp, so this was your first one with him. What was that like?
DL: It was good; it was difficult. It was a strange year last year for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that training camp situation. We had eight or nine guys, so we couldn’t even have a five-on-five until a couple days before the season started. It was different, especially for a first-year head coach and a team that had a lot of new pieces. But we found a way to get through it, and this year we were excited to have a full training camp and be able to get started early.
SLAM: Andrew Bogut, obviously, isn’t playing yet. But how are you building the offensive scheme and the mindset so everyone will be ready when he hopefully returns?
DL: He’s gonna be a huge part of what we do, and I think we’re going to complement each other really well. He’s been doing everything but scrimmaging thus far, and the guys works very hard and he’s coming off of a tough injury, but he’s gonna be ready to go very soon—hopefully for opening night. We’re gonna be happy to have him, because he’s gonna be a guy that can anchor our defense similar to how Tyson Chandler came to New York and anchored their defense. We’re looking forward to having him on both ends but especially that defensive end.
SLAM: On another note, Brad Beal, the latest player from your hometown of St. Louis, told me that he talked to you for a little bit this summer. I know it’s not a big fraternity of NBA guys from there; what’s the basketball scene like and what did you tell Brad when you spoke?
DL: There’s not a whole lot of guys. Growing up there was Larry Hughes and a few other guys. We’re very prideful because there’s not too many of us. And Brad [Beal] went to my high school and played for my AAU team and went to the same college as me so we share a lot of similar bonds. He’s a very smart kid, he’s mature for his age and he’s got a lot of things figured out. The only thing I told him is—he already has a great work ethic—to continue that and come in and be humble and listen to your coaches and veterans. I think with the amount of talent he has the only way to fail is to come in and think you already know everything. You’re used to being the best player on your high school team, one of the best if not the best on your college team, so to come in and have other players around you who are just as good if not better is a humbling experience. The way to sometimes kind of defeat that is to be arrogant and act like you have everything figured out, but I think the best way to do it is to just keep your mouth shut, listen to what everyone has to tell you and you’ll speed up that learning curve. And that’s what Brad’s been doing so far; he’s been great.
SLAM: Sound advice. Are you also a St. Louis Rams fan?
DL: I am. We’ve had season tickets since they came from L.A. There were some awful years and there were some years that might have been the more fun teams to ever have tickets for—watching the Best Show on Turf, those were some great years. And now, after a couple tough ones, we’re coming back again.
SLAM: You guys could’ve drafted RGIII (Robert Griffin III). What do you think about that trade?
DL: Well, I’ve got faith—I think Sam Bradford is going to do a good job. But I didn’t think RG3 was going to be this good this quick… I actually ran into our owner in Denver, Mr. [Stan] Kroenke, who is a part of the Nuggets as well, and I told him how proud everyone is of the team. I think the team is playing better defense now and there seems to be a lot of pride out there on the field, so everyone is excited.