Few NBA players are as heavily branded with a reputation as JaVale McGee. He runs the wrong way. He tries to dunk from too far away. He is a knucklehead. Of course there is more to the story. He may not be the second coming of a certain Hall of Fame center as George Karl intimated after the game last night, but he is a talented player with a lot going for him.
Searching for a more complete profile I reached out to Kyle Weidie from the TrueHoop Network Wizard’s blog Truth About It. Kyle was very generous in providing a more in depth summary of McGee than Youtube does, although Youtube is indeed useful as you will see below (I especially encourage you to read about his mom).
In an ideal world, all of McGee’s offense comes in transition, via lob-passing options in the half court, or through hard work on the offensive boards. In reality, McGee wants to do much more. He wants to shoot jump shots (he has shown nice touch on occasion, but his free-throw shooting is also horrible — down to 50-percent this season from a career 0.598 percentage); he wants to shoot running, fading hooks across the lane (if he didn’t fade and stayed close to the rim, it wouldn’t be such a problem); and he mostly cares about dunking so much that I think he’s no longer capable of truly cherishing the dunk, rather he’s addicted to the next high. McGee has cut down on a big problem Wizards fans have had with him over the years: his full-court dribbling escapades. (You can peep some of the examples collected over the years from here, here, and here.) But that learning, he has shown, doesn’t make him any less capable of enacting spells of selfish, usually panicked, offense.
Great, great shot blocker. McGee has amazing length and understands timing. He’s also progressed in not falling for pump fakes, which he’s done on very frequent occasions in the past (although, the scouting report still says to pump fake him, always). Problem with McGee’s shot blocking ability is that he’s managed to turn attempts to do so into a selfish act — there’s a reason he leads the league in goaltending calls. He got benched earlier this season for purposely goaltending a Francisco Garcia attempt, or so people thought. “Goaltending? That had nothing to do with it,” coach Randy Wittman said. Basically, the coach said McGee didn’t care to cut off the dribble penetration on pick-and-roll defense, instead deciding to angle and gather his timing for a potential block. Hence, he doesn’t try to defend the team way, rather in his own, stat-padding way; he did the same thing more recently against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. Otherwise, as you can imagine, McGee is a very bad pick-and-roll defender; opponents look for as many chances as they can to expose him in this regard. He also often gets caught watching the ball instead of keeping his head on a defensive swivel. Again, he’s in the constant hunt to block shots, not necessarily to get his team defensive stops; although, the way he can protect the rim can be game changing, but to what end? All part of the frustration that is JaVale McGee.
I’ve always heard that McGee was a good locker room guy… he gets along well with his teammates; I know Yi Jianlian liked him according to folks familiar with the locker room scene in D.C., for whatever that is worth. With his teammates, I think McGee is personable, yet likable in the way one might have sympathy for their little brother. At that same time, that little bro can frustrate the hell out of teammates with the dopey things he does. When McGee gets tired, his curve of lost focus slants drastically downward. For someone with a history of asthma, which was not undetected until Flip Saunders came along (McGee also had to get re-accessed and prescribed different medicine for his asthma earlier this season), look out for him to tire easily, especially in Mile High Denver. McGee will be best in small spurts, but even in those instances, the players and coaches around him will have to work extra hard to keep JaVale focused.
Update: March 20, 2012 10:59 PM MSDT - John Wall imploring JaVale McGee to run with him. When that doesn’t happen, confusion ensues and the duo just about stop play, which leads to a turnover due to an aggressive Shelvin Mack. Wall recovers and blocks Mack’s layup attempt on the other end, then he gets on McGee some more about running with him. Wall eventually finds Blatche for an easy lay-in, and then finishes his instructional request to McGee, saying, “Just run, ‘Vale! You want the ball?!”
Momma McGee, Pam, sat along the baseline near the Wizards’ bench for just about every Washington home game. It once came out that she takes notes on her son’s game so she can go over them with him afterward. Per a Washington Post article on mom and son McGee by Mike Wise in January, it turns out Pam was JaVale’s AAU coach, whom Wise also describes as a “Little League parent.” Other absurdities came out in the article which I later touched on in a post. It wouldn’t deviate far from the truth to think that part of the Wizards’ willingness to trade McGee derived from how much a headache his mom was behind the scenes. But hey, she’s got to look out for the “Future of the NBA,” after all.
Media Relations & Various
JaVale McGee clearly doesn’t like dealing with the media… I can’t exactly blame him given the level of scrutiny (and GIFery) that he has come under, but he has brought it all upon himself. I also suspect that his mom and other “handlers” have conditioned him to be more weary of the media, as opposed to using the media to his benefit and promoting his personal brand. Either way, McGee makes his voice in interviews purposely monotone, a la Shaq, but without the funny quips. He’s usually more akin to a hyperactive 12-year old rather than someone learning how to be comfortable with the press in their mid-20s; this is evidenced by his “uncut” session at this year’s media day. McGee tries to be active via social media — we all remember the “JaVale & Nick Show” from the summer, each attempting to ingest a spoonful of cinnamon in one episode. He is, however, more likely preen for followers on Twitter — simultaneously limiting himself to interactions with his boys and/or gold-diggers/strippers — while displaying minimal doses of personality.
The kid is a difficult book to read, definitely hard to put down (think Washington won’t have some “seller’s remorse” on this one?), and yet you can’t count how many useless pages your ripped out to eat versus how many you’ve ripped out to burn for warmth while stranded in a frozen wasteland, a la the Donner Party.
The JaVale McGee experience… he’s trapped in his mind and doesn’t seem to want to get out. Have fun, Denver!
I would like to extend a big thank you to Kyle for taking the time to inform us about Mr. McGee. So what do you think Nuggets fans? Are you more excited or less excited?