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Robb: After Sacrificing For Warriors, David Lee Set To Prove His Tank's Still Full For Celtics

BOSTON (CBS) -- There are many different paths for an NBA player to take when they hit age 30 and have already made tens of millions of dollars. Some, like David West this past summer, pass up hefty salaries in order to have a better chance at winning. Many players give up starting roles on less successful teams in order to become bench pieces on contenders that play limited minutes. Others simply keep looking for big paychecks, no matter if it comes from a perennially losing squad.

For new Celtic addition David Lee, his path in the NBA at age 32 is a unique one. From afar, Lee looked to be getting the best of both worlds (money and success) this past season in Golden State. He was earning a big paycheck, over $15 million a year, through the $90 million deal he agreed to back in 2010.

After regularly posting big individual numbers for bad Warrior teams over the early years of this past decade, Golden State finally broke through in the West over the last two seasons, capped by an NBA Title in June. Lee had the title he wanted, but his playing time diminished during the title run due to an early season hamstring injury. Once he returned, Draymond Green had taken over the starting power forward role and wasn't giving it up.

Lee was relegated to bench duty, playing a modest 18 minutes per game after averaging 36 minutes per contest in his past four seasons with Golden State. In the playoffs, he played a total 107 minutes in four series, serving as merely a cheerleader for most of the run, despite playing key minutes off the bench in a couple Finals games.

What would have happened if Lee didn't start the season injured, giving Green an opportunity to shine?

"A lot of things," Lee said in Boston this week. "It's just funny how things happen. It was obviously, I've been very vocal, it was a frustrating year personally as far as making sacrifices. Throughout the regular season there were times of frustrations, but I stuck with it and really wanted to be a professional. And of course I loved the guys on the team, I loved what we were accomplishing on the court. So I got to see kind of a different side of the NBA last year.

"I'm used to starting and playing 40 minutes a night. You go in the opposite direction, but I learned a lot and of course the sacrifice was worth it. The most important thing to me was just being ready when my number was called. In two different playoff series, my number was called, they needed me, and I was there to step up. And that's all that matters at this point."

With a championship ring now in his possession, Lee has openly declared his bench demotion was worth the price of winning it all. The 6-foot-9 forward did not want to finish his career as a bench player though, leaving him in search of an opportunity to start at his advanced age. He was grateful to Warriors GM Bob Myers for finding a strong fit in Boston as Lee enters the final year of his contract. He has a chance to score one more big deal in free agency next summer, and he's open to doing that in Boston if things pan out.

"Obviously it's too early to tell that now for both sides," Lee continued. "But like I said, I'm excited for it now. I don't know why I wouldn't be after this season. I have no future plans other than just competing this year and figuring that out. Once again, I had some options and places to go a couple of weeks ago. I was overwhelmed and thrilled when they called and said, 'We really want to have you here.' And I was hyped to do it. So I'm excited to be here."

Playing within Brad Stevens' offense, Lee should find the opportunity he craves and show teams around the league that he still has plenty left in the tank as he enters the tail-end of his career.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.


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