Post-game Reactions

Much like Telly, it's really hard to figure out exactly what Courtney Lee is.

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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 JohnsonSean 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.

* * *

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

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  • Joey

    I think your being really hard on Courtney Lee, but you make a lot of good points. If he isn’t playing great on the Offense end of the ball his Defense should be outstanding.. I’m a big fan of Lee since his Magic/Nets year and he has a lot to bring to the table, But it is hard to play for Doc. Lets just hope if we do keep him next year he will play at the level were use to seeing from him

  • EJK

    Unfortunately, I agree with you that his season was a big, fat D… but not the good D(efense), rather the bad D(eficient).

    I can't help but think that Doc and/or the system got into his head and he never played up to his level. I say 'level' and not 'potential' because he had proven he could play well in the past, so it wasn't about potential, it was about matching past success.

    Hopefully, Ainge either trades him for someone who comes in and plays better, or Lee stays and plays up to his level next season.

  • elroz

    The Celtics had 3 new guards to integrate the past season – Lee, Terry, Barbosa; two new forwards – Green and Sullinger…. then after they were coming along, Barbosa and Sully went out … now they had to work with Williams and Crawford.

    Just ran out of luck.

  • elroz

    I would expect Lee and Terry to play better the 2nd time around ….

    but with Rondo, Bradley, Williams, …they need only one other guy in the back court, since Pierce can play some SG when Green plays SF.

  • CG12

    That D is pretty tough, but defensible. I still feel like CLee will become a real asset to the Celtics. I was delighted when the C's picked him up for the same reasons Brendan cited in the post – great athlete, good defebder, could shoot from distance. I think (for no clear reason) that he will click with more time with the team. It would definitely benefit the C's to clear out some of the dead wood at the 2 spot to make for a clearer picture about minutes. The thing I noticed most with Courtney, which is something I feel is common with guys who are new to the C's – is that they play tight instead of letting their game flow. Playing with Rondo, PP, and KG can't be easy. Courtney looked like his brain was getting the way. The use your brain in practice to develop the right habits and skills. In games you need to just play. With another year and regular minutes Courtney can be a valuable contributor.

  • hax

    Good money to clear our cap space problem. But if we keep him, he needs to step up. 5-10 points & lockdown defense in 10-15 mins a game isn't that much to ask of an nba player.

  • jman

    He can be a step up and play better. The problem is and the same as Terry, Doc never implemented them into the system. He kept the system the same as it's been since the big three came into town and never changed to the new guys talents. Not that I'm putting all the failures on Doc, but a play for Ray is not going to work for a player named Lee, Terry, or someone else. They are not the same players. That's why as most here said, this year will probably be better for Lee and Terry. They have a full year of Doc's schemes and plus and hopefully the most important aspect, Doc realizes that these guy's need their talents exposed not Ray's and others who played before.

  • Paceman

    I think it will come together better next year, especially if we can avoid the injuries. We were trying to integrate a lot of new players this past year. And i’d love to see them give this group a full year at it before we make major changes. Bit i think one of either terry or lee needs to go (probably as part of a package inc. our 16th pick) if it means we can get back a half decent big.

  • hydrofluoric

    Sorry I can't read about basketball until you correct that the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun.

    • Hmmm….not sure I get what you mean:

      "After some seven thousand revolutions of the earth on its axis…"

      Definition of Revolution:(3) : the rotation of a celestial body on its axis (From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/revolut

      I believe you mistakenly thought I was saying the sun revolves around earth or something. The imagery I was going for was representative of a day. One revolution, or rotation, of the earth on its axis is one day (hence the "some seven thousand").

      Please, attack me for using lousy/ineffective imagery, not for being factually incorrect.

      And now, you can continue to read about basketball.

  • GymRat

    The one thing that be said universally about the grades is that they should all be given a curve relative to the insane season that this was.

    Lee was definitely inconsistent and not the knock-down shooter we hoped he'd be. But his D was solid and for a stretch, fantastic and it's not like he came in and played the role he was signed to and had a full season to grow into our system.

    Nope, he starts beside Rondo…then gets put on the bench behind Bradley…then, oops, Rondo is gone, back to starting but now beside Bradley (who is NOT a PG and has no clue how to facilitate an offense), then Sully goes down and Barbosa and next thing you're sharing time with Jordan Crawford. Next thing you're glued to the bench (for reasons I have no idea – he was never THAT bad).

    All the while you're placed inside the least effective and efficient offensive system of any playoff caliber team in the league, and you're asked to be a catch and shoot guy within an offense run by Tony Allen's doppleganger which never collapses enough or moves the ball quick enough to get you consistent open looks.

    This team was a hot mess from oppening day and Doc never really figured out how to play the hand he was dealt so I think a C minus (thanks to the curve) is low enough.

    But seriously, the C's were the bad news bears this season and the fact we made the playoffs at all or even looked elite at a few stretches was a miracle.