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The Curious Case of Courtney Lee

When Ray Allen bolted from the Boston Celtics, they were desperate to find a replacement at the shooting guard position with Avery Bradley out until at least December and Jason Terry delegated to bench duties.

Courtney Lee was their man, getting him by swapping a handful of players to the Houston Rockets.

Somewhat of a journeyman, Lee had landed with three different squads over his short four-year career. It seemed Lee had found a solid landing-place with Boston, though, signing a three-year extension, ensuring his days running with star point guard Rajon Rondo wouldn’t be a short stint.

But over the first 11 games of the 2012-13 season we’ve seen a different Lee. Once a sharpshooting guard, who could knock down the open trey and cut into the lane to put one home is now the tentative shooter, willing to pass rather than attack.

Part of it is the new system. He hasn’t had the type of electric guard roaming the perimeter, waiting for shooters to come off screens or make baseline cuts before.

Part of it is the immense pressure Boston gives to young guys coming to the big city. Lee is surrounded by guys like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and is playing in a city where legends are born. Coming from places like Orlando, New Jersey and Houston doesn’t exactly relate.

But it really comes down to attempts.

“Shooters gotta shoot” and simply put, Lee isn’t shooting.

He’s averaging the fewest shots attempted in his career, at just five shots per game.

It’s from three-point land and around the rim where Lee is really struggling, though.

His 22 percent from behind the arc and 57 percent at the rim are the worst of his career. He’s not slashing and finishing, nor is he catch-and-shooting off of kick-out passes.

His 5.7 points per game also notches a career low, and he simply isn’t running with the flow of the game. Take last night for example, Rondo drove the lane and kicked to Lee. Instead of catch-and-shooting the ball, something that has been a staple of his career, Lee held the ball and fired an out-of-rhythm shot. These are problems, but problems that can be fixed.

Thought to be another wing that could run in transition with Rondo, Lee hasn’t made nearly the impact he was thought to bring. He’s been fantastic on the defensive end, but much like Jeff Green needed his poster dunk over Al Jefferson to revitalize his year, Lee needs a big-time play to jumpstart his tough beginning.

It’s early in the season, but the sooner Lee gets rolling, the better this Boston squad is going to look.

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  • stephanie

    I was saying the same thing. I watched some highlights from last yr and I’m not seeing any of the explosiveness. I think he’s become tentative because of the strong veteran presence on the team. I really hope he improves.

  • Celticsfanatic

    Nice article. I thought Lee was going to have that breakout play Saturday vs the Raptors when he was wide open for a flashy slam on the fast break, but he wound up far too slow and got swatted by Terrence Ross. He got to the line but it wasn’t the feel good type of whistle that a scrappy big man gets after a couple of offensive rebounds. He seemed disappointed.

  • LA Flake

    Told you the C’s should’ve gone after OJ Mayo instead. Told you he wasn’t that great and has tendencies to lose his focus at the wrong time. Still, not all is lost as I believe Lee just needs to figure out his role on the team. It’s going to take time though.

    Part of his struggles has been Rondo’s inability to get guys like him and Green the ball out on the break. How many times have Lee and Green outrun the D only to watch Rondo dribble the ball up himself and dump it to Bass or Pierce for a 20-footer? Just mind boggling.

    • Nate

      I don’t think OJ wanted to play in Boston at all. He went to the Mavs for less money I believe after claiming that Boston didn’t offer him enough. He obviously wanted to be somewhere that he could get touches

  • RedsLoveChild

    Meanwhile…Lee is enjoying the highest FG% of his 5 year career so far in Boston.

    Go figure!

    • Raj

      Is 5 ppg worth $5 million each year over the next 4 years?

  • eddysamson

    Contracts aside, I’ve been wondering about CLee’s timidness much more than I have about Jeff Green. CLee actually played last year!

  • Victory Allah7

    It’s early guys..he will find his rhythm… GO Celtics!!!

  • JG

    I was just wondering something after reading this and I’m curious if anyone else agrees. We’ve seen the same thing that is happening with Courtney Lee happen with a bunch of guys when they got to Boston. Lee, Green, Robinson to an extent, Marbury for the short period he was here, and even Jason Terryq. There are probably some others I’m not thinking of.

    The point is, we’ve seen a bunch of guys come to Boston and get tentative and lose the offensive aggressiveness that the Celtics brought them here for. I find it to be an interesting trend. I think part of the reason why some of us like Barbosa so much is because despite questionable shots at times, he has been one of the few guys to maintain the aggressiveness on offense that he had before he got here.

    Maybe it is the system, but in a bad way, that makes people too tentative to shoot here. I think part of it is that in the half court, the Celtics run a set where Rondo holds the ball at the top of the key until there’s under 10 on the shot clock and they get one shot. There’s not really time for aggressive drive and kicks, etc, from other guys.

    • Chris

      I can see your point. Perhaps these guys who are used to taking their shots feel less compelled to do so when starters named Pierce, Garnett and Bass refuse to go to the rim in favour of taking jumpers. Seriously, same problem as last year on offense – we don’t go to the rim. As such, teams don’t play us for the drive, and so our shots are contested. That’s why Rondo gets to the rim completely open a couple of times a game – it’s completely unexpected!

  • maurice

    I have been disappointed early this season in courntey lee. I don’t see any aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball and he looks tenative. Its still early and he still trying to find his role. O.j. mayo didn’t want to play in boston. They traded for him last season and the trade was all but finalized. Doc told ray allen the trade was official and then called him 45 minutes later to tell him it was off. O.j. mayo refused ( for what eva reason ) to come to boston. They tried to sign him this off-season and he didn’t want to play in boston. O.j. mayo would have been a much betta fit in boston, but I was not disappointed with the lee signing and his story in boston it yet to b told. I believe he will contribute in a big way, especially defensively. Give him time to figure it out. He scores 10ppg and shoots 40% from 3’s for his career. He will b fine

  • TommyPoints

    Give it time my friends give it time….by Christmas we will all be receiving the Celtics that we know exist.

  • JBcelticsFan

    Too early to start looking toward next season? lol j/k. But seriously, I dont understand what the problem is. Is it the “veteran presence”? Cant be, Lee is a veteran himself. That excuse only works for Sully and even he’s playing ok. Terry looks ok but my main concerns are Lee and Green. I think Rondo needs to allow them to handle the ball more, especially in fast break situations. I’ve seen lee have the ball at mid-court and instead of taking it hard to the basket he passes it to Rondo and then we miss our chances for easy transition buckets. They need more trust in eachother. Rondo isnt the only player on the team that can make plays Doc!!!

  • JBcelticsFan

    Pierce, KG, Bass and Terry are the main jump shooters. Everyone else(Rondo, Lee, Green,) should be ATTACKING THE BASKET. The only players Im not disappointed in are barbosa and Pierce. Everybody else needs to step their game up. Stop over-thinking and just play. The offense is so predictable because all they do is shoot jumpers. This team shouild average 105ppg honestly. Too much talent, way too much. USE IT.

  • charlie

    I keep hearing about how great Rondo is but I also keep seeing him walk the ball up the court. He kills spontenaity(sp?). I don’t think we will have a great team until he wakes up or other players get the courage to do their thing.