Kings Blog

NBA Beat: For time being, Warriors to use Lee as a sub

David Lee, defended here by the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, has been used off the bench since returning Tuesday from an injury.
David Lee, defended here by the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, has been used off the bench since returning Tuesday from an injury. The Associated Press

The Warriors already have an All-NBA defender and former All-Star as part of their second unit in Andre Iguodala.

Add another All-Star to what might be the best bench in the NBA, now that David Lee is back in the mix.

Rather than disrupt the starting lineup by benching Draymond Green, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been bringing Lee off the bench since his return Tuesday from a hamstring injury.

The Warriors entered play Saturday an NBA-best 23-5, so there’s little reason to shake things up, even with center Andrew Bogut out indefinitely with a knee injury. Lee’s role could change, but for now the Warriors will ease him back as a bench player.

“Everything changes throughout the season and you don’t know what’s coming next,” Kerr said. “What I told him is to go out and have a great time out there and enjoy himself, and to be thankful to be back on the floor playing again and feel the rush and enjoy it. Whatever comes next, comes next.”

Lee averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 17.7 minutes in his first three games back.

As Lee continues to find his rhythm, he’ll eventually give the Warriors a reliable scorer off the bench who Kerr can feature on offense with the second unit, or with the starters.

“(Kerr) just wants me to get used to it gradually,” Lee said. “I’ll be playing a little bit more as each game goes on, but we want to bring myself along gradually. Most importantly not take our team out of rhythm. … I’m just trying to make other guys better. I’m trying to fit in and make our team even better in the end.”

The Warriors want Lee ready for what they hope will be a long run in the postseason, but if he can be ready to carry more now, that would help.

With Bogut out, Lee adds needed depth.

“We can play David with certain matchups as a (center) and play him with Draymond and Harrison (Barnes), or even with Mo (Marreese Speights),” Kerr said. “He gives us flexibility for sure.”

Just what the Warriors needed – more options to make it tough on opponents.

Trending up

Even with a 30-point loss on Friday night, there’s no overlooking the play of the Atlanta Hawks this season.

Atlanta had won 17 of 20 entering Saturday to sit a game behind Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks use a balanced offense (five players averaging double figures) and are second in the NBA with 25.7 assists per game.

And the defense hasn’t been bad, either. That Hawks are holding teams to 97.7 points per game, eighth in the league.

Trending down

There’s never any panic in San Antonio. But has anyone noticed the Spurs have dropped seven of 10 and have slipped to seventh in the Western Conference at 18-13?

And the Spurs are only a game ahead of Phoenix in the West.

There have been losses to bad teams (Utah, Los Angeles Lakers) and narrow defeats to good teams (Oklahoma City, New Orleans). The Spurs haven’t had all their players available, most notably Kawhi Leonard. He’s missed the past six games and eight of the last 10.

There’s no panic, but maybe concern should arise if this keeps up.

Last words

“When you’re a professional, and you’ve played a lot of years, it’s not that hard, especially since you know a lot of the guys in the locker room. They helped me out when I was kind of lost out there.” – Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith to reporters after his first game with the team Friday night, an overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Smith scored 21 points on 9-for-21 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists in his debut. He was waived by Detroit earlier in the week.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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