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 [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] invited Project Spurs to the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] 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!
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He sounds like he REALLY wants to resign with the Knicks and is willing to wait for them to talk to LeBron first before he starts Negotiating.
He also did anotrher interview today with SLAM magazine
I wonít front, there are a lot of perks to working for a publishing/media company. Free magazines, press credentials and every so often, hopefully consistently for this young writer, invites to swank parties where the food is fresh, the alcohol is plentiful and the venue is enticing. Take last night, for example.
Charles Tanquerayís 200th Anniversary Party at [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] on the east side. T&Ts all around, DJs doing their thing and a spectacular view of Manhattan. Of course, since this is a basketball publication, the pound-for-pound best in the game at that, there has to be some inkling of basketball relevance for us. OK, Tanqueray and the great people over at [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] have David Lee available for interviews. Game on. SLAM: Youíre on the preliminary roster for the Worldís (Basketball Championship) this summer, are you hoping to make the team? Do you want to go to Istanbul? David Lee: Absolutely, Iím excited about that. Hopefully the whole contract stuff will be taken care of before we go do that, but itís really exciting and along with being an All-Star and winning a championship, having a chance to play in the World Championships and possibly the Olympics and represent your country, I donít think thereís anything much more exciting than that. So, itís a great opportunity. SLAM: Yeah, especially with a lot of the bigger stars saying theyíre not going to play at the Worldís for whatever reason, thereís a lot of opportunity for the power forwards and the centers like yourself. Do you think youíve done enough to warrant a spot on that team? DL: Well thatís not for me to decide. Iím going to go out there and be in great shape and try out and play hard and play my game and hopefully I can contribute to them helping them win. Thatís whatís most important to them, winning world championshipís this year and if Iím good enough to make the team, I guess I will. If Iím not, I wonít. SLAM: I was on the phone with Toney Douglas (Q + A coming soon)Ö DL: My boy, my boy. SLAM: Öand I was asking him, because you guys were with Nate (Robinson) all season, and whether he deserved the benching he got from DíAntoni or not, whatís it like watching him play in the Finals and having such an impact that heís having right now? DL: Well you know what, Nateís a guy thatísÖIíve played with him for five years. Heís a friend above all else. To see him have a chance to be on this stage is really cool. I almost feel like Iím sorta there with him a little bit, just because we came in together in the same class. Heís a guy thatís, a perfect a guy to bring off the bench like that because he can impact the game in a short period of time. And when heís hot, I think really for the most important rounds being the conference finals and the Finals, heís already had one game in each of those rounds and I think heís been kind of the MVP of that game. Heís a guy that you can not play him that much for two or three games and bring him on in the fourth game and he still makes a great impact. Itís not like he gets down on himself, so heís a very resilient kid and heís helped them a lot in these Playoffs. SLAM: I know youíve heard this a lot all summer because youíre a free agent, but do you want to come back to the Knicks? DL: I do, I love it here in New York. I love my time here. This point though, itís a little bit of a business and weíll have to see what happens. Thereís a lot of factors and the biggest thing is what LeBron and DWade and those guys decide to do. All of usÖ Right in the middle of his sentence, a waiter drops in. Waiter: Can I interest anybody? [Offering a tray of tuna sushi] DL: Yeah, Iíd love one. Awesome. Would you (me) like one? SLAM: Of course. DL: First time during an interview Iíve been offered sushi. I like it. I think, um [still chewing], thatís the biggest thing ó what those guys are gonna do. And all of us are gonna react from that. SLAM: [Still chewing myself] This season you featured more of your mid-range jump-shot. A lot of people started comparing you to Chris Bosh. Are you close with Bosh? Do you have a good relationship with him? DL: Iíve only met Chris through the Olympic stuff in the summer and playing against him. We definitely have respect for each otherís game, weíre cordial to each other. I donít know him overly well. Thatís a huge honor. Guyís a great player and an All-Star year in and year out. Iíd like to think when we play against each other we compete against each other real hard. Stats are usually similar, sometimes he gets the better of me, sometimes I get the better of him. Heís a great player. As far as my jump-shot, my goal is to improve each season. And that was one of my glaring weaknesses. I wasnít able to shoot the mid-range shot. I canít tell you the amount of hours I put in this summer and the couple of off-seasons to get better at it. It was just great to be able to showcase it in a game and I think I made it in to one my strengths. SLAM: Itís definitely showed on the court, you probably got your All-Star nod because of it. What do you think of what Prokhorovís doing with the Nets? DL: Itís an interesting situation, I mean I donít know much about him other than what Iíve seen on 60 Minutes like everybody else. I think heís similar to when Mark Cuban became an owner. Heís bringing a lot of interest to their situation. And I think heís bringing a lot of enthusiasm to his position and thatís all you can ask. He comes in with enthusiasm to own a team and thatís an exciting time for the New Jersey franchise. SLAM: Alright, thanks man. Thatís all Iíve got for you. DL: No comments on have you been to West 4th St and have you seen that new guy that can dribble the ball off hisÖ SLAM: [Laughing] Nah, not tonight. DL: SLAM Magazine style. Whoís the guy thatís always in our locker room? Iím terrible with names. The white guy with the long beard? Thatís my boy, heís a good guy. SLAM: [Laughing] Thatís Russ. DL: Heís a really good guy. Iím always giving him ****, ďWhen are you going to put a white guy on the cover?Ē Heís like, ďNo, I put Steve Nash on it.Ē Iím like, ďNo, no, no I mean a white, American guy!Ē SLAM: [Laughing] DL: Iíve been reading your magazine forever, thanks man. SLAM: Yeah, great man. Thanks.