Everyone you talk to during Nets practice believes Courtney Lee is going to raise his game on the offensive end this season.
Devin Harris, by all accounts the team’s number one option on offense this season, sees a little of himself in Lee.
“Courtney is going through the same situation I went through coming from Dallas,” Harris told the media scrum at the PNY Center yesterday. “He’s proving he’s better than he was in Orlando and he can do more on the floor.”
But no offense to offense, Lee still sees himself as a defender first – even after falling just short of scoring 5 points in 6 seconds at the end of Wednesday’s preseason game against the Knicks – instant offense to the truest form.
“Coach Frank said he was going to give me a lot of freedom on offense,” Lee told Nets Are Scorching during practice yesterday. “But the end that’s most important to the team and to me and to (Frank) is the defensive end.”
When asked if he sees himself as one of the team’s anchors on defense, Lee was very quick to agree, before giving credit to some of his teammates.
“Yeah, I got Devin, Brook, CDR and myself and the young boy Terrence (Williams) who’s going to be a tremendous player in the future,” Lee said. “So that’s what we have to feed off of. Our quickness energy-wise and being more active. And speed. We can run the lanes and pesterize you on defense.”
And don’t think Lee is thinking ahead to next Friday’s home opener against Orlando either. He’s not about to admit that he’s looking to stick it to them on offense the way Devin Harris has made the Mavericks look foolish for trading him away two years ago whenever the Nets and Dallas square off.
“Taking it one game at a time, don’t matter who we play,” Lee said. “We’re going to go after them like they stole something and that’s our mentality for everybody else.”
Still, it’s worth taking note of the evolution of Courtney Lee on the offensive side this preseason. Going beyond points per game in his four preseason appearances, Lee is taking more shots per game than he did with Orlando. He’s averaging 11 field goal attempts this October, compared to 7 field goal attempts last season in his rookie season.
But what’s more eye opening is how Lee is generating offense this preseason. In Orlando last season, Lee was primarily a jump shooter, with 71 percent of his total field goal attempts coming as jumpers. During the preseason, Lee has showcased a more balanced scoring approach from both the inside and outside. According to ESPN’s preseason shot charts, Lee has averaged 6 jumpers per game and 5 close and inside shots. He’s shooting about 46 percent on those jumpers and 60 percent on the close and inside shots.
Will he maintain those numbers once the team is at full strength? Devin Harris wouldn’t mind, saying guys like Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts being more aggressive on the offensive end would take some of the burden off his own shoulders.
All eyes were on Lee in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s game, where some fortuitous bounces of the ball and some carless fouling by the Knicks put Lee on the free throw line with a second left in position to tie the game, despite the Nets being down by 5 points only a few seconds earlier.
After missing a few earlier free throws on purpose in order to generate offensive rebounds, Lee missed the free throw he needed to hit, capping a bizarre ending to the game.
“That was crazy,” Lee said with a smile. “You work so hard to get yourself back in that situation missing free throws and then it’s time to hit those free throws. I was pushing it hard, trying to get a hard bounce off the rim two times … then to shoot the regular way kinda throws you off a little bit.”
As an added bonus, here’s some audio from Lawrence Frank who talks about Courtney Lee and the team’s late game dramatics this preseason.