Five years ago, the Knicks drafted David Lee, a forward out of Florida, with the 30th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. He was the third Knick drafted that year: Isiah Thomas took Channing Frye with the eighth pick, Nate Robinson with the 21st, and then Lee with the 30th. Chad Ford of ESPN.com said, "Lee was a safe pick at the end of the first round, though I think Isiah could have afforded to take a risk at No. 30 with a high-school player like Andray Blatche." Marty Burns of SI.com said Lee was "a bit questionable at No. 30, especially since the Knicks already have Michael Sweetney." When Lee was selected, the Garden booed. Tonight, it might cheer him for the final time.
Lee, who has been the one positive constant during the last five wretched years, will be a free agent this year, and though the Knicks don't necessarily not want him back, it's reasonable to assume they have other matters on their brain this summer. The Knicks' season officially ends Wednesday in
Chicago Toronto, but their last home game is tonight against Washington. This could be it for Lee.
Lee was always a solid rebounder, but he has become more and more vital on the offensive end for the Knicks the last few years. He rose from the team's eighth leading scorer his rookie year to seventh in 2006–07, fourth in 2007–08, second last year, and ultimately first this year. One suspects his All-Star appearance this year has him set up for big dollars in free agency this off-season ... but everyone thought that would happen before this year, and it didn't.
It was an active weekend in Knicks lore. The team lost twice, but the real (and hilarious) news was made off the court, LeBron-related as always: A pseudo- (and very possibly mock-) battle between the Daily News' Frank Isola and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Brian Windhorst about a story Windhorst wrote claiming there was a "vibe" LeBron was staying in Cleveland. Isola appears to have been just kidding around when he accused Windhorst of having his résumé on every newspaper editor's desk in New York, but his blog post is so sloppily written you can hardly tell. The kerfuffle was enough to distract everyone from the real news, which was holy crap there's a vibe that LeBron is staying, no!
But that's a worry for the next few months. Tonight is the last time the Knicks will play in front of the shockingly still-loyal Knicks fans when it doesn't count, before the grand summer of free agency, before all of this starts to count again. David Lee very likely will be the symbol of the last dead era of Knicks basketball, a guy who was the best player on a team that would never thrive if he were the best player. (He's even on some all-time leaderboards.) That's worthy of our respect, on what's likely his last night here. It might not have always been fun while he was here, but he was never the problem.