Lee: I really wanted to come to Boston
BOSTON -- Courtney Lee was all smiles during his first public appearance as a member of the Boston Celtics on Thursday, mere hours after arriving in the city as a full-time resident.
Speaking at the team's annual Summer Soiree -- a cocktail event hosted by the Celtics and partners Xfinity and New England Baptist Hospital to help raise money for the Shamrock Foundation -- Lee expressed his enthusiasm over joining the team and his happiness to have the free-agency process behind him.
"I'm definitely excited. I got here earlier today," Lee said, prior to serving on a four-player interview panel alongside Avery Bradley, Dionte Christmas and Kris Joseph. "I've just got to find somewhere to live, and I got a chance to drive around a little bit, see the city, and see all that it has to offer. I'm excited, being back on a playoff-caliber team. Doc [Rivers is] a great coach, I get to play under him, and it's a good core group of guys here and I'm excited I get to join them."
The Celtics acquired Lee, who was an unrestricted free agent, on July 19 as part of a three-team sign-and-trade that saw Boston send E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Sean Williams and a second-round pick to Lee's former club, the Houston Rockets, and Sasha Pavlovic and two second-round picks to the Portland Trail Blazers. This all came after president of basketball operations Danny Ainge worked to try and facilitate a sign-and-trade for Jason Terry, so that the $5 million mid-level exception could be used to sign Lee. When a deal couldn't be reached with Terry's former team, the Dallas Mavericks, the C's used the mid-level on Terry and explored other creative options to try and land Lee, eventually facilitating the sign-and-trade.
Their commitment to acquiring him solidified the Celtics as Lee's No. 1 choice.
"I was definitely happy about [Boston's dedication]. The free-agency period was definitely a stressful one, but I stayed patient," said Lee, who at one point earlier in the summer acknowledged he was drawing interest from as many as eight teams. "I let my agent and I let Danny [Ainge] and those guys figure it out, and once it came to [to be], I was definitely happy and relieved about it.
"Once you see that there's interest from a team, the decision's up to you, so I had a tough decision to make. I had a lot of different offers from a lot of different teams, but the one I really wanted to come to was Boston, so I spoke with my agent, I spoke with my family. It was a decision that I had to take less money to come here, but in that, I'll be winning, I have a chance to play on TV, and that's what everybody wants to do -- they want to win big and have a chance to win a ring. So it was a no-brainer for me."
Standing at 6-foot-5, Lee has shown an ability to impact a game in many different ways, but he said to expect to see a strong commitment to the defensive end of the floor -- words that will surely serve as music to Rivers' ears.
"[I'm] just a guy that's going to go out there and play hard every possession," Lee said. "There are no possessions off. I'm capable of scoring on the offensive end, but I'm going to give the same effort on the defensive end night in and night out."
Lee, who shot 40.1 percent from 3-point nation for the Rockets last season, will still be counted on for some offensive production, and he noted that his higher-profile teammates will help to open things up for him.
"When you've got those kind of caliber players, [Kevin Garnett] down low, you've got [Paul] Pierce on a wing, and [Rajon] Rondo, who's going to find you in transition, you can only be excited about that," said Lee. "With those guys, I'm sure they're going to have the focus of the defense, night in and night out, and it's only going to make my job a lot easier to get out there, run, try to get buckets in transition, knock down the open shot, and also play defense."
Lee's currently pegged as the team's starting shooting guard, due to Terry's preference to come off the bench and Bradley's recovery from shoulder surgeries, but that could change if Bradley's ready to play at the start of the season. Lee chose to stay tight-lipped on the conversations he's had with Rivers about his role, but he did say he'll come off the bench if that's what the team requires.
"I just want to win. I'm not the coach, so whatever Doc feels will help the team, it's his decision," Lee said. "So I'm just going to go out there and just play.
"[Coming off the bench is] the same as starting the game. You've just got a job and a role to go out there and fulfill. You've just got to be professional and handle that."
Having cited Boston as a playoff-caliber team, Lee was pleased to see Ainge execute the other moves he did in order to keep the C's competitive for seasons to come, namely the re-signings of players like Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.
"I think [Ainge] did a good job. I think he was one of the better [general managers] during the offseason, getting a team and putting them together to go back and try to compete for a championship," Lee explained. "You've got Jason Terry, who's a phenomenal shooter and scorer, who's capable of coming off the bench and giving you 20, and then you get Wilcox back, it's an inside presence, and you get Jeff Green back, also. I think he did a great job."
A somewhat unsung part of Ainge's offseason effort has been building a younger core, consisting of the likes of Lee, Green, Bass, Rondo, Bradley and rookie Jared Sullinger. Despite having a label as an "old" team the last few seasons, the C's won't have to rely as heavily on Pierce and Garnett, now that Ainge has put more youthful pieces around them.
"We'll be able to give the old guys a break," Lee joked. "It only adds to the excitement of basketball. You've got KG, Pierce, those guys that are up there in age, but can still get the job done. And then to have a young core come in and keep the intensity and that level and that pace up throughout the whole game, it's going to be tough to beat us."
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