When I was three years old I had a very distinct morning routine. As soon as some external force disturbed my circadian rhthym, I’d be running downstairs to the old rabbit ears, pop on channel three, and spend the next hour completely engrossed in a world where monsters roamed the streets of New York; or-er- one particular street.
I didn’t just learn basic arithmetic and language concepts, I witnessed these dynamic characters amicably sort out their issues, problems, and disagreements. Gaps that seemed far too wide to bridge would disappear after a quick discussion on perspective. It was my first introduction to the Theory of Mind, the idea that someone else could have a different opinion than I did. With my egocentrism properly shattered, I’d spend each morning as invested in the lives of these puppets as I was in my accompanying sippy-cup of apple juice.
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I don’t remember the exact moment when my love for Sesame Street transitioned to a love of Saturday morning cartoons…or sports…or music. I more remember catching bits and pieces of an episode here and there and being woefully unimpressed. My level of cynicism was at an all time high with the introduction of current events, politics, and sports fans from other cities to my personality lexicon. Sesame Street was too basic. Lacked the depth that my nearly-formed brain craved. Most importantly, it wasn’t as cool as basketball.
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After some seven thousand revolutions of the earth on its axis, I sat gobsmacked, reading the news ticker revealing that somehow the Celtics had turned E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Sean Williams, and a second round pick (translation: nothing) into four years of Courtney Lee.
Prior to last season, the scouting report on Lee would have read like the Celtics Amazon.com Wishlist. Lee was young (25), athletic, versatile, could defend multiple positions, and could shoot from deep. Those last two were particularly important to the Celtics given their commitment to defense and the loss of Ray Allen.
Anecdotally, I remembered Lee being the guy an opponent would want on their team. A very effective role player with the ability to provide small doses of star-level basketball. In the spirit of thoroughness, I distinctly remembering taking a stroll over to basketball reference for confirmation. Everything seemingly checked out. His numbers from Houston were respectable, if not awesome. His heat zone shot chart resembled a cyclopean cheshire cat– the exact mythological beast a team would be looking for after losing the greatest three point shooter ever.
Unfortunately, I extrapolated when I should have interpolated…or is it the other way around? Whatever. All I know is that after settling on my scouting report, I went and ate a cookie. I earned it.
The pleasantness of that cookie was short-lived, however. As the season went on, Lee’s play became more and more inconsistent. The player you could play anywhere was now in no man’s land. He couldn’t provide the same defensive intensity as Avery Bradley, he couldn’t shoot like Ray Allen, and he couldn’t dribble and pass like Rajon Rondo. If I hadn’t reduced Lee to a few anecdotes and his shooting percentages from the season before, perhaps I would have been prepared for what transpired. By the end of the season, Lee had been replaced in the rotation by former Chinese Basketball Association great Terrence Williams and antithesis of versatility and defensive intensity Jordan Crawford. The personell decision really put the cherry on top of Lee’s crap sundae, or- in non-metaphorical terms- the worst statistical season of his career. The once proud and happy cheshire cat has been reduced to a toothless pair of dimples.
It’s easy to say things like, “I WAS SO STUPID TO EVER THINK COURTNEY LEE WAS THE MISSING PIECE” after a disappointing season. By his own admission (courtesy of ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg), Lee had a bad year:
“I expected [the first season] to go smooth, I expected to win and be playing late into June,” admitted Lee. “Me, personally, my performance — I was a little bit inconsistent all year; more than I would like to be. I don’t want to be at all, but I was.”
It’s true, no one wants to play badly. Even if the next three years of Lee’s 21+ million dollar contract are all guaranteed. This past season we wanted Lee to replace guys who were all elite in their roles. He was pretty much setup for failure.
The good news is that Lee appeared to improve from upon his first year in Houston with a better year in the same locale. Couple that with lowered expectations (wow, I’m really grasping at straws here) and Lee’s poised for a bounce-back year. Instead of being forced to replace Bradley, Allen, or Rondo he can be Lee; a guy who can come off the bench, play good defense, and hit open threes. Looking specifically at the East, it isn’t unreasonable to think that if Lance Stephenson can guard Dwyane Wade, Lee should be up to the task. If he can do that, his mark stands to improve about two letter grades right there.
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It wasn’t until years later when my cynicism, realism, and egocentrism had reached equilibrium that I could really appreciate Sesame Street for what it is. A smart, engaging, television show for kids written by residents of Brooklyn with thick-rimmed glasses, tight jeans, and an unhealthy obsession with cats. My hope is that after next season, I can look back at the certain moments and truly appreciate Courtney Lee with my expectations properly evaluated.
A wise man once said, “C is for cookie, it’s good enough for me.” This season, a ‘C’ would have been good enough for Courtney. Unforutnately, he didn’t quite get there.
Final Grade: D