David Lee has been a Golden State Warriors fan favorite for quite some time. Since signing with the team in 2010 following an All-Star season with the New York Knicks, the 31-year-old double-double machine has posted up in people’s hearts and remained there through thick and thin. Despite more professional, established analysts constantly reminding fans of Lee’s defensive deficiencies and deteriorating effectiveness overall, a good chunk of DubNation has stood fast and loyal to the 6-foot-9-inch power forward out of Florida.
But after undergoing a recent surgery to repair a core muscle in the big man’s pelvic region — which could basically pull the Warriors out of contention for superstar Kevin Love — all of that could change.
This is the third consecutive offseason in which Lee was forced to undergo surgery. In 2012, he underwent surgery to repair torn abdominal and abductor muscles. In 2013, he memorably tore his right hip flexor for which he received surgery, rendering him almost useless in Golden State’s most successful playoff run since 2007.
While his most recent surgery is reportedly “very minor,” the fact of that matter is that Lee’s string of injuries is nothing to take lightly. In addition, everyone remembers how Andrew Bogut had reportedly gone through “minor” anthroscopic surgery to clean out “loose particles and bone spurs” in his ankle, only to reveal later to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle that he had in fact undergone a much more serious microfracture procedure. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr says Lee is “fine,” but one should take that with a grain of salt.
Though the validity of how serious Lee’s most recent surgery is certainly a question worth exploring, the most important questions to ask right now are just how much the Minnesota Timberwolves knew of this and whether this effectively stalls — if not stops — the ongoing trade talks for Kevin Love.
According to Jon Krawczynski of Associated Press, trade talks between the Warriors and T-Wolves are considered to be re-opened as of Tuesday, initially reporting that the teams had re-engaged talks after arriving at the Las Vegas Summer League. Several reports cite the reasons why a deal has not yet been decided upon, some of which being Golden State’s hesitancy to take on Kevin Martin‘s $21.26M contract for the next three years in exchange for Klay Thompson. No reports yet as to whether Golden State has changed their stance on giving up their sharpshooting perimeter defender.
Yes, Minnesota undoubtedly wants Thompson, but Lee is a pivotal part of the deal as well. As Tim Kawakami of San Jose Mercury News put it, Lee is “not a value-add to the deal, but he’s not considered a stumbling block, by either team.” Both parties also understand Lee must be included in the deal for salary reasons.
Now with the news of Lee’s recent surgery making its way around, the Warriors have another obstacle preventing them from acquiring Love: why would Minnesota take back $35.5M over the next two years for a power forward past his prime and now prone to injury?
That’s an alarming amount of money to add to their salary, especially considering that Thompson will be up for a mighty expensive contract extension this fall. Taking back over $30M for a player that may spend a significant amount of time on the bench and even more time playing in the shell of a player he once was is not what Minnesota wants, let alone any team. David Lee is arguably no longer worth the money he’s being paid.
Plus, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now in the mix for Love with 2014 first overall pick Andrew Wiggins at the center of a possible deal. The Cavs also happen to be in the same boat as the Warriors, unwilling to part with the one piece Minnesota desires most.
Lee was the cornerstone of a rebuilding franchise, a major building block in what Golden State has today. He’s still proven himself a productive player when he’s on the court, averaging 18.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. Unfortunately, players age, and their bodies wear down playing an 82-game schedule every year for roughly a decade. He was an All-Star once upon a time, but he’s now holding back the Warriors in more ways than one. If not for Love, the Warriors would be wise to find a landing spot for Lee soon.
Both Lee and teammate Andre Iguodala have withdrawn their names from the USA Men’s Basketball National Team training roster due to health issues. The team expects Lee to be fully recovered in early August.