MINNEAPOLIS -- David Lee has become so consistent with his production it is almost cliché. No one blinks when he puts up a double-double:
But Lee, though he's been doing it for years, still feels the pressure. Probably now more than ever. He feels the weight of what's at stake, understands the value of his contribution. And there is nothing automatic about it.
"The most difficult thing about the NBA is consistency," Lee said. "It's easy to have a couple of good games. My team is relying on me to produce and to night in and night out take care of the power forward spot. That's what I'm going to do."
Times like these are when Lee really earns his $13.9 million. Wednesday's game at Minnesota kicks off a string of match-ups against top-notch power forwards. Kevin Love. Tim Duncan. Zach Randolph. Three of the league's best in a four-night stretch.
For most teams, this daunting lineup would be cause for concern. But Golden State players and coaches don't fret too much about facing elite power forwards. Instead, they're confident because they feel they have one too.
"When it becomes the norm, the thing we do as people is at times take it for granted," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "As a coach, it's refreshing. That's when you know you're good, when you can pencil in what a guy is going to do."
Jackson said the task isn't for Lee to dominate each of these matchups. Some may even get the better of him. But Jackson said what's been key for Golden state is that Lee is going to at least hold his own.
That is of increasing importance to the Warriors. The NBA features so many good power forwards. Most of the better teams in the Western Conference have a stud at that spot: the aforementioned three along with Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, Serge Ibaka and Kenneth Faried.
Love is considered among the best of that crop. And usually, Lee does quite well against him.
The two have faced off 11 times. Lee averaged 17.2 points on 48.3 percent shooting with 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in those games.
Love has higher scoring (17.9) and rebounding averages (12.6) but with fewer assists (2.4) and a much lower field goal percentage (41.8).
Perhaps most important, Lee's teams are 7-4 against Love's.
"Some of the best players in the world are at that position," Jackson said. "Every night, he has to battle. And for his career, he's won a lot of them, a majority of them. ... But we don't determine winning his position by the numbers. I think it's how you're competing, how you're battling, how you're impacting the basketball game. When he does that, we're pretty good."
Having reliable production from Lee is also vital because it keeps Golden state from having to alter its scheme.
The Warriors' greatest strength, arguably, is that their starting five is one of the most complete in the league. Lee keeps Golden State from having to sacrifice that advantage to limit the Loves and Duncans of the league.
Because the lot of them with have to deal with Lee, too.
"I have a lot of confidence that I can outplay anybody I'm going against," Lee said.
Lee said he used to be driven by the need to prove himself as legitimate. He sought validation in outplaying notables at his position.
But the two-time All-Star is now a notable being used as a measuring stick. He said he cares less about acceptance and more about carrying out his all-important tasks, which are germane to the Warriors' success.
Yes, Lee hears the criticism. He knows he's regarded as a poor defender. He knows some don't consider him worthy to be mentioned among the elite. But he said that doesn't bother him like it used to.
One thing he said he's learned as a seasoned vet: fulfilling his obligations to the team -- rebounding, creating offense inside, holding his own on defense -- is even more an effective motivator than scratching names off a list.
It was the pressure of being ever-so- important to the team (and perhaps losing that importance) that drove him to get in the best shape or his life. Having racked up impressive numbers, raked in millions and outplayed stars, the pursuit of a title is all that's left.
"It's not about numbers for me. It's about continuing to improve as a player," Lee said, "and doing everything I can to help my team win."
Jackson said he still doesn't know if Barnes will play Wednesday. He said it depends how his toe responds to Tuesday's workout and what the doctors and Barnes say.
Warriors (3-1) at Minnesota (3-1), 5 p.m. CSNBA