LOS ANGELES -- This is not the same David Lee.

He may have the same skill set -- a money midrange jumper, rebounding deftness, craftiness at finishing around the basket. He is putting up numbers similar to his career averages, but something is clearly different about Lee.

"I have a much better sense of confidence this year," Lee said after Friday's Warriors practice on the UCLA campus. "I am confident going out there that we're going to win my battle at the power forward spot. If I'm focusing and I'm playing the way I've been playing, I can get the better of most matchups."

This isn't the same guy who was reputed for getting his numbers the first three quarters and then disappearing down the stretch. This season, the Warriors are outscoring opponents by 49 points with Lee on the floor in games that are close down the stretch (within five points inside the final five minutes).

This isn't the same guy whose poor defense allowed more points than the ones he got back on offense. Lee has outshined several studs at his position so far this season: David West, Chris Bosh, Josh Smith (twice), Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin.

Lee will get a third run at Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Griffin when the teams meet Saturday. Lee outplayed Griffin noticeably the first two meetings, totaling 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting with 25 rebounds compared with Griffin's 29 points on 6-of-23 shooting with 17 rebounds. The Warriors won both games.


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"He's playing like the best power forward in the business," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of Lee, who is garnering considerable attention as an All-Star candidate.

"David Lee is in the discussion, and he's playing lights out," Jackson added. "His body of work. His consistency from Day 1. We're a winning team. He's had an impact. He's done it against the best. He's leading."

Lee, for the first time as a Warrior, is not "auditioning for my own team." He no longer has to prove he's worth the six-year, $80 million deal he got from the Warriors, and he's won over his teammates. He also has the unfettered support of Jackson and a cohort he gets along with well in guard Stephen Curry.

That, Lee said, has freed him to just play.

Having more weapons around him also has opened up the floor. The presence of Curry and Klay Thompson, and now guard Jarrett Jack, spreads the floor for Lee -- which highlights an important element of Lee's game.

"I think as good as he is as far as his shot and the fact that he rebounds and plays hard, I think his IQ to me is what stands out the most," Boston coach Doc Rivers said, "It's like in football. A lot of people go to those stupid combines and look at the time in the 40 instead of looking at the film and seeing who gets there first. If the guy who gets there first has a slower time, that probably means (he) is smarter. He's a step ahead in thought. And I think that's David Lee."

But Lee is not just outsmarting his opponents. He's done enough to make his critics ease up on calling him soft.

The consistency of the game plan, Lee said, has helped his defense. But so has his willingness to mix it up. On defense, he seems more willing to bang, and on offense more willing to embrace contact.

"I think he's defending," Jackson said. "He's playing more physical. He's playing with an incredible edge."

Jackson said the transformation began last season. After the trade that depleted the roster in March, the Warriors were left with rookies and otherwise end-of-the-bench type players. For most of the remaining games, Lee refused to shut it down.

To Jackson, that set the tone for this season. It earned Lee respect from his teammates. It gave him experience as the centerpiece of a team, even one that had little chance of winning. It forced him to dig deeper.

Now, Lee isn't just doing what he's always done, and the Warriors just happen to be winning. But the Warriors are winning partly because Lee is doing more than he's ever done.

"I know that I've changed some people's opinions this year," Lee said. "

  • Jack said he hurt his right elbow lifting weights on Thursday. He sat out of Friday's practice and said he will get some treatment and test it out Saturday.

    Saturday's game
    Warriors (22-10) at L.A. Clippers (26-8), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA