SALT LAKE CITY -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he plans to sit down with representatives for veteran big man David Lee within the next 48 hours, and a buyout could soon be reached to end Lee's brief tenure in green.
Unable to move Lee's bulky contract while sitting idle at Thursday's trade deadline, Ainge acknowledged he'd work with Lee. The buyout has been long expected and should allow the 11th-year veteran to latch on with a team for the stretch run.
If Lee's buyout is finalized before March 1, he will be playoff-eligible for any team he signs with. After being traded away by the Warriors in July, Lee is unable to sign with Golden State until next season.
Lee started saying his goodbyes to staffers after Thursday's practice, but stressed there is no animosity that things didn't work out for him in Boston.
"I've kind of seen the writing on the wall with what's going on the last month," said Lee, who has not played since Jan. 10. "But once again, this is a business. We all know that. I want to be in a place where I'm successful and where I'm wanted. The Celtics are a great group of people here. I have absolutely zero negative things to say about my coaching staff and teammates, who, obviously as you know, I get along well with. So we'll just see how things develop over the next 24 or 48 hours here, but it's looking like something's most likely going to happen [with the buyout]."
Lee, acquired in July in a swap that sent Gerald Wallace to Golden State, has logged 18 consecutive DNPs and has either been inactive or did not play in 25 games this season. In 30 appearances, including four starts, he is averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds over 15.7 minutes per game.
Lee was one of Boston's starting bigs on opening night, but his role quickly diminished.
"Everything doesn't always work out the way you want it to," said Lee. "I'm just disappointed from the fact that I wanted to come here and make a major impact. And that didn't happen for one reason or another. The last two places I had been before I may have been able to make that impact. It is what it is."
Lee, who lost his starting job to Draymond Green during Golden State's championship season last year, was hopeful a fresh start with a young Boston squad might jump-start his career. Instead, he faded from the rotation in Boston's log-jammed frontcourt.
"We came into the season, we knew it was six bigs," said Lee, who was playing behind Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Zeller. Boston summoned rookie Jordan Mickey to Utah on Thursday to add depth to the frontcourt with Olynyk nursing a shoulder injury that is expected to sideline him for at least two weeks.
"And a lot of it came down to what Coach [Brad Stevens] wanted to do, strategy-wise. And the ultimate decision I think was him wanting to go smaller at the 4 spot with Kelly and Jonas [Jerebko] primarily after the starters, or after Amir and Sully were out," added Lee. "And then it created somewhat of a logjam at the 5 spot there, and so it's a bit of a numbers game. Like I said before, I'm a competitive guy. Of course I want to play minutes and I want to be out there playing basketball more than anything else.
"People who don't know basketball say, 'Man, it would be nice to make a bunch of money to sit there and chill.' But as you guys know from dealing with players over the years, that's the last thing that a player wants to do. I'd love to be out there playing and being able to help a team. But my teammates have done a great job keeping me sane this last month, and keep me working hard. And, as you know, I've gotten in even better shape this last month, and an unbelievable job done by the training staff and the nutritionist and everybody that have helped me to do that. So I'm just excited for the next opportunity."
Lee, who Ainge has noted maybe wasn't in the best shape at the start of training camp after a short offseason with the Warriors, has worked hard to get himself in better condition while preparing for his next opportunity. Celtics strength coach Bryan Doo posted a picture of the two on Instagram Thursday with the caption: "Bittersweet. Great being able to work with [Lee.] Happy for him, but sad to see him go. Put an unbelievable amount of hard work in over the last 6 weeks."
Asked if he's still got a lot to offer a team, Lee said, "Absolutely. That's not even a question in my mind. And I feel great right now. I feel healthy. So, yeah, that's not even a question in my mind. It's just looking like it's not going to be in Boston."