Damion Lee

Warriors' championship core still has chip on shoulders, Damion Lee says

Warriors' championship core still has chip on shoulders, Damion Lee says

When it comes to understanding what motivates the best players to become even better, Warriors guard Damion Lee has gotten a first-hand look by scanning his own locker room. 

“Steph [Curry] revolutionized the game,” Lee said on the Runnin’ Plays podcast. “But if you look at him, Klay [Thompson], Draymond [Green], a lot of guys on this team, we’re all guys that have a chip (on our shoulders).” 

Lee pointed to Curry coming out Davidson, a mid-major college in North Carolina. Draft analysts called him “undersized” and “not a finisher.” Curry was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft. 

Thompson was a skinny kid getting few looks from Pac-12 schools. Washington State, a relative no-name among basketball powerhouses like UCLA and Arizona in the conference, gave him a shot. The Warriors picked Thompson No. 11 in the 2011 draft. 

Green was a second-round draft pick. Warriors fans are familiar with the story that Green can rattle off the 34 players selected ahead of him in 2012 before he heard his name at No. 35.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Now this trio wrote their own stories, forming a dynasty with three NBA championships in four seasons. Curry is a two-time NBA MVP. Green is a Defensive Player of the Year. Thompson is among the best two-way players in the league. 

The Warriors made sure they paid these guys too, but fat checks didn’t lessen their hunger

"Some people make it in the league and get their first or second deal, then level off and be complacent," Lee said. "But everyone I’ve mentioned strives for more. We want more.” 

Lee himself was doubted, fending off insults that he’s only in the league because he’s Curry’s brother-in-law. Lee made his path through Drexel, then Louisville, then the G League, overcoming injuries along the way to finally earning a contract with the Warriors last season. 

When Lee thinks of his teammates and the desire to improve after an injury-filled 15-win season, he continues down the roster, mentioning Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, and Juan Toscano-Anderson as fighters. 

“You just have to give credit to guys who have kept that consistent chip, who want to be great,” Lee said.

[RELATED: How Wiggins won over Lee]

Lee landed on the idea of “intestinal fortitude,” the guts it takes to go beyond expectations and push yourself. 

“Having that and knowing you want more ... There’s just a spark,” Lee explained.

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How Andrew Wiggins won over Damion Lee, Warriors with quest to improve

How Andrew Wiggins won over Damion Lee, Warriors with quest to improve

The Warriors didn't see a whole lot of Andrew Wiggins, but they saw enough to get excited.

Wiggins, who joined Golden State ahead of February's NBA trade deadline, played just 12 games with the Warriors before the NBA season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. He averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in that stretch, winning over his new teammates in the process.

"I love Wiggs," Warriors guard Damion Lee said of Wiggins on this week's episode of the "Runnin' Plays" podcast. "He's quiet and reserved, but even from the point of just playing with him from the first game even until the last game that we had, you can tell that he knows how to play the game and wants to continue to learn more."

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The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Wiggins No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, headlining a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves that brought Kevin Love to Northeast Ohio. Wiggins showed flashes and even signed a max contract that went into effect ahead of the 2018-19 season, but he never consistently put it together in the Twin Cities. The 25-year-old never shot better than 46 percent from the field (or 36 percent from beyond the arc) with the T-Wolves while also struggling on the defensive end.

Wiggins' arrival in the Bay Area was a breath of fresh air, the Warriors said, because of their hole on the wing after signing-and-trading Kevin Durant and outright trading Andre Iguodala last summer. Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams was pleased with Wiggins' defense, and the 1.3 steals per game Wiggins averaged with Golden State before the shutdown would've, if sustained over the course of a full season, been his career high.

The forward's role will look much different next season, as it's difficult to imagine Wiggins averaging 15-plus field-goal attempts per game while playing alongside a healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Coach Steve Kerr isn't expecting Wiggins to be a star once Curry and Thompson return, and Lee said Wiggins' versatility will allow him to thrive in a reduced role.

"He can shoot it, can make plays, can create," Lee continued. "He had a game where he had 10 assists (against the Denver Nuggets on March 3), I think he had another game where he had 10 rebounds (against the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 23). He has it, and obviously once the whole band is back together ... and everyone's healthy, I feel like Wiggs' role will be carved out and he'll be able to excel to the best of his ability."

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for Warriors' important offseason]

Wiggins has had big nights before, but he hasn't sustained them into stardom. His per-game averages with the Warriors this season didn't look all that different from his Timberwolves career (19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game), but the former No. 1 pick isn't going to carry the same offensive load next season.

The Warriors are counting on that fact bringing out the best in him.

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

What Warriors' Klay Thompson repeatedly told Damion Lee during rehab

Damion Lee knows exactly what Klay Thompson is going through.

Lee, who tore his right ACL in 2013 and his left ACL in 2016, has been impressed with how his Warriors teammate is handling his own ACL rehab. And it appears Klay has a new appreciation for what Lee has experienced as well.

"[Klay and I have] had several conversations before about rehab in regards to the ACL," Lee said this week on the "Runnin' Plays" podcast with Kerith Burke and Grant Liffmann. "He'd always joke, 'Damn, D-Lee. I don't know how you did this twice because this is a lot.'

"It's cool to see what he's been through and now wanting to come back and go all out."

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Thompson, of course, tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors and missed the entire 2019-20 season.

What kind of 2020-21 season does Lee expect from Klay when the three-time NBA champion finally returns to game action?

"I feel like he wants to show people that he is the best two-way guard in the league," Lee said. "He's done it before. He's in a pretty good mind space. I think he's just ready to go out there and play."

[RELATED: Klay tells fans in China his mind, body are '100 percent']

Klay wasn't around the team a lot last season. But when he was at Chase Center, he made his presence felt.

"There were a lot of times where he'd just pull younger guys aside and give guys little tidbits," Lee explained. "It's unique to see. Everyone is so used to seeing Klay being quiet or reserved. Hearing him actually speak up and talk and give some input is huge.

"That's a huge step -- not only for him but the team and a lot of the younger guys seeing him as a big brother and as an influence."

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