Lee entered Monday ranking 10th in the NBA in points (19.9) and tied for fifth in rebounds (10.9) per game. He also leads the league with 16 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The difference? The Warriors, with one playoff appearance since 1994, are fifth in the Western Conference and among the most talked-about teams.
"He's earned his numbers in the past as well, but his record didn't allow anybody to talk about it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He had great numbers in New York, he's had great numbers (with Golden State), now he's doing it on a winning team. And he's proving it, showing people just how smart he is. I think as good as he is as far as his shot and the fact that he rebounds and plays hard, I think his IQ to me is what stands out the most. And he shows that."
Lee does not appear overly athletic and never has been.
He hustles, communicates constantly with teammates and encourages the crowd. As a lefty, he also can be a bit unorthodox, and his elongated strides and shooting angles make him difficult to defend. And unlike in years past, Lee's defense has started to earn praise, in large part because of Golden State's upgraded talent around him.
Rivers compared Lee to how NFL scouts often salivate over 40-yard dash times, even though the fastest players don't always pan out in games.
"A lot of people go to those stupid combines and look at the time in the 40 instead of looking at the film and see who gets there first," Rivers said. "The guy that gets there first has the slower time than the guy in the 40. That probably means the guy that gets there first is smarter. He's a step ahead in thought, that makes him a step ahead in quickness and I think that's David Lee."
Lee said a second All-Star selection might mean more than his first.
Not so much for him as for what it would mean for the Warriors, who have had a blank spot on the practice facility wall next to Sprewell's name for 16 years. Any individual recognition that comes the Warriors' way this season, Lee said, will be built on the basis of the team's success — and that's all he's ever really wanted.
"Whatever it may be, it's going to be because we've turned this thing around," Lee said. "We've turned the culture around. We've turned the wins and losses around and we just need to keep it that way."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP