BOSTON – His name may not be in the headlines as much as Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but Courtney Lee has great value to the Dallas Mavericks.
A 12-year veteran guard out of Western Kentucky, the 34-year old Lee and 35-year old J. J. Barea are the two oldest players with the Mavs. Part of their job is to share words of wisdom and guidance with the numerous young players the Mavs have on their roster.
“He and J. J. Barea are really important to our team in terms of messaging during games, and keeping guys focused on the right kinds of things,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Monday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden. “There’s just great value there with both of those guys.”
And that value isn’t lost on Lee, who has played with Orlando, New Jersey, Houston, Boston, Memphis, Charlotte, New York and the Mavs in his career.
“We’ve been around for a while,” Lee said of him and Barea. “We’ve probably seen every scenario, every situation.
“If what we’re trying to get to where we need to and some of these guys don’t know what it takes to get there, or they need help or any advice, it’s our job to help them out.”
And part of Lee’s job is being in-tuned with his teammates and trying to help fix whatever ails them. To that end, Lee, who was the 22nd overall pick by Orlando in the 2008 NBA Draft, has noticed something particularly special about the Mavs.
“This might be one of the only teams I’ve ever been on where everybody gets along with each other,” Lee said. “We have a lot of firepower on the offensive end.
“Also, we’ve got a good group of guys. I feel if we just stick together and the chemistry keeps building, we can go far.”
When the Mavs (6-3) face the Boston Celtics (7-1) tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT at TD Garden, it may only be a sample size in the eyes of some. But a victory would keep the Mavs perfect on the road this season at 5-0, and also raise the eyebrows of many since the Celtics own the NBA’s best record.
Meanwhile, Lee – he played for the Celtics from 2012 until they traded him to Memphis on Jan. 7, 2014 — described his many NBA stop as “a job” that everyone must adhere to, regardless of their profession, in order to make a living.
“You’ve got to show up for work,” Lee said. “Everybody’s got to work to get paid.
“The checks still clear, I’m still in the NBA and living out my dream, so (getting traded) doesn’t bother me at all.”
Lee then added that all of the trades he was involved in weren’t simply initiated by the teams he was playing for at the time.
“Nobody wants to get traded,” Lee said. “But a lot of people don’t know that one of those trades that me and my agent and then (Nets general manager) Kiki Vandeweghe, we sat down and discussed doing, and then the other two I was a free agent.
“They just look at it like, ‘Oh, you played for a few teams and you were traded.’ I was a free agent twice and I negotiated one trade out of there. . .when I was in New Jersey. We sat down at the end of the year and they were like, ‘It’s going to be this way for a while, we know you’re a winner and if you want to get out we’ll work with you.’ And we made that decision to get out of there.”
In other words, Lee, who advanced to the NBA Finals as a rookie with the Orlando Magic in 2009, knows the NBA is a business that he hopes can work best for all parties involved. Along the way, the many stops have allowed him to build many life-long relationships which he truly treasures.
“It’s just another game, and especially now at this stage in my career,” said Lee, referring to playing against one of his former teams. “The good thing about it is I get to go back and see the people I’ve built relationships with throughout the building, so it’s always good to see them.”
Lee is averaging 2.7 points in just 8.7 minutes while playing in three of the Mavs’ first nine games. But his contributions are tabulated way beyond what he does between the lines.
“He’s a real solid overall NBA player with a lot of experience,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of our tough guys, he’s a great defender, (and) he’s a terrific system player on the offensive end.
“He’s helped our young guys a lot too, as we’ve moved forward with a younger roster.”