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Lee playing with a heavy heart

It turns out, as Deadspin so desperately reported, David Lee isn't gay. He's merely a lefty, but clearly can go both ways . . . to the hoop, I mean . . . as he quite emphatically proves here against Gerald Wallace and the Bobcats:

But, Fixers, let me share with you that Lee (22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists in 41:21) had greater issues on his mind during tonight's 97-93 win over Charlotte than someone attempting to dredge some high school gossip on him.  Back home in St. Louis, Lee's grandfather, celebrated Missouri businessman and philanthropist E. Desmond Lee, is gravely ill.

The 92-year-old Lee, who built a fortune in coathangers and other closet accessories with the Lee-Rowan Manufacturing Co., was a 1940 graduate of Washington University in Missouri, where he earned varsity letters in basketball and track. During his college years he also played on a baseball team with a fella named Sam Walton, who was attending the University of Missouri at the same time.

"Des" Lee, as he is known in the St. Louis area, was named the city's Man of the Year in 1996 and was given the National Outstanding Philanthropist Award in 1997. He has donated over $50 million to various charitable causes and institutions in the St. Louis area.

Now we know why David Lee is what he is as a basketball player. He comes, as they say, from good stock.

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* - Jonathan Bender celebrated the guaranteed contract period by showing some notable spring in his legs. Bender still looked a bit out of sorts, but you can't deny his imact with 5 points, 5 rebounds and, most of all, 4 blocked shots in 18:04. He also flushed an emphatic two-handed dunk on a cut to the lane.

* - Speaking of dunks . . .

 Nate Robinson had a sloppy night with the ball (seven turnovers), but there is no denying his impact on the game with eight straight points -- including that wicked crossover against DJ Augustin to an amazing blast-off down the heart of the Bobcats defense -- in a 15-0 run by the Knicks that bridged the third and fourth quarters and came right after Charlotte took a 10-point lead with 2:23 left in the third. Mike D'Antoni said he told Robinson to just play his game.

"He's got to be Nate Robinson," D'Antoni said. "And that's what he did."

* - Right before D'Antoni's post-game session with the media was about to end, he took it upon himself to talk about Wilson Chandler, who had a season-high 27 points in 45:36 and added seven rebounds and six assists. D'Antoni called it "an unbelieveable game" for Chandler, who just keeps coming on with each game now that he's finally got his bounce back in his legs.

The most noticable thing about Chandler's game goes beyond the scoring, which he proved on several occasions he could do last season. Chandler is making smarter passes and his defense is getting better and better. Jared Jeffries, who has basically turned into a traffic cop in the middle of the Knicks defense, called Chandler "the most important piece of our team."

* - Al Harrington's last-minute omission from the active roster was curious, but D'Antoni said he was told that Harrington was experiencing pain in his left calf in the afternoon. He tried to give it a go in the pregame warmup but the pain was strong. The decision was not to push it and have it result in a more serious injury that could cause him to miss more than one game.

Or we'll find out that the truth is Harrington is about to be traded.

* - Quick follow-up on the Pete Mickeal blog from the other day: From talking to Donnie Walsh, there doesn't appear to be anything happening on that front. Mickeal may have had a conversation with the Knicks' European scout, Kevin Wilson, who happens to live in Barcelona, where Mickeal plays. But it doesn't sound like the Knicks are actively looking to sign the 31-year-old vet for this season.

* - I have to make one final observation about the Garden tonight and, in fact, the last two home games. There is a noticable buzz in the building and a very charged atmosphere that, even during a few of those brief periods of success in the last few seasons, I have never felt during my brief time covering this team. The energy in the Garden lately reminds me of what I recall sensing when I used to have to pay to get in. Back when they didn't need some canned soundtrack to encourage the crowd to cheer or chant.

I'll give credit to the Game Night staff tonight for dialing it down in the second half and, especially, in the fourth quarter. Aside from the classic organ chord that for decades accompanied the "DEE-Fense" chant, they spared us the manufactured noise and just let the Garden crowd handle it like they know how. Bravo.

Between Chandler's outstanding play and Danilo Gallinari's determined marksmanship down the stretch, along with the raucous atmosphere at MSG, this was definitely a game to burn onto a DVD and anonymously mail to LeBron's estate in Akron.

In case, of course, he wasn't already Witness-ing it himself on NBAtv.

New York Sports