David Lee admitted that Monday's Garden finale against the Wizards, which could also be his last in a Knick uniform, will produce "sort of mixed emotions" for the unrestricted free agent-to-be. He is the longest-tenured Knick by a couple of months, technically. He was selected 30th overall in the 2005 draft, which puts him ahead of Eddy Curry (acquired in Oct. 2005).
Lee is obviously well ahead in the games played category (366), since Curry (222) has just 10 appearances over the last two seasons.
And forget the fact that Lee (20.2 ppg and 11.8 rpg) is two games shy of becoming the first Knick to average 20-10 for a season since Patrick Ewing in 1996-97 (22.4 ppg. and 107 rpg) or that rare 30-20-10 triple-double against Golden State or the 707 defensive rebounds (five shy of third-most in a season by a Knick) this season or the 55.6 field goal percentage that is second-best in franchise history (behind, coincidentally, Eddy Curry's 56.3 percent), or the NBA-leading 65 double-doubles in 2008-09, which is third-most in a season in Knicks history or even the miraculous inbounds tip-in game-winner with :00.1 on the clock against Charlotte in Dec. 2006, or everything else he's done over the course of five seasons.
The most compelling number associated with Lee's NBA career thus far is this: in five seasons with the same team, he has had 49 teammates.
Fourty-nine teammates. In five seasons. With the same team.
From Trevor Ariza to Bill Walker. From Steve Francis to Tracy McGrady. From Cato to Darko. From Qyntel to Quentin. From Barnes to Butler to Balkman to Bender to Barron.
"I've seen so many people come and go," Lee said.
As of now, only five are under contract for next season: Curry, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker (team option) and Toney Douglas. If Curry happens to stick around, he will surpass Lee in the teammate total. But considering Curry's lack of playing time over the last two seasons, at least Lee can say he actually played with pretty much all 49 names on the list.
"Especially when you're not a winning team, but in the NBA overall, just to be in one place for five years . . . you don't see that a whole lot nowadays," Lee said. "You see so many people traded left and right . . . I'm grateful to have been here this long and we'll see if I'm here even longer. I hope that I am."
It is here when a reporter suggests that there's "speulation the Knicks won't be able to get any good players" this summer. Lee cracks up and repeats: "There's speculation the Knicks won't be able to get any good players, so what do you think about them signing bums?"
I chime in, "Right, if they can't get any good players, how about you?"
The small group of three beat writers and Lee share a laugh.
Whether he re-signs or not -- and, to be completely candid, my gut tells me he'll be elsewhere next season -- it can be said that David Lee was one of the few enjoyable subjects to cover over the course of an awful period in franchise history.
A period that has seen 50 players put on that jersey over five seasons.
* * *
* - The newest of those 50 is Earl Barron, who recorded his second double-double in five games as a Knick in Sunday's loss to the Miami Heat. Sunday was the 10th day of Barron's 10-day contract and he said he will sign Monday to play in the final two games of the season. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Knicks have an interest in inviting him to training camp next fall. At 28 years old, Barron, who played in the Phillipines and was in the D-League this season, knows this could be his last opportunity. "I'm 28, I feel great, though," he said, "But I know what you're saying. I do kind of feel like that."
* - Danilo Gallinari (just 1-for-9 from downtown vs Miami on Sunday) is one three-pointer shy of tying Allan Houston for the third-most three-pointers made in a season. Houston had 178 in 2002-03. Gallo has two games to nail seven, which would match Jamal Crawford's 185 made in 2004-05, which is the second-highest single-season total in franchise history. John Starks has the record with 217 made in 1994-95. His 470 attempts this season already ranks fourth on the franchise's single-season list and 24 behind Crawford's third-ranked 494 in 2007-08.
* - The Knicks may not have the most potential salary cap space in the league for this summer. If Dwyane Wade opts out (as expected), the Heat could have as much as $40 million in space if Wade signed elsewhere. The Heat have just two players (Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook) under contract for $7.1M, but obviously the Heat also have to carry those confusing cap holds to fill the empty slots. Their true cap space is actually much less than the Knicks, however, if you factor in Wade's $25M hold to maintain his Bird Rights.
Wade said all of the right things about free agency in his final visit to New York (until, of course, early July). It's interesting how all along people have believed there was a greater chance that LeBron James would leave Cleveland than Wade would leave Miami, but while James has a legit championship-caliber program with the Cavaliers, Wade's Heat are far from chasing a title. That obviously can change dramatically with the addition of a max player and there is a belief that one of the top shelf bigs -- Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer -- will look to join him in South Beach.
But with a championship ring already on his finger, Wade says he's thinking about his legacy at this point.
"Winning is what you remember, more so than individuals and I just want to make sure I'm surrounded by guys that have that same mentality," he said.
* -- I mentioned to Gallinari that people in the media feel star players won't want to sign with the Knicks because there's nobody on the roster. He didn't agree with that point of view. "I don't think a lot of people think this, to be honest," he said. "I don't think a lot of people think the players we have signed under contract are 'nobody'." I asked him what "people" he gets this opinion from. "Players," he replied.
* - Monday's Garden finale will be loaded with the usual Fan Appreciation Night ingredients that is sure to make it a good time even with the Washington Wizards in town. For the Knicks it will end the season with four straight sellouts and 11 of the final 13 home games for a total of 26 out of 41 home dates this season.
To put that into perspective, the Knicks rank sixth in the NBA this season at 98 percent attendance capacity, which is absolutely ridiculous for a team in its ninth straight losing season. In comparison, the playoff-bound Miami Heat are at 90 percent, which ranks 16th in the league.
Let this be the final game you people have to watch a losing team.