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A little self-motivation goes a long way for Warriors' Lee

Warriors' Lee builds a big season on little sleights

POSTED: Mar 8, 2013 11:26 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Golden State's David Lee is averaging a double-double and shooting better than 51 percent.

OAKLAND -- David Lee played at the University of Florida, a big basketball school, was drafted in the opening round (albeit as the last pick) and quickly assumed a prominent role with the Knicks. So first things first.

David Lee's Top 10 Plays

A lot of the I'll-Show-You chips on his shoulder are from slights that don't really exist. They're concocted, homemade movies by a man looking to work himself into angry.

Sure, there was being let go when New York chased the jackpot in the Summer of LeBron (only to have the Knicks end up with Amar'e Stoudemire at about $20 million more and no James). But there has also been the $80 million contract from the Warriors in 2010, and being named an All-Star in both conferences, and the flow of praise as a catalyst of Golden State's surge into the playoff picture. Lee is hardly disrespected.

He gets that part of it. Team USA wants him at a mini-camp this summer as a potential member of the roster for the 2014 World Cup, coaches want him in the All-Star game, he is leading the league in double-doubles, he has stepped up as a leader ... but ESPN and Sports Illustrated disrespected the Warriors and Lee before the season, and that means there is something to prove.

That last part is self-manufactured. A fear of failure? Not so manufactured.

Raptors vs. Warriors

"It's not fear of failure," teammate Richard Jefferson countered. "It's more of lack of success driving you, and I think those are two different things. If you play basketball afraid to fail, you're not going to be successful. You want to have success and you want to put yourself in that position. I think for him, eight years in this league, two-time All-Star, but hasn't reached the playoffs and playing in large markets, playing with the Knicks and playing in San Francisco where there's high salaries around you and there's high opportunity for him, he wants to be on that high stage. He wants to make it to the playoffs. Being a pivotal guy in that, I think he takes that pressure on himself at times."

Except that it is a fear of failure, or at least what Lee describes as one.

"For me, it's huge," he said. "I really got started on that being one of my big motivational things when I was in New York, because in New York, as you know, more than any other place, you're only as good as your last game. The consistency thing, I think, is highlighted more in New York. That was where I really became almost obsessed with the whole idea of every single game I have to be at a certain level to help my team. A lot of guys will do stuff where they'll have a couple games where they don't play well and it won't bother them. It really bothers me. So I try to keep my game at a high level every game."

It has led to this season, where everything has come together. Lee is averaging 18.9 points and 11.3 rebounds a game and shooting 51.4 percent. He is a leader on a team that relies heavily on first- and second-year players. He got the All-Star recognition and USA Basketball wants Lee, and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, in the system. Golden State has gone from missing the playoffs five consecutive seasons to 35-27 and sixth place in the West, even with problems during the last month.

Spurs vs. Warriors

Yet he has other concerns, too, outside of basketball.

Lee and Mike Bommarito have known each other since they played Little League baseball in third grade. They grew up together through high school in St. Louis, before Lee went to Florida as a star recruit.

Bommarito was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2005 and beat it. Then he got cancer again. The second diagnosis came just after Lee's first season as a Warrior, 2010-11. He was vacationing in Mexico when an upset Bommarito called with the news. Surgeries and chemotherapy followed, until Bommarito was told again he beat testicular cancer.

Bommarito co-founded Us Against Cancer in 2011 and became the chairman of the organization that raises funds and awareness. Lee announced in January that he would donate $250 to the organization for every Golden State victory this season.

"Something like this really puts things in perspective because people go through so much on a daily basis with various things, whether it be their health or otherwise," Lee said. "It's just like visiting St. Jude's [Children's Research Hospital in Memphis]. It really puts things into perspective of how much your positive attitude on a daily basis -- in practice, in games, off the court -- can help. We're very blessed to be in the position we're in. It helps my energy up and keeps my attitude high, and those are two very important thing for a winning culture."

Working with Bommarito's foundation and putting another of his friend's health scares into the past have become more reason for Lee to feel good in a feel-good season. That's the reality, without manufacturing.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him and follow him on Twitter.

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