INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Courtney Lee has fond memories of Conseco Fieldhouse.
His Pike Red Devils capped off a perfect high school basketball season with a 65-52 Class 4A State Championship victory over DeKalb on the home court of the Indiana Pacers.
Lee returned to the site of that memorable moment Saturday night for an NBA game that might have had much less hype, but was still a big deal to C-Lee.
"It is a chance to get back home and see friends and family but then it also is a chance to come back and play some ball at Conseco Fieldhouse," said a smiling Courtney prior to Saturday's game.
Lee's basketball career took off after leaving Pike High School. He starred for Western Kentucky University and led the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament his senior year. Lee also was a key contributor off the bench last year for the Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.
Pacers beat the Nets at Conseco Fieldhouse Saturday
However, it hasn't all been positive. Lee missed a critical late-game layup in the NBA Finals against the Lakers and then was traded to the league's worst team in the off-season.
"It has been an up and down, my experiences. Western Kentucky making the tournament, that was an unbelievable experience. Then getting drafted, that was another one. Getting traded, that was a dagger," added Lee.
Lee admits it hasn't been easy going from a team that has legitimate Championship aspirations to one that "everybody was focusing on the losses" but sees a bright future in New Jersey.
"It came as a little bit of a shocker, but once I got used to it and started playing with the guys and bonding with these guys, it kindof helped," said Lee who is averaging 12.3 points per game and has started 64 of his 69 games played this season with the Nets.
JJ's Audibles remembers the Western Kentucky - Drake NCAA tournament Upset
New Jersey is guaranteed to finish the season with the NBA's worst record, but the future is bright thanks in no small part to 2nd year pro Courtney Lee. While he hopes to be a playoff participant again in the future, Lee is resigned to cheer for one of the other Central Indiana standouts who will be representing in post-season.
"This year, George Hill is playing real well and those guys (Spurs) are going to the playoffs so now it's going to be him carrying the torch. That is something that we do, support each other. Now it's going to be his turn to carry so I'm going to be watching him and cheering for him," added Lee.
The Pacers ruined Lee's Conseco Fieldhouse homecoming, beating the Nets 115-102, but there are likely better days ahead for both New Jersey as a team and specifically Courtney Lee.