If there were NBA All-Star Game voters who were looking for a little something extra to give them cause to check a box next to David Lee's name, they got it on Wednesday night. A night after his grandfather died, Lee played 45 minutes and scored 24 points and nine rebounds and bounced in a jump hook with 13 seconds to play to give the Knicks a much-needed 93-92 road win against the Sixers.
It was the capper of a tough emotional game overall. Sixers center Samuel Dalembert grabbed 21 rebounds after spending the day trying to find a way to get a plane to take him to his native Haiti to look for friends and family. Because of the devastation, Dalembert couldn't make it and he should be given both our condolences and our admiration for playing so well with his mind on such serious matters.
Back to Lee, though, and the overwhelmingly bittersweet nature of games like Wednesday night's. It's becoming more and more clear that keeping Lee will be all but impossible for the Knicks if they are to land a big fish on the free agent market, something that makes each one of his improvements as much a dagger in the heart as a reason to believe that the playoff drought ends this season.
Over at The Knicks Blog, they're going so far as throwing trade proposals involving Lee (and Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry) and Josh Howard of the Mavericks against the wall to ensure that the Knicks don't lose Lee without getting anything in return. That's probably the smart business decision, but it would be a brutal psychological hit for fans who look at Lee and see exactly the kind of player who should be part of any long-term planning for the team's ascension.
We all know who to blame for the mess the Knicks are in and we've long ago accepted it. That doesn't make it any easier, though.