BASKETBALL: A Few Minutes With David Lee

Life doesn't get much better for David Lee these days. He's got a college degree from the University of Florida, the memory of a dream season in which he helped the Gators to their first ever Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament championship, and now he has a three-year guaranteed contract as a first round selection of the New York Knicks in the NBA.

"Life's good," said Lee Monday night as he was hanging around with some of his former Florida teammates at the O'Connell Center while watching the Gators destroy Jacksonville University in volleyball. "It would be hard to script it better than this."

Lee is in Gainesville doing some rest and recuperation after a few weeks of playing for the Knicks in a summer league. The summer league experience was a good one, but now he's got an eye on a future that includes tutoring from coaching legend Larry Brown.

With an 82-game regular season ahead of him, not to mention about 10 exhibition games and the playoffs if the Knicks should advance that far, he knows that a long season can take its toll. At Florida, practice began in October for a season that ended in March. The NBA starts playing exhibition games in September and the regular season begins in late October. An extended run in the playoffs can extend the season until almost July.

"I've actually been trying to get a little rest the past few days," he said. "I know how long the season is going to be. It's nothing like the college season when you play about thirty or so games. Your whole focus is basketball but it's still a very long season and it's very demanding."

In the summer league, he worked extensively with Herb Williams and Mark Aguirre. They were members of the former Knicks staff and they have been retained by Brown. Williams was a very good post player during his playing days in the NBA while Aguirre was an outstanding swing forward who could play on the perimeter or play down on the blocks.

"They coached me in the summer league and I was really impressed with all they know and their approach to coaching," he said. "I'm rally happy that they'll be part of the new staff. I think it will be a good mix with those two and the new staff that's coming in."

A power forward who had to play some center in his college career, Lee spent much of the summer league learning to play both small forward and power forward. The small forward position was brand new but his ball handling and passing skills are certainly good enough to play there even if he's lacking a consistent jump shot from 15-18 feet. At 6-9, he poses a matchup problem for the typical small forward.

"Playing small forward is a change with a real learning curve," he said, "but my effort, tenacity and ability to rebound the ball are things that will translate to any level. There's a lot I have to learn about how to succeed at the next level but I'll pick those up along the way. My effort and intensity are things that can stay constant. I'm excited that I'll get a chance to run the floor more."

He will be heading up to New York next week to meet with Brown and start getting ready for training camp to begin. Brown was coaching the Detroit Pistons prior to the NBA Draft and that's one of the teams that showed the most interest in Lee before draft day.

"I actually worked out for him in Detroit during the pre-draft," said Lee. "He's really a good guy and the biggest thing is his knowledge of the game. With me being a rookie and getting a chance to learn from a guy that smart is going to be an incredible experience."

He's well aware that with his graduation along with the early departure of Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson to the NBA that the Gators will be short a few bodies this year and they will be very young, but he's excited about the team's prospects.

"I know they're going to be really young this year but this is going to be a team with a lot of energy and talent," he said. "The energy of the guys will be great and they'll play with a lot of intensity. They're going to have a chance to win a lot of games and do very well. The most important thing is that they'll all get better and when they're sophomores, juniors and seniors that will translate into big years for them."

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