WASHINGTON – Courtney Lee’s mysterious neck injury sidelined him for 32 days and counting with no real updates or recovery timetable.
Adding to the mystery is that the Knicks have declined to make Lee available to the media, even though he is traveling with the club. The last time Lee spoke was a month ago, when he downplayed the severity of the neck injury that occurred in the third day of training camp.
David Fizdale said Lee underwent treatment and is waiting to see how the neck responds. The Knicks have called the injury a neck strain or neck spasms.
“I always tell y’all, I don’t pay attention to the medical report,” Fizdale said. “It’s just, ‘When is he playing for me?’ That’s usually the only information I want.”
The coach added, “It’s just one of those injuries, it’s not how much you do, it’s how it comes along. It’s going to heal when it wants to.”
At 33, Lee is the oldest player on the roster and doesn’t fit into the rebuild. But he also has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract, one of only three remaining that were signed under Phil Jackson (Lance Thomas and Kristaps Porzingis are the others). The Knicks are trying to unload Lee to create enough cap space to sign a max free agent in the summer, but the extended absence can’t help his value.
The Knicks also have to create a roster spot by next month to keep Allonzo Trier on the roster, since his two-way contract will expire when he hits 45 days with the Knicks.
Unlike Porzingis, who is recovering from a ACL surgery, Lee has accompanied the Knicks on the road, drawing praise from Fizdale ahead of Sunday’s game in Washington.
“I’ve been happy with him. You can see he’s out there right now, coaching. Earlier before you came in he was passing for Tim (Hardaway) and (Trier) and talking to them about their game shots and stuff.
“He’s been fantastic. I just feel really bad for him that I can’t use him right now.”
The Knicks started training camp with four players who had at least seven years of experience in the NBA. One of them — Joakim Noah – was waived before he arrived. Two others – Lance Thomas and Enes Kanter – were recently removed from the starting lineup. Lee is the fourth.
He is also the Knicks’ best 3-point shooter, an area of concern for Fizdale. His team is 20th in the league in 3-point attempts and 3-point shooting percentage.
“Absolutely he can help,” Fizdale said. “He’s a stable vet who can shoot the ball and defend. There’s always a place for that, especially with that young group of having another guy that can space the floor for you and guard is a good thing.”