OAKLAND – Former Warriors forward David Lee received his 2015 NBA Championship ring Friday night, exactly one week earlier than originally planned.
Which will allow Lee, now with the Dallas Mavericks, an extra seven days this season to savor the memories.
Lee received a 20-second standing ovation upon being introduced prior to the Warriors-Mavericks game at Oracle Arena. There was a video tribute, featuring highlights of last season and ending with Steph Curry and Lee embracing.
Curry presented Lee with his championship ring shortly before tipoff. Lee accepted the jewelry and placed it on his finger a camera zoomed in for a close-up. He did not speak, but waved and pointed to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd.
“It’s been quite a journey, and to end that last year with the ultimate thing that you want to accomplish in sports, and that’s to win a championship, especially with the group of guys we did it here with, in this great city,” Lee said in a pregame news confernce. “Nothing could have been better.”
Lee was traded last summer to Boston, which makes its only visit this season to Oracle Arena on April 1, the date on which Lee was to be presented his ring. But the Celtics on Feb. 18 waived Lee, who three days later signed with Dallas.
The big man clearly cherished his time with the Warriors. He formed a bond with Stephen Curry and, to the surprise of some, communicates regularly with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who told Lee he had lost his job to Draymond Green.
Lee celebrated with Green in Bay Area clubs and, moreover, treated his teammates to a trip to Las Vegas shortly after winning the title.
“The reason why we won a championship is we did it as a team,” Lee said. “There were guys that made sacrifices. There were guys that stepped up. There were guys that did big things all year long. We won it as a team, and I thought the only way to celebrate is as a team.
“That was really who this team was and who this team continues to be now,” he added. “Every team in this league has talent. The reason why over the last two-and-a-half to three years Golden State has made the surge they have has been because of the character and the chemistry the front office has put together. That’s the difference between them and a lot other teams that have even similar talent.”
Lee was a consistent starter during his first four years with the Warriors, but lost his job early last season when he missed 24 of the first 25 games with a hamstring injury. The team won 22 of its first 25 games largely because Green performed superbly.
Upon his return, Lee played sparingly, averaging 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 18.4 minutes per game. He played in 49 of the Warriors’ 82 games but remained a part of the team’s basic fabric.
Lee asked the Warriors to trade him to a team where he could get more playing time. General manager Bob Myers found a trade partner in Boston, trading Lee to the Celtics for Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb, neither of whom is with the Warriors.
Though Lee quickly fell out of the rotation in Boston, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Florida product is having something of a revival with the Mavericks, averaging 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds over 14 games off the bench. He is shooting 65.3 percent from the field.
In 327 games as a Warrior, Lee averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists.