J.L. Weill's On the Record: David Lee

J.L. Weill's On the Record: David Lee
Jun 22, 2005, 05:10 pm
DraftExpress reporter J.L. Weill recently sat down with former Florida standout David Lee to talk candidly about the upcoming draft, his draft status, his teammates Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson and his time as a collegian in Gainsville.

J.L. Weill: Hello, David. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We'll hopefully cover a fairly wide range of topics. But clearly, the focus will be on the upcoming draft.

David Lee: That's fine. You did the thing on Ike Diogu, correct?

JLW: I did.

DL: I read some of that, you did a really good job.

JLW: Well, thank you. Do you know Ike?

DL: Yeah, actually. I've done a few workouts against him, so I know him pretty well.

JLW: How'd you do?

DL: Did fine. They said we were the two best in Denver. It was me, Ike, Wayne Simien, Turiaf and a bunch of people. He's tough. I read (Monday) ...that there's still a possibility he may go back.

JLW: Are you going to miss college at all?

DL: I am. I really enjoyed it. It's a fun atmosphere down there, it's a fun town. It's a town that, really my junior and senior year, started to rally around basketball. It's a heck of a place to be and with all this travel and stuff, I've missed Gainsville quite a bit.

JLW: What about your teammates? I'm curious if I can get a couple of words on them. In the effort of full disclosure, I was raised in Lexington, Kentucky and grew up a Wildcats fan, so you can't hold that against me. But I've also seen you play a lot.

DL: Oh, that's fine. To be honest with you, I have a lot of respect for Kentucky's program. This isn't a situation where you'd say that and I'd say, "Man, I hate Kentucky." I think Tubby Smith is a great coach, and I just worked out against Randolph Morris and met him for the first time and he's a great guy. As you know, I've been good friends with Chuck Hayes for a long time.

JLW: That's interesting. You know, it works both ways, too. I think the fans at Kentucky were brutal to both you and Matt Walsh when you first got to Florida, but over the years -- maybe through attrition -- they seemed to form a healthy respect for you both.

DL: Most definitely. I think it was a much different attitude even last summer when Chuck Hayes and I got to know each other a lot better. Then, this summer. Last summer, it was easy for him to be real nice because we had never even beaten them, and this summer it was like [there was] even more mutual respect. He always knew I was a good player and he was a good player, but to now have it be a little more equal playing field rivalry-wise -- a little bit like the Yankees and Red Sox -- where finally we got a victory there and we ended up getting two victories, so it was good.

JLW: And I'm sure 17 rebounds from you in the SEC Final didn't hurt.

DL: No, it's one I'll always remember. And the one on my Senior Night was probably even more sweet, even if it didn't mean half as much as the SEC tournament final, just to finally beat those guys on my Senior Night and play my last game at the O-Dome was great.

JLW: I bet. So, turning our focus to the task at hand, you said you worked out with Morris recently...was that over the weekend or last week?

DL: It was in Sacramento, actually my last workout of last week.

JLW: And where are you working out now?

DL: I'm up in Toronto. I worked out yesterday in Miami. Then I have a day off today in Toronto and a workout tomorrow for the Raptors.

JLW: Who'd you work out with in Miami, was it a group workout?


DL: Yes, it was. It was a European kid, I'm not familiar with his name, and it was also Dwayne Jones and D'Or Fischer.

JLW: Did you have similar success in your other workouts? I know you've been getting some pretty good buzz, especially from teams in the latter part of the first round.

DL: Yeah, everything went great. They were very, very positive with me. The biggest thing for me right now is just to try and get as many teams in that 18-30 range to be positive and keep me in the mix with all those teams so that, as you know, on draft night, anything can happen. Just want to have enough teams that have me on their list and on their board that it's going to be tough to slip through all of them, and I think that's really starting to form right now.

JLW: While you obviously have a preference for the first round, as anyone approaching the draft would, do you have any preferred locale? Would you rather be with a contender late in the first round or get some minutes with a lottery team picking in the second?

DL: I really think the first round is my goal right now and I think that after Chicago that's a lot more realistic. I think there's a lot better chance that I'll go in that late first than I will in the second. But for me, this isn't like college where you get to pick your school, it's really no choice on what's going to happen.

JLW: At this point, you're happy for anyone.

DL: I am. I'm not going to be picky, that would be a bad deal to be picky about it. I think, for the most part, I'd like to get with a team that I fit in well with [in terms of] style of play, and there's quite a few of those teams in the late first round whose style of play I fit in well with.

JLW: Do you keep in touch with Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson as they're going through this stuff, too?

DL: Yeah, we do. And I know all three of us are pulling for each other and both those guys have to make a tough decision and they both made it, and I'm happy for both of them and I just wish them the best of luck. I'm sure we'll have a conversation after draft night.

JLW: One more question on that, it seems Walsh is a bit of a story. He surprised a lot of people -- and maybe even himself a little bit -- with the buzz he's gotten, does this surprise you at all?

DL: No, you know. I mean I think that everyone knows he can shoot, but the biggest question coming into the draft was his athleticism, and his strength and his quickness. And I think a lot of the teams have been surprised at how explosive and quick he is. That was something that just from playing pick-up ball with him that we always knew he was capable of competing at that level quickness- and explosiveness-wise. He's going to be a guy who -- I don't know where he's going to go in the draft -- but it's going to be interesting story on draft night, but I think that even if he does go in the second round that he is going to be a guy who can make a team and play in the NBA for a while.

JLW: Where are you going to spend Draft night this year?

DL: I'm going to be in St. Louis. I'm going to go back with some friends and family, nothing extravagant, and just sit there and pray. (laughs)

JLW: Understandable. So getting away from asking you about other people, what have you found to be your biggest assets in your workouts thus far?


DL: These workouts have been great for me. With the amount of individual instruction we did at Florida, I always knew that this would be a time that I think my stock would go up from these types of workouts. They fit my game well. The thing I think I've established at these workouts is how hard of a worker, how tough of a player I am. My big thing has been, going into these workouts, has been to get in as good a shape as possible, because I would hate to go into these workouts and not do well because I had to take a drill or two off because I was out of shape. That's something you assume everybody would do, but it really hasn't been the case. There have been quite a few people who have been out of shape in these workouts -- which you've heard the same thing, but -- so being in good shape and also giving it everything I've got and then playing harder than everybody else in the workout has been something I've tried to do every time. And I think that really is something that teams notice.

By this point, with the way scouting is today, and the Internet and TV, teams already pretty much know what your strengths and weaknesses are.

JLW: Especially if you've already been in college for four years.

DL: Exactly. There's no doubt about it. Unless you're a European from some country that they don't get much coverage of, they know exactly what's up with your game, and now the biggest thing is showing them your work ethic. And obviously there is that interview process, where they get to meet you and get to know you a little bit better as a person.

JLW: Were you pleased with the outcome of your measurements at the pre-draft camp in Chicago?

DL: You know, it seemed like everyone was about an inch shorter. It was funny, we were all walking through the line there and everybody would get [the measurement] and give the strangest look there when they'd call out the measurement with no shoes. I mean everybody from the guys that were supposed to be 7-feet tall would end up being 6'10" 1/2 to the guards that thought they were about 6'1" and were, like, 5'9". Everyone was kind of looking at the measurements.

So it was a little bit low, but it was interesting because the trainer from Utah was the one giving the measurements, and I think I was 6'7" 3/4 (without shoes) and I want to say it was the workout before Chicago I was in Utah and he had me at 6'8" 1/2 with no shoes, so I asked him, "So which one was off?"

The thing that made it not really matter was the fact that it was the same for everybody, you know?

JLW: True. And also, I was surprised that you had what seemed to be a particularly long reach.

DL: That's been something I -- I think it was a 7-foot or 7'1" reach, depending on what team -- and I've always had pretty long arms. I think the only way the reach factor really hurts you is if you have a very short reach. I don't it's one of those things that they really worry about too much, but it's something that if you have a short reach, they definitely note that.

JLW: You were known primarily at Florida as an inside player, someone who was comfortable inside 12-15 feet, have teams been running you through a lot of shooting drills?

DL: Yeah. And that's one thing I need to work on the most. I think I've been surprising teams. I've actually done a bit more -- some teams, you'll go and there will be four bigs, or actually a few instances where I've actually been in small forward-style workouts where I've had to handle it a lot and do a lot of stuff away from the basket, coming off pick and rolls with the ball and things like that. Those are things I think I didn't get to show as much at Florida, things that I'm a lot of times better at than people my size.

JLW: Do you think playing for Billy Donovan and going through his drills for four years has helped prepare you for a pro game?

DL: No question, because the number of times I've gone done all these drills that we do, and have been in the situations I've been in, and gone through the amount of fatigue and learned how to fight through fatigue, and really more than anything in my college career learned how hard I need to play every game out there, and every practice and things like that, because Coach really accepted nothing less and that's where I've gotten this attitude as far as work ethic and I think that it's showed in these workouts and teams have noticed that.

JLW: Are teams projecting you at a specific position in the pros?

DL: I think initially, I'm going to play a little more four (power forward). And that's the kind of newer-style four, where it's a four that gets out and runs and can step out to fifteen feet and put it down and things like that. That's what a lot of teams are going to now with how the NBA is getting a lot more uptempo.

And I think later in my career, as my jumpshot improves and I continue to improve my handle, I'll be able to play some three as well.

JLW: It seems the last few years Florida has had a run of big men succeed -- perhaps surprisingly -- with guys like Matt Bonner (Toronto) and Udonis Haslem (Miami). Some of that big man instruction must trickle down.

DL: Yeah, and those are guys I got a chance to play against when I was [at Florida] and get to know quite a bit. I was surprised Udonis didn't make the NBA right away, but that was a guy you can talk about whose measurements were low and that didn't have very long arms and, for that reason, teams all passed on him. So he made it a point to go change his body and get into the right kind of shape and he came back and has just been great ever since then. And Matt's a guy that really made the league straight off of his work ethic.

JLW: He went overseas for a year, right?

DL: Correct. He went to Italy for a year and he's a guy that, athletically, isn't great, but his work ethic and his ability to know the game has just been what's gotten him over the top. And obviously he's a great shooter, but his work ethic's been tremendous. That's the image I'd love to come across as in the NBA, being like those two guys and being touch, hard-nosed, blue-collar type guys that can get the job done.

JLW: Tough question time. Let's say worst-case scenario, your stock falls and you go late in the second round. You get an offer for more money overseas, would you consider it or is it NBA or bust for you?

DL: I think the NBA's my dream, and hopefully it won't come to that. But I think there's some good ball overseas and, judging by the players, there's been some great players to come over here and do well. I've had a chance to play against some of them in the draft [workouts]. It's a different brand of basketball over there, but I think I'd definitely rather play in the NBA.

JLW: As a four-year player, having been All-SEC second team two years in a row, with so many young guys declaring despite being unproven, does it frustrate you at all having to scrap and prove yourself a little bit more?

DL: Not really. I can't really complain about that stuff, because that's the way they look at things. It's a credit to those young guys who have done well and have that potential. But I think, at the same time, teams in this process are becoming more and more careful to draft guys that will pan out. And I know that my experience will help me to come right in and play well, I think quicker than a lot of these guys that are younger, but you can't ignore a guy's potential and NBA teams do a good job of evaluating that stuff, so I don't really let it frustrate me.

JLW: I'm curious if you can run me through a typical day for David Lee. For those who might not know what it is you're going through, describe for our readers what your life is like.


DL: Well, I really travel four days a week right now. And my normal routine is you fly in the evening before into the city and you check into the hotel, and I'll just pretty much get ice and stuff like that and ice up a little bit for the next day, because a lot of times you're flying and your knees get sore from flying. So you'll ice up a little bit, watch a movie, watch some TV and try to get to bed early. Then you wake up I get a light breakfast -- I don't usually eat too much breakfast -- so I'll get a little room service breakfast, and then head of to the gym. Teams usually start anywhere from 8-10 in the morning, and then go there and do the workout, and then it's the interview process and then they wish you good luck and then you're pretty much right back in the airport traveling again. It's one of those things where you'd better bring your iPod, bring something to do, bring some reading material because you really don't get to stay in one place for too long.

