OAKLAND, Calif. — David Lee wasn't calling Stephen Curry a liar. He simply wasn’t falling for any of his sweetheart of a teammate’s sympathetic drivel either. Lee was an All-Star, twice, as recently as two years ago when Curry was snubbed. But this season, Lee had become a $15-million bench ornament, a pricey high-fiver.

Lee didn’t play a single minute in the Warriors’ first-round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans; he played only nine total minutes through the first three games of this second-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. So when Curry told Lee during the first round that the power forward’s time would come, the 32-year-old wasn’t buying it.

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“There were a couple times I yelled back at him,” Lee said. “Even in the New Orleans series I was like, ‘Man, you’re playing great’ or ‘Great job.’ And he’s like, ‘Look man, you’re not out of this thing, we’re going to really need you.’

“I’m just like, ‘All right, all right, I appreciate it — politician Steph.”

But as the NBA can taketh, this league can giveth right back. A Marreese Speights calf injury in Game 3 left the Warriors in need of big-man minutes, so Golden State turned to that grinning and clapping power forward at the end of its bench.

“So once again, believe it or not, Steph is always right,” Lee laughed.

Nothing was intoxicating about Lee’s Game 5 box score — six points, seven rebounds in 17 minutes — just as nothing popped eyeballs about his five-point, one-rebound line in 15 minutes in Game 4. But both games were blowout victories (101-84 Monday and 98-78 Wednesday), and both nights he provided a bench energy of which the Warriors were in desperate need.

It’s been a quick boost on short notice. Lee averaged just 18.4 minutes in 49 regular-season games, missing time to injury but mostly because the coaching staff decided he was more likely to disrupt the unprecedented winning than he was to propel it. He sat when he used to shine, yet his attitude never appeared to sour.

“I thought David was terrific,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Game 5. “David came in and he was very active and really fought hard in the paint against Gasol. But that kind of activity defensively is something that can really induce a faster game, and I thought that was the case.”

Kerr had half-joked after Lee's contribution in Game 4 that Lee has kept a positive attitude despite a "dumb coach" who hadn't played him enough.

Lee joked back on Wednesday night:  “Yeah, I completely agree,” he said laughing. “I’m just kidding — I appreciated his interview and acknowledging me. But at this point, like I said, I’m a veteran and I’ve been through the battles. It’s not really about me right now. It’s about us being able to get wins with everybody in this locker room contributing.”

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It’s not all gushy feel-good stuff. Lee is necessary for Golden State’s success, allowing the Warriors to stay with a relatively small lineup that’s worked against the Grizzlies and is harder to pull off with backup center Festus Ezeli.

After falling behind 2-1 in the series, Golden State’s offense, believe it or not considering the record pace and shooting percentages established in the 67-win regular season, looked zapped of offensive options outside of Curry and Klay Thompson.

With Draymond Green and the bench out of scoring rhythm, Lee suddenly provided an extra source of movement and extra energy on the offensive glass. Even defensively, never something mentioned on Lee’s resume, he’s provided relief and cleared rebounds.

“He’s probably had to sacrifice the most on this team,” said Warriors backup guard Shaun Livingston. “With his role this year, the way he’s come out the last two games and been ready with his energy guarding the big guys, we need it. When Bogut or Draymond goes down, we need those bigs. ... D-Lee has been great; his hustle, his energy, making plays, making reads in the pick-and-roll, that’s where he excels.

“Sacrifice is hard. It’s not easy to do, especially somebody that’s an All-Star giving his position. It’s not easy what he’s done and he’s done it well.”

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And as for the rah-rah stuff, all those celebrations and laughs for teammates, Lee insists that was never phony.

“They know where my heart is and they know what kind of guy I am," Lee said. "When I was out, I could have been fake cheering for guys when I was hurt or something, but guys catch on. Guys understand when people are really in their corner or not. The entire time when I was out, I was doing nothing but cheering for these guys, and when I got back, they turned around and were supportive of me. That’s what teams do, they get one another’s backs and that’s what we’ve done all season.”

Of course Lee admitted it had been tough to keep that smile. And after two playoff games with his rejuvenated role, Lee seemed ready to dish his point of view on the entire season and the struggle to stay positive.

“The answer is it was difficult,” Lee said. “It was difficult, from being a veteran and being a guy that’s been an All-Star, and being a guy that’s played a role of first or second (scoring option) on a team, it took putting the ego away a little bit and saying, ‘It’s about the team.’

"We’ve had a special year, and what’s made it is easier is that I’m close with all the guys on the team. Our team chemistry has been amazing, and as frustrating as it’s been with the coaching staff this year, I actually get along with them great; I really like them as people. And they’ve communicated with me the whole year and been like, ‘Look, it’s not like you came out and lost your starting spot. You were injured, you played well, but to change anything up right now would be stupid with how we’re winning.'

“I’ve had plenty of times in my career when I’ve averaged 20 and 10, when I’ve been an All-Star, when it’s been about me and when it’s been about ‘Look at what I’m capable of

doing numbers-wise.’ And now, it’s a completely different mindset; it’s time to give this up for the time.”

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It’s funny how these things work out. Last year, Lee was the one who was injured, and that allowed Green to flash what he could do in a bigger role. Now with Speights down, Lee gets his shot.

And who knows? All of that may change. The Warriors could go on to win this series, and Speights’ calf injury is likely to heal by the Western Conference finals. If that happens, perhaps Lee will return to almost non-existent minutes.

Or maybe he continues to prove his value and maintains his minutes or earns even more. Either way, Golden State can count on him to be ready.

“We're going to need him, obviously, in every series we play from here on out,” Curry said. “To come in, be physical on the defensive end and do what he did tonight and give us a spark on the offensive end like he's done his whole career. It says a lot about a guy when he's ready to play and having the season that he's been through.”

And, as Lee knows now, Curry doesn’t just blow smoke.