When we heard rumblings on Twitter that David Lee was going to be returning to the Golden State Warriors for Game 6, it was weird. Then when he checked in to the game — and there was a back-and-forth time battle about his ovation — it was still weird. Even George Karl, when asked about the Lee return, could only answer “It was … weird,” with the ellipsis serving, I am guessing, as a way to search for a different word for a guy with a torn hip flexor returning to the playoffs 12 days after the tear, then failing to do so.
But it really did happen, and of all the reasons why it did, Mark Jackson’s are the best. From ESPN:
And that’s when the New Yorker in Jackson came to the fore, drawing upon the memory that has sustained the city’s basketball fans through the past four decades of championship-less futility: an injured Willis Reed limping on the floor for Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers and hitting his first two shots to inspire the Knicks to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Not only did I put [Lee] in,” Jackson said. “But I ran a play for him to get a shot. … Just about where Willis hit his shot.”
Lee missed his jumper, looked increasingly uncomfortable moving around, and had to come out after less than a minute and a half.
“Obviously, part of it was for inspiration,” Jackson said.
Well, that certainly explains why David Lee only played a minute-and-a-half. As any basketball historian will tell you, if a coach doesn’tt get two baskets immediately, it’s pointless playing an injured player in a closeout playoff game since they are injured and in a closeout playoff game. Props to Mark Jackson for realizing that David Lee wasn’t totally Willis Reeding out there, then giving him the quick yank.
It does make you wonder, though, what other NBA history-related moves Jackson might pull next. Is he going to instruct Stephen Curry to switch hands on every layup attempt because Michael Jordan did it once and it was awesome? If Andrew Bogut goes down with an injury, will he start Draymond Green at center like Magic as a rookie back in 1980? Will he risk a win by intentionally getting down by three just so he can have Klay Thompson throw in a 60-footer to send the game to overtime, just because he loves the 1970 NBA Finals so much? Might he allow someone to step over Kent Bazemore like Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue in the 2001 Finals, so that his team is guaranteed to win the next four games? Only time will tell, but the possibilities are endless.