SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee has made a career out of proving people wrong. That determination has helped him earn the respect of his teammates and coaches over time. It is part of the reason why so many people within the Warriors organization were so happy to see him score 24 points while leading the team to a 118-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
At 27, Lee has had to overcome many hurdles to carve out a niche for himself in the league, the latest of which came following Thursday’s home loss to the Toronto Raptors in which Lee missed a pair of free throws and a wide-open 3 in the final minute of the game.
After the previous game was over, Lee, who scored 23 points against Toronto, was the subject of online harassment from Twitter users. The abuse was so overwhelming that Lee’s teammates, including brother-in-law Stephen Curry and Eric Paschall, and Lee’s wife, Sydel, all came to his defense, posting messages of support.
“I remember going home after that game, that last game, people were just slandering him,” Paschall said. “[He was] trending on Twitter. I didn’t like it. I feel like you always got to have your teammates back, and that’s the reason I tweeted that out, because it was like people were disrespecting him like [he didn’t] have a great game before that.
“Just because he had a little rough sequence doesn’t mean you take that away from a dude like that. So that’s why I was hyping him up, because I just wanted to let him know that, ‘You’re a killa. Kill me doing your thing.’ That was that sequence.”
Paschall tweeted his support of Lee again after Saturday’s triumph.
I told y’all! This my dawg! This man is a killer! Don’t disrespect @Dami0nLee https://t.co/XxJ7LP1bd2
— Eric Paschall (@epaschall) March 8, 2020
Lee acknowledged that getting all the support from his teammates over the previous day and a half was important to him in the wake of all the demeaning comments he and his family saw since Thursday night.
“It’s huge,” Lee said. “That goes to show what kind of people they are, what kind of organization we have. This is a brotherhood, and no matter what we’re going through, ups and downs, we’re always going to stick together and defend each other.”
Playing without Curry (flu), Draymond Green (knee) and Kevon Looney (hip), it was Lee, Paschall and Marquese Chriss who led the way all night against Philly.
The Warriors were particularly good when Lee and his teammates went to the rim against a Sixers team playing without Joel Embiid (shoulder) and Ben Simmons (back). Golden State was 19-for-24 for 39 points when scoring on drives and 22-for-28 for 52 points when including any shots that came off drives, according to ESPN Stats and Information data.
“It’s not surprising,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Lee’s performance. “Damion has so much toughness [and] perseverance. You think about how he’s gotten this far — something like that the other night, a tough finish. If you play in the NBA long enough, stuff happens like that, so he bounced back quickly. He had a great game the other night too. He played really well the whole night through; just had a couple tough plays at the end.
“One of the things I love about this team is just seeing the stories of these guys.”
To Kerr’s point, aside from Lee’s contributions, the Warriors also received a boost from guard Mychal Mulder, who scored 18 points and made several big plays down the stretch. Kerr is hoping that Mulder, who is still on his first 10-day contract, remains with the Warriors for a while longer.
“It’s a championship organization,” Chriss said when asked why so many young players seem to be improving within the Warriors’ system this season. “I think they know what they want and they know what it takes. We all just came here open-minded, I think, and just willing to learn.”
Lee was just happy to have the chance to redeem himself after such a tough stretch on Thursday night.
“Obviously, I was just upset,” Lee said of the previous 48 hours. “Just trying to take the pressure off me. I hate things being about me. I just want to enjoy the game and be surrounded by love and be surrounded by my teammates. What happened on Thursday happened, but the beauty of the league is you’re basically playing every other day.
“So just going out there, trying to have fun with it. Staying locked in and knowing not only then, but for the rest of my career, I’ve got to stay even more locked in. … It was definitely a great game for us as a collective unit.”
For Paschall and the rest of the Warriors, Lee’s bounce-back performance wasn’t shocking to anyone who knows him.
“Like I said in my tweet, a lot of people don’t know his story, but he’s been through a lot all through his career,” Paschall said. “So it’s no surprise what he did tonight just because he’s been through so much in his career. Tore his ACLs, he was on a two-way [contract player], but it happens. Stuff like that happens.
“I feel like he’s a great player; it showed tonight. I feel like that’s why I put out that tweet. You guys just totally forgot how good that dude is.”