The Catch-22 of JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee has the unique combination of athleticism and coordination to go along with size and length that is matched by few, if any, in the NBA. The kid has a 7’6″ wingspan, and that’s his 2008 pre-draft measurement. I’m sure he’s grown since then.
Watching him play can be a sheer baffling beauty because of his natural ability, but also frustratingly maddening because of his lacking basketball instinct. It makes you wonder, this is the guy whose mom was a WNBA player, the guy whose baby-carriage used to saddle up next to the hardwood?
Maybe all of that is just the equivalent of sleeping with the book under your pillow to study for a test. It’s one thing to be around the game all your life, but that doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re learning the wrong things.
Flip Saunders calls McGee a Catch-22. Partly for McGee’s freakish ability to score, the good part, and on the other hand, for his playing self-centered basketball, for shooting every time he touches the ball.
After Friday’s 95-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls, where McGee took 14 shots to score 13 points off the bench, but also to go with nine rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes, Saunders spoke about McGee’s patience on offense.
Calmly explaining like a teacher, the coach talked about why, at times, you’ll see him give the kid a quick hook out the game so he can instruct him right away. Saunders also talked about how McGee’s penchant for firing the ball at the basket like a hot potato does not go lost on his teammates, and how it might start making them hesitant to pass him the ball.
Click below to listen what Saunders said:
After the game, McGee was asked about his patience on offense. In his mind, it’s “drive, drive, drive.” JaVale speaks in the video below.
Not exactly the answer a coach wants to hear. But this isn’t the first time McGee has been insistent on his own agenda, previously stating that he’s still going to readily leave his feet to block shots and not necessarily showing a willingness to seek more balance in his methods, as desired by his coach.
This raises the question, how coachable is JaVale McGee willing to be?
Don’t get me wrong, JaVale McGee is still a keeper, yet not as untouchable as he once was. A large part of his future improvement will come as a result of something that can’t necessarily be coached — him gaining to strength so he’s not constantly pushed around in the paint and also learning not to shy away from contact, hitting first to make his presence known.
But just like McGee needs to learn how to play, he also needs to learn how to listen. Saunders is right, he doesn’t have a lot of minutes on his resume, but because of these last two seasons of few wins, JaVale is getting more chances to find out what it takes to play on an NBA court than he would have otherwise anywhere else.
So in hoping for McGee’s improvement as a player, don’t get frustrated the next time he’s taken out of a game for doing something stupid, like jacking a 14-foot jumper early in the shot clock in the fourth quarter when the Wizards are trying to stay in the game against the Bulls. Instead, be happy for McGee’s development, because you know that class is about to be in session.
[Photo Credit: Adam Douglas - Truth About It.net]