HANG TIME WEST — The injury that quickly swung from season-ending to day-to-day in the playoffs has now gone from a one-time distressing finding to now a very encouraging outcome.
The torn hip muscle suffered in the playoff opener at Denver was worse than anyone thought, David Lee reported Wednesday. And, the recovery is going so well that he feels better than a year ago at this time, Lee also revealed.
So goes the roller-coaster return from the injured right hip flexor and the subsequent surgery, with implications for the Warriors and the entire Western Conference if Golden State turns potential into reality and pushes into the top tier of playoff teams.
From being declared done for the season when he went down in the first-round opener at Denver to playing in the clinching Game 6 and then again four more times in the West semifinals against the Spurs.
He didn’t play much — one post-injury minute versus the Nuggets and then three, eight, 12 and 12 minutes against San Antonio, respectively — but even the limited action came with Lee acknowledging at the time that he could do more damage to the hip by playing with the torn muscle. When the All-Star power forward had surgery in May, he said, doctors found the injury to be worse than originally thought.
In the Wednesday update for a group of reporters, though, Lee said he is fully recovered, in the best shape of his career and that the core of his body is strong as ever.
“I feel no ill effects whatsoever,” Lee said, as reported by Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group. “I actually feel a lot better moving around than I did even last year at this time.”
Lee’s health would have been an important early-season storyline for the Warriors no matter what, but is particularly relevant amid the new uncertainty surrounding the frontline. His 2012-13 backup, Carl Landry, left as a free agent; starting center Andrew Bogut is trying to prove he can get to 100 percent after a series of ankle problems; and No. 2 center Festus Ezeli is expected to be out until midseason with a knee injury. Marreese Speights was signed to be the third big man, and Jermaine O’Neal came in via free agency as well. Coach Mark Jackson will have options to play small.
“We still have a long way to go,” Lee said. “But, if you looked at where we came from three years ago, some of the questions were, ‘Why would you come here? They’ve had one playoff team in the last 150 years.’ Looking where we are now and having these conversations, it’s very exciting.”