CHICAGO -- Lost in the midst of the free-agent frenzy this summer was one very real possibility: David Lee almost became a Chicago Bull. From the outset, the Bulls were high on Lee. While he wasn't one of their top choices (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade were obvious choices in that category) Lee was high on the list.
"I don't want to put words in their mouth, but they were one of the teams that was really after me," Lee said before Thursday night's game. "It came down to me versus [Carlos] Boozer and when New Jersey made an offer to Boozer [the Bulls] then made another offer and decided to go with Carlos. I think he's going to be great with them. He's a great player so they made a good decision."
While Lee was gracious with his praise, and says he is happy playing for the Warriors, there's no doubt he would have liked to have shown the Bulls what they missed out on. Unfortunately for him, he had to sit out the contest because of an arm infection he suffered after a collision with Wilson Chandler's mouth during the Warriors-Knicks game on Wednesday night.
"[New York Knicks] Coach [Mike] D'Antonio had his guys biting me," Lee joked. "No, but I wish I could play tonight. There's a little extra motivation, not from an anger standpoint or anything like that, but just NBA guys are very prideful and I'd like to think I'm one of the better power forwards in the league and a guy that right now is just helping his team win games. That's most important. It wouldn't be any deal where I'm coming in, trying to score 40 points or anything, but it would have been extra special to just help my team get a win."
Lee remembers Noah's younger days: Although Lee said he really didn't speak to any of the Bulls players during the free-agency process, there's little doubt he would have enjoyed playing with Joakim Noah again. The pair were teammates during the 2004-05 season at the University of Florida. Lee had the assembled media cracking up while recounting the first time he saw him on campus back in Gainesville.
"He was a freshman, I was a senior, and Coach [Billy] Donovan said that we had like a buddy system" Lee began. "And I had to make sure he got to class on time, which first of all, was absolutely impossible.
"I said meet me at the designated point, I'll walk [with you] to your first class, because I know where the building is, you have no idea. He said, "Ok, cool b, cool."
It only took Lee a few moments to figure out that Noah was a little different than most of his peers.
"So, I see the guy on campus walking," Lee continued. "He has on shorts down below his waist, no shirt on, and a boom box playing music while he's walking. He's like, "Yo, I'm ready for class. I'm like, 'Jo, I said, 'Come on, man'
"He's like, 'What?' He looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. That was my first getting-him-to-class experience."
Despite the initial experience, Lee came to understand that Noah's outlandish personality is one of the reasons why he is so successful."
"He's a guy that was a very free-spirited guy, but I think that's what makes him so special," Lee said. "There's very few guys [that have that] and it's a skill in the NBA, playing hard night in and night out and providing that constant effort. He's got a great skill set, but what makes him so special is that intensity that he brings every single night. That's why the Bulls are very lucky to have him."
Even when Noah initially struggled to find the floor at Florida, Lee could see that the young big man had potential.
"It's a big difference between high school and college, probably even a bigger difference college and the NBA," Lee said. "He was a guy that kind of had to grow into his body and just find his skill set. It wasn't until his sophomore and junior year that he started handling the ball a lot and what he's so good at is making passes to other guys.
"And he was always very active, a good rebounder and things like that, but he got a lot better at finishing around the basket, him and Al Horford, got a lot better finishing around the basket, and adding some skills to the athleticism and heart that he had."
So, did Noah eventually put a shirt back on as he jammed out to Bob Marley on the first day of school?
"Yeah, he did," Lee said. "He put on some beads and stuff, too. Some beads and necklaces and stuff as well. He was a great teammate for a year at Florida and I know everybody here loves him to death and for good reason. He really leaves it on the court and that's important."