BOSTON — Courtney Lee is pacing himself for a long NBA regular season, so he’s not stressing over what had been a very quiet preseason.
“I don’t want to unload my clip right now,” Lee said. “You ask any other dude that’s been in the league for a while, you want to go out there and get your rhythm and you want to go hard in preseason but at the same time you don’t want to overdo it and get hurt.
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“You want to start off healthy, you want to compete all through the year and then at the end of the year you want to be in good shape to compete in the playoffs. No championships are won in the preseason.”
With Carmelo Anthony resting Wednesday night, Lee had his best game of the preseason. He shot 5-for-7 and scored 11 points in the Knicks’ 121-96 victory over the Celtics without Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas. Lee averaged five points in the first four games. Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 20 points and blocked three shots.
Jeff Hornacek plans to play Anthony around 30 minutes in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Nets and use what he called “normal rotation,” minus Derrick Rose.
Hornacek said it’s unlikely Rose would play even if he’s back from Los Angeles after being cleared Wednesday in his civil sexual assault lawsuit. Hornacek said Rose probably would start in the Knicks’ regular-season opener Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Lee, entering his ninth season, said he will be ready to change his focus and raise his game when the games count. But Lee doesn’t feel any pressure to live up to the four-year, $48 million contract the Knicks gave him to be their starting shooting guard.
“This is basketball,” Lee said. “I just try to go out there, enjoy, compete, play at a high level and try to win games. Once you do that the pieces will fall into place and the pressure will fall off your shoulders, baby.”
Lee said he’s still learning his spots in the triangle offense, he see a real opportunity to flourish.
A low-key guy, Lee doesn’t crave attention or the basketball. But playing with Anthony, Rose and Porzingis, Lee knows he’ll get plenty of open shots. His eyes light up just thinking about it.
“Yeah, one-hundred percent,” Lee said. “Once we’re all together and everybody is really scouting and wanting to take things away, they’re going to put two guys on certain players and it’s going to open up for everyone else.”
The well-traveled Lee played with Dwight Howard in Orlando, Yao Ming in Houston, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in their final season in Boston, and Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Memphis. So he’s to playing with guys who get a lot of attention.
But Lee said this is the first time he’s played with three guys who can be the focal point of a defense.
“This is new to me,” Lee said.
Lee has averaged 9.6 points in his career, while shooting 45 percent from the field. He’s shot better than 40-percent from three-point range four times. Hornacek is giving him the green light to let it fly.
“He plays hard, he’s a good defender, can really shoot the ball,” Hornacek said. “We try to get him to shoot a little bit more. Some of these guys they’re not trying to force anything. They know their shots will come. When they’re playing a little bit more, they feel more comfortable. I actually like that Courtney is not forcing things.”
Notes & quotes: As expected, the Knicks picked up Porzingis’ third-year $4.5 million option.