LAWRENCE — For four years with three different teams, Courtney Lee had a very strong opinion about the Boston Celtics.
Especially Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
“I hated them,” said Lee, who played for Orlando, New Jersey and Houston (two years) the previous four seasons. “I thought they were cocky. They talked a lot. I just didn’t like them.”
Things have changed a little for bit for Lee, who was in Lawrence yesterday for the unveiling of a renovated gymnasium at the Bruce School.
”I love KG and Paul,” said the 27-year-old Lee, who was acquired in a three-team trade with Houston and Portland.
”They come to play and bring an intensity every day, whether it’s a game or practice. It hasn’t been long, but I love being a Celtic. Everywhere we go, people love the Celtics. Even here (at the Bruce School), with all of this excitement. There really isn’t another franchise like this with all of its history. Green jerseys are everywhere. It’s exciting every day.”
Yesterday was one of those days. The well-spoken Lee, an Indianapolis native who graduated from Western Kentucky, says he was brought up with the notion that he is obligated to help others.
”I used to be one of these kids, all excited to see pro athletes,” said Lee. “I’m very lucky. I feel we, as pros, can make an impact on young people. This is fun. It’s my pleasure being here.”
The Celtics must have thought a lot of Lee on the court, too.
The Celtics agreed to guarantee all four years of his deal, for $21.5 million, two weeks after Ray Allen shunned the Celtics’ “bigger” offer to sign with the Miami Heat.
”When I talked to Danny (Ainge) and Doc (Rivers), they really showed a lot of interest in me,” said Lee, who averaged 10 points a game while starting nearly half of his 287 games in four previous seasons. “It was a perfect situation. I didn’t care about starting. I wanted to win. I wanted to be part of something special.”
”Special” has not been a word to describe the 2012-13 Celtics. Even with their four-game win streak, Boston is only 18-17, and arguably the second most disappointing NBA team. The Los Angeles Lakers own that moniker.
”People have to realize there are only four guys who played the entire season last year who are back this year,” said the 6-5 shooting guard, referring to Garnett, Pierce, Brandon Bass and Rajon Rondo. “That’s a lot of new faces. It takes time to play together and learn about each other on and off the court. We have the talent. It’s amazing how much talent we have. We just need some time to jell.”
Lee, who is averaging 6.7 points and 2.2 rebounds a game, said the recent winning streak isn’t enough of a body of work to get excited. Come back, he says, in March and the standings will be more in their proper order.
”On paper, I believe we’re the deepest team in the NBA,” said Lee. “We have some great practices. It’s just going to take some time. I can’t wait until we hit our stride. We’re not there yet. But ...”
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.