Courtney Lee has a few New Year’s resolutions.
Nothing too complicated, however.
“It’s 2014, New Year, new start,” Lee, the newly-acquired Memphis Grizzlies swingman, said before Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. “I’m on a different team, have different goals, so this is a fresh start.”
For Lee, a six-year veteran, his “fresh start” with the Grizzlies drew rave reviews from coach Dave Joerger and his staff following Tuesday night’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Traded by Boston Jan. 7 in a three-team deal to the Grizzlies in exchange for combo guard Jerryd Bayless approximately 48 hours prior to Memphis’ game against the Spurs, Lee wasted little time making his presence felt, particularly during the Grizzlies’ second-half surge that enabled them to erase a 16-point deficit and force overtime.
Lee scored nine of his 12 points after intermission, including six points during the pivotal fourth. Among his clutch baskets was a fastbreak layup off an assist from Mike Conley with 1:35 left in the fourth that jumpstarted a key 9-0 spurt and eventually allowed in the Grizzlies to rally and to tie the contest in the waning moments.
By game’s end, Lee had registered 5-of-10 shots while playing 25-plus minutes, the third-most among Memphis’ reserves. As the former Western Kentucky star tells it, making the transition to a Grizzlies team that boasts lofty playoff aspirations is ideal at this stage in his NBA career. Among the reasons is that the 28-year-old Lee has yet to establish any sort of longevity with the four previous teams (Orlando, New Jersey, Houston, and Boston) for which he has played. His longest tenure, in fact, transpired in Houston, where he spent 23 months and nine days between August 2010 and July 2012.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m one of the missing pieces because Marc’s (Grizzlies center Gasol) been hurt,” said Lee, accessing his move from Boston to Memphis. “He’s a huge piece for the team. I just want to add on to anything the team’s doing, especially when they get Marc back. Coming from Boston was different because it was a rebuilding stage when I was over there and coming to a team that wants to win right now and win at a high level. So I want to be on a team that wants to win and make the playoffs and make noise in the playoffs. That’s the only difference.”
Upon his arrival to Memphis, the Indianapolis native received a warm welcome from his new — but familar — teammates, many of whom not only recall
his career-night two years ago when he scored 30 points against the Grizzlies while with the Nets, but sense the 6-foot-5 guard brings to the team an attribute it hasn’t enjoyed since the organization parted ways with Rudy Gay last January — someone who has the luxury of creating his own shot and provide Memphis with some much-needed instant offense in the backcourt.
“It always different when you see one of your teammates get traded away,” Conley said. “Obviously, you want to see them succeed wherever they go. But getting Courtney Lee was big for us. He’s a very good fit. He plays defense. He scores. Whatever the team needs him to do. He did a little bit of everything the last game, so hopefully we’ll get more of the same from him here on out. I think he adds something to our team that we haven’t had in a long time. He’s a guy who obviously can create his own shot, but he also isn’t afraid to take and make big shots. He’s a veteran. He knows the ins and outs of the game. Hopefully, when we get back on track and make that playoff push, we’ll see more.”
Lee, who has appeared in 25 career postseason games, welcomes the challenge of aiding a Grizzlies team that is currently four games back for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
That, he said, is just one of his few New Year’s resolutions.
“Everybody has new resolutions every year,” said Lee, who scored eight points on 2-of-6 shooting in 28-plus minutes in Friday night’s 104-99 win against the Suns in FedExForum. “I just want to help this team win and make the playoffs.”
Nothing too complicated, however.