Yes I know. This is a San Antonio Spurs blog so what am I doing interviewing David Lee of the New York Knicks? Well I’m glad you asked.
The great thing about living in New York City are the events throughout the summer months. Fortunately, the kind folks at the Taylor PR firm invited Project Spurs to the Tanqueray 200th anniversary party where I had the opportunity to interview Lee who was there to take part in the event for Tanqueray.
This was an opportunity which I could not pass up. Especially with Lee’s name being mentioned in recent trade rumors with the Spurs.
In the interview we talk about being a free-agent, the Knicks, his first All-Star appearance, LeBron James, playing against the Spurs’ Tim Duncan, the fans in San Antonio, eating Philly cheesesteaks with former Spur Malik Rose, and much more!
Right before I sat down, I mention the party…
JEFF: When they think Tanqueray, they think David Lee right?
DAVID: I don’t know about that but like I said I never get out during the season, so it’s nice to get out do some fun events (Lee looks at the Tanqueray poster behind us) and things in New York in the summer time when it’s warm.
First I want to congratulate you on making your first All-Star appearance. How was that?
It was wonderful! Great experience. To have it be in an area like the Dallas Cowboys brand new stadium on a really grand scale like that with 118, 000 people that even made it that much more special. It was something I will never forget.
How did you find out?
I was actually taking a nap! I was relaxing, my flights all got cancelled out of New York because there was that snow storm all across the country. So I was just staying in New York for about three or four days then I was going to join the team. Got a call while I was taking a nap. Hit ignore about three or four times because I was taking a nap and finally answered the phone and it was our General Manager. Told me I made it. So I was really, really excited. It was a wonderful experience.
Well congratulations and hopefully many more to come.
You know July is coming up very soon and you will be a free-agent. Your thoughts. Are you frustrated knowing you are in limbo?
Not really. I went through this all last summer with a much more complicated situation with restricted free-agency. Now it’s a little more wide-open. But one thing that’s confusing is there so many free-agents right now. So many teams with space [salary cap space] and so many teams that want to do sign-and-trades that are looking to improve their team this summer. So with guys like LeBron James it’s going to be a little bit of a waiting game for me. But it’s going to be exciting either way. I’m really excited to have had a decent season and have some options this summer.
Speaking of LeBron James, does it make it frustrating since they [Knicks] have been “full disclosure” and said he is their prime target. Yet you averaged 20.2 points, double-digit rebounds, an All-Star appearance…figure they should give you a little “love.”
You know it’s about them improving their team and they need to go about that in a way they see best fit and at this point a guy like LeBron is a top one or two players in the league depending on your opinion between him and Kobe [Bryant]. That’s a guy that’s going to improve your team right off the bat. I think that’s something they need to go after. Something they promised the fans, promised the media, that they’re going to pursue and they need to let it run its course.
Recently, you had an interview where you said you feel like you can be, if you are not already, an elite player. You have the credentials to prove it. All-Star appearance, the numbers. Tell us more about your drive and what you can bring to the Knicks should they re-sign you or any other team you may end up with.
I think I’ve proven I’m a guy that’s going to go out there and give total effort every single time I step on the floor. I been constantly improving my game. That’s the biggest thing is that I think in this league you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. Everybody is getting a year older every year but I try to improve at least one skill every single season. This past year was improving my mid-range jump shot and it’s something I just want to get better and better each year. I know I am going to continue to do that and I think I’m going to be in the All-Star game year-in and year-out.
That’s a goal and now the biggest thing is to be in a position where I’m going to be on a team that wins and a team that’s a contender each and every year. I think that can be New York. I don’t think being a “Plan B” is necessarily a negative when you are talking a person like LeBron James. I think at this point everybody in free-agency is a “Plan B” unless your name is LeBron. I’m really looking forward to this whole process. It should be fun!
Your name has been mentioned in trade rumors involving the San Antonio Spurs and in particular Tony Parker. Should that happen, how would it be like to play for a coach like Gregg Popovich and a player like Tim Duncan?
I have a lot of respect for Popovich and the things that he has done especially in a smaller market where he hasn’t necessarily had the pay-roll of other teams.
Tim Duncan. Speaks for itself. I think he’s one of the top three players to ever play the position if not the best! I also know him a little bit off the floor. I got a chance to play with Malik Rose so I got to know some of the guys on the Spurs team. It’s not always said about this with every NBA guy but I think who he [Duncan] is as a person is almost as impressive as who he is as a player. If not more impressive. He’s a great guy and a guy that brings the effort night-in and night-out. So I have a lot of respect for his game.
Did Malik tell you about his Philly cheesesteaks?
(laughs) Every time we went to Philadelphia we got them on the plane as we were leaving. I’m a big fan. I gained a couple of pounds because of those.
Tell me how is it playing against Tim Duncan?
He’s tough. He’s great at not only scoring but he’s great at drawing fouls. A tremendous defender and he is a guy that has so much knowledge of the game that it makes it difficult to guard him because he is always one step ahead of you mentally. He’s a very good player.
As an opposing player, when you head out to San Antonio and go into the AT&T Center, tell me about the atmosphere.
Well they have fans that have been spoiled every time because of the amount of winning. They pack the place in night-in and night-out. There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm also because they’re [Spurs] really the only game in town there. I think it even heightens it more. I know the players that play down there love the crowd. I never heard anything negative about playing in San Antonio.
Which Spur do you like to watch?
Tim Duncan, obviously and Parker are the two guys everyone talks about. The guy I think had a tremendous second-half this season this year was [Manu] Ginobili. I think he had a slower first-half of the season and I think played about as good of basketball as anybody in the league in the second-half from the All-Star break on. He’s the guy that had some injury troubles but when you look at his game, he finds a way to get it done game-in and game-out.
Let’s talk more about the New York Knicks. I know you want to secure your future and you’re looking for a long-term deal. Are you looking for a long-term deal regardless of the team or is your main goal looking for a winning club even if it is a short-term deal?
Well I mean it’s going to be a lot of factors combined. I think I had a good enough year that I’m going to give myself some options and it’s going to be weighed to things that are important. It’s going to be weighing wanting to win, wanting to be in a city that I enjoy, wanting to be happy for me and my girlfriend and my family when they come to watch and also the money does matter. This is a business. So weighing all those things together is going to be important to find a perfect situation.
I want to talk about the Spurs’ DeJuan Blair. You had to go against him. Is he a beast?
(smiling) He is! I talked to Chip Engelland [Spurs' assistant coach] and some of the other assistants about him. I heard he is an unbelievable kid. He has a great work ethic. He’s a guy that . . . I’m not sure how much was expected out of him coming in and what he showed in pre-season, what he showed throughout the season, I mean they [Spurs] have to be thrilled with his performance and moving forward, he’s one of the best young big-men in the league. He deserves a lot of credit.
Do you feel the Knicks are going in the right direction?
I think they are. I think they had a definite plan and they’ve stuck to it. That’s opening up cap-space and making room for the future. Now it’s a matter of what they can do this summer. If they are able to land a couple of these free-agents, no matter who they are, then they have a chance to be very good overnight.
The music getting really loud at this party isn’t it?
(laughing) Yes it is! It is!
Now when am I going to get a picture with you and me in front of the Tanqueray poster?
Perfect! We can get it done right now!