JLW: Are you doing a lot of weight training?

DL: When I'm back in Chicago where I'm training, I'll usually have like three or four days before the next week starts. I'll try to get one or two lifts in, just basically to maintain, not to get stronger. And then also try to get a couple of workouts in with shooting, and just breaking a sweat to keep that shape up, keep my wind, but a lot of it -- when you get back on the weekends -- is just resting up. Because your body can only take so much. I've been able to maintain a consistent level of effort from taking care of my body, eating right and getting my rest when I go back on the weekends.

JLW: Are you worn out yet?

DL: Not too bad, believe it or not.

JLW: You've been at it for a good couple of months now.

DL: (laughs) I have, I have. This is my 16th workout, I believe. I'm up there with the most of anybody. Things continue to go well, so just continue to push the envelope and see as many people as possible.

JLW: Why do you think that is? That's fully half of the teams picking in the draft.

DL: The biggest thing for me has been, when I started out this process I was a mid-, maybe early-, at best second round pick. And from these workouts and from Chicago, I think I've moved myself into that late first round. Really, teams have a perception of you and I think that I didn't really get to show everything I had at Florida, and I needed to go out there and show teams my skill level and show teams my work ethic. In this process, I really identified myself as a guy who has nothing to hide. I'm not going to be a guy that does two or three workouts and kind of has that 'smoke and mirrors' approach to it. I'm a guy who's been more than willing to put my cards on the table and say, "Here's what I'm all about." For that reason, I think teams respect that and that was the reason I went to Chicago, because I felt like I had nothing to hide and I really wanted to go play out my destiny and not let somebody else or teams decide it.

JLW: Did you have someone you'd consider your toughest foe, either at AAU, high school, college or even one of the NBA workouts?

DL: You know, in these workouts, I feel like I've played as well as anyone in the workouts. I haven't had a guy where I've said, "Man, that guy really took it to me." As far as in college, I played some pretty good people. Playing against guys like Nick Collison when I was a sophomore and he was a senior. Believe it or not, playing against Udonis when he was a senior, playing against him in practice every day was ridiculously hard because he was so strong. I came into college about 215 (lbs.), and he was a good 270-280 in college; he was enormous. And he has a heck of an attitude and work ethic, so he was tough to keep up with.

JLW: Can you pinpoint what might have been your best game in college?

DL: Overall, I'd say the SEC Tournament my senior year. Single game, I think that Villanova (NCAA Tourney) game, even in a loss. I had 22 and 10, 20 and 10, something like that. It was a game I look at as kind of a last ditch effort for me, you know, I really wanted to move on to that Sweet 16. We were playing a team that was very, very hot, and they were the ones who really gave North Carolina a run for their money there in the tournament. It was something where we sort of got off to a slow start and we were down, and I gave it everything I had, really tried to fight for our team. So I think that was a game that you could look at and say, "Look at his work ethic and look at his toughness in that game."

JLW: As someone who played on a stacked AAU team (Darius Miles, Larry Hughes), any advice for a young high school star who might be entering college with NBA dreams, thinking of college as a short-term situation?

DL: I think the biggest thing is learning that good work ethic so you can continue to get better each year. Because as long as you continue to get better each year and improve on weaknesses in your game, you're going to have a chance to move on to the next level if you're going to continue to get better and prove yourself over and over again. Because there will continue to be obstacles, but if you can have a good work ethic, if you can establish that you're a hard worker, you can continue to overcome any obstacles that come your way.

JLW: Well, David, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy life to talk to us. It looks like things have really picked up for you over the last few weeks, and it seems like it's mostly because of hard work, so I sincerely wish you the best on draft night.

DL: Thank you, have a good one.

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