Courtney Lee, who has been sidelined since preseason with a neck problem, is hopeful to be back soon. When exactly that will be he is not so sure and what his role will be when he finally gets back on the court might be more of a mystery.
Lee’s injury is a mystery in itself. He said he hurt himself when he was fouled by Ron Baker in a preseason practice and collided with the stanchion behind the basket. It has been described as a neck strain or neck spasms, but Lee said it’s been a little bit of everything.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “There are the spasms, there’s strain, it’s irritated and inflamed nerve. A little bit of whiplash going on. That was the thing — thought it was under control. Went back to practice full go, got hit again and irritated that nerve. It inflamed back up. So starting back over from scratch.”
He will meet with team doctors Sunday when the Knicks return to Madison Square Garden to face Orlando and, feeling better from an injection that has calmed the nerve irritation, he is hopeful he will be cleared to do more than the non-contact shooting he has been limited to now.
In his absence the Knicks have started from scratch, too, going with a lineup filled with young players. Lee is 33 years old and while he has two years and approximately $25 million left on his contract, he seems an odd fit for this youth movement — a better fit on a contending team in need of a defensive-minded player who can shoot three-point field goals.
It could present a problem for a player who started 143 games in his first two seasons with the Knicks, especially if you look across the room to Enes Kanter, who has not accepted his removal from the starting lineup happily.
“That was a no-brainer, man,” Lee said of the decision to go with young players. “You look around the locker room, everybody is young. It’s not the team going young. It’s what we have. I’m a guy that’s just going to go out there, man, know my role, compete, help the team as much as possible, whether it’s leading vocally or by example. That’s my mindset: Is just to go out there and do whatever the team needs me to do.”