Mark L. Baer/US Presswire
Courtney Lee adds versatility at both ends of the floor for the Celtics.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Matchups like Paul Pierce versus LeBron James and Kevin Garnett against Chris Bosh might dominate the discussion leading up to the Celtics' season opener against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, but Courtney Lee lining up in front of Dwyane Wade holds just as much significance for Boston.
Head coach Doc Rivers hasn't been bashful about putting Miami on the minds of his players, and Lee -- in all likelihood the team's starting shooting guard on Tuesday -- is prepped for his matchup with Wade. He already has his plan for defending Miami's all-star guard.
"Just trying to make everything tough on him, as far as just trying to deny the ball out far, getting into him on pick-and-roll coverages, and then taking away his right-to-left crossover," Lee said. "He loves to do that and reject pick-and-rolls, so just try to play hard defense on him, especially without fouling, and keep him off the free throw line."
Lee is a great example of the depth Boston boasts this season. Normally, Avery Bradley would get the assignment on Wade, and, normally, the Celtics would be in trouble without him. Instead, the C's couldn't ask for a better alternative, as Lee boasts some considerable on-ball defensive chops.
"He's going to be a primary defender for us," Paul Pierce said of Lee. "And the good thing about Courtney is he can guard the 2s, he can guard the 1, he can guard the 3s. He's very versatile in that department, and so that's really going to help us out, especially with the absence of Avery Bradley, our best on-ball defender. He really can get after it on that end of the court."
Though new to the Celtics this season, Lee said the frequency with which Miami has been mentioned during training camp has already made him feel like he was a part of the Celtics squad that fell to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
"I feel like I was a part of it, how much stuff is going on out here. We've seen so much film of Miami, we've watched all the playoff series, we talk about them all the time," Lee explained. "We're going over their plays right now. So, you just see it and Doc's voicing it and the players are following it, they really want to win this game. And, if they want to win it, I want to win it. We're part of the same team now. So, I definitely feel like I was a part of the losing team last year."
Lee is anticipating a very intense game Tuesday, aided by the fact that the Celtics are itching to get out of their own practice facility and execute their sets against another team. Execution will be pivotal against Miami, particularly on the defense end. As for when the Celtics have the ball, Lee pointed to a familiar strategy the C's have employed in the past: Get the ball in Kevin Garnett's hands.
"Limiting them to one shot per possession and making sure we block out and making sure we're attacking them in transition," Lee said of stopping Miami. "And then also, we've still got KG, who's a dominant player in the post. We need to feed the ball to him when we play against those guys, because they lack true size and a true big man."
With the Celtics having reloaded their roster, Lee might be skirting underneath Miami's radar, which will give him an added edge Tuesday night. As he exhibited throughout the preseason, Lee has the ability to impact virtually every facet of the game. Though his importance Tuesday begins with defense on Wade, his willingness to break out in transition, slice to the basket, and make free throws will give Boston a boost it didn't necessarily have in recent seasons.
"I'm just a guy that's trying to do everything out there," Lee said. "Especially on the defensive end, I'm trying to pressure the ball, get steals, and get stops. And then lead out in transition, get out and run the floor, try to get some dunks, run to the 3, knock down the 3, but then, making reads at the same time. If they run me off the 3-point line, being capable of attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line."
Lee's comfort level with his team was a hot topic throughout the preseason, but after a handful of solid all-around games to finish out the exhibition schedule, he's happy to proclaim that he's both comfortable and confident in Boston's system. Good thing, too, for in Tuesday's matchup of big teams and big names, he could quietly serve as a pivotal difference-maker.