BOSTON -- Dallas Mavericks forward David Lee suggested again Monday that he worked himself into top shape only after he fell from the Boston Celtics' rotation while bracing for the possibility of joining another team after February's trade deadline.
Lee, who arrived to Celtics camp in less-than-ideal shape after a short summer spent celebrating a world title with the Golden State Warriors, is averaging 13.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over his past two games since signing with the Mavericks following a buyout in Boston.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he's not frustrated that Lee waited until after he fell from Boston's rotation to get himself into shape and said he sent Lee a congratulatory text message about his recent play.
"Hey, as much as you go through with everybody and guys play or don’t play or whatever the case may be, you want everybody that leaves here to do well," Stevens said Monday before the Celtics hosted the Jazz. "So we’re rooting for him to do well and we’re happy for the way he started."
After a lackluster performance on Jan. 10, Lee fell from Boston's rotation. He spent the next month and a half working his body into shape, knowing that, if the Celtics didn't move him in a large deal at the trade deadline, he'd negotiate a buyout.
"[Boston's training staff] challenged me for six weeks to get in the best shape of my life," Lee told Dallas reporters on Monday, detailing how he cut his diet to proteins and vegetables and underwent multiple workouts each day with Boston's strength staff.
Lee looked in phenomenal shape in his final days in Boston. Stevens said Lee was a good influence on younger players -- such as rookies Jordan Mickey, R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier and second-year guard James Young -- who he often worked out with. What's more, Lee never became a distraction despite being bumped from the rotation in Boston's overstocked frontcourt.
Apprised of Lee's comments about getting himself into shape only after falling from the rotation, Stevens said he wasn't frustrated by the remarks.
"I don’t know if that is semantics or how he meant to say it," Stevens said. "I think the biggest thing that he was probably saying there was that, when you’re not playing, you have to find other ways to stay ready. And maybe I’m wrong. But I think that he certainly took [to his] diet, he worked out hard -- he worked out hard enough that if he would have played, he would have been gassed in the games. Sometimes you can’t do that if you’re going to be playing 15 minutes per night. He was going two or three times hard per day during that stretch.
"So, no, I wasn’t frustrated by it. In fact it set a pretty good example for the other guys that weren’t playing."
Stevens reaffirmed that Lee was in a tough spot on a Boston team that was not only loaded with young big men, but often played its best basketball while going small.
"That was hard. That was really hard. And it was harder on [Lee] than anybody else, but we talked about it a lot," Stevens said. "We didn’t have hardly any injuries with our bigs and we had a lot of bigs that, especially at the end of games, were going to be relatively the same position. And so it put a lot of guys on the bench. And it was different guys at different times. To his credit, when we eventually settled on playing others, he handled it really well. Kudos to him. I’m happy he’s doing well."
Lee said that he made a request to Stevens that he not be used only in garbage-time situations, allowing him to focus on his conditioning program.
"I told him I’d be ready," Lee said. "We had four centers by the end, and if it was a matter of me playing every third game or playing every other game 10 or 12 minutes, I told him I’d rather not do that. Or if we were up 30 points, I’d rather not be the guy that goes in with three minutes left in the game, but if he wanted me to, absolutely I’d go in and be a professional about it. So we had an understanding, and Brad actually texted me this morning congratulating me. So no hard feelings there whatsoever. I think that Brad is an excellent coach and a great guy."