It only took two games for David Lee to look comfortable in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
Now that first game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 24? In that contest the 11-year veteran looked like he hadn’t played a game in a month, which he hadn’t.
Lee played 15 minutes and collected four points and four rebounds against the Thunder. The All-Star big man appeared rusty, considering he only played 30 games this season before the Boston Celtics waived him Feb. 19.
“He had a little bit of ‘haven’t-played-in-a-while stiffness’ after the first game because it had been a month since he played a game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You can work with your trainer, you can eat fish and protein and do all this stuff that you want.
“But going into an NBA game and having to bang bodies and run full speed and jump some unknown number of times, that’s going to put different kinds of stress on you. He’s adjusted to that since the first game and he’s doing better and better.”
In his second game, Lee contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds against Denver, and in his third game he had 13 points and nine rebounds against Minnesota.
The Mavs modified their playbook a bit to accommodate Lee, and it paid off.
“I had to put in a lot of work learning the system, picking and choosing my spots to be aggressive, and also picking and choosing when I’m in there with Dirk [Nowitzki], finding a way to make him the most effective and support him,” Lee said. “The biggest thing with me is just to continue to put the work in, and the fact that I’m in good shape makes this a lot easier.
“If I was in awful shape right now and trying to work myself back into shape and learn the system, then you’d be seeing a much longer process to be effective. I’m just happy that I came here in shape and happy that my teammates and the coaches have supported me as much as they have thus far. I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
Carlisle noted that Lee has digested everything defensively.
“It’s not super complicated,” Carlisle said. “Our zone is — if you haven’t played a lot of zone — that’s different, but he’s very smart.
“Even with learning two positions, he’s picked it up quickly, and then offensively, we’ve scaled some things back overall, too. I’d say he has at least 80 percent of it, and frankly I don’t know if we’ll go much farther than that. We’re trying to simplify things for the team right now, too.”
For the first time this season on a 7:30 p.m. tip-off where a back-to-back situation wasn’t involved, the Mavs didn’t have a shootaround Tuesday morning. It was more or less a new wrinkle Carlisle wanted to try.
“It’s a chance to just change things up a little bit,” Carlisle said. “Almost everybody came in and did something.
“There was a level of certain preparation aspect to it even though we didn’t gather as a formal shootaround.”