JaVale McGee’s career as a Washington Wizard has been chock full of consistent inconsistency, and head coach Flip Saunders summed it up succinctly after the loss to the Charlotte Bobcats last Friday:
“JaVale has five highlight plays a game, unfortunately there’s about 200 plays in a game, and he’s gotta get more substance than style.”
Both McGee’s style and substance were on display during the Wizards’ 89-86 victory over Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Early in the game, McGee did an excellent job of preventing Marc Gasol from getting deep position in the paint, but then at other points, he would incur the wrath of Saunders for being out of position on both offense and defense.
This theme would also rear it’s inconsistent head in the fourth quarter, as my Truth About It colleague, John Townsend beautifully broke down. Even though Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas were having excellent shooting nights, McGee tried to take the ball to the hoop (via the dribble), was picked by Zach Randolph (not exactly a quick handed, nimble fellow), and Mike Conley picked up the ball and dashed full speed toward his basket. Luckily for the Wizards, McGee was able to zoom from one end of the court to the other and block Conley’s shot, immediately exonerating himself from his earlier sin. Substance and style in less than 30 seconds.
After the game, I ventured over to the Memphis Grizzlies locker room to get their take on the play of JaVale McGee (he finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks). Their depiction of McGee was much different. Now, I’m not naive enough to really know that, because Lionel Hollins doesn’t see McGee in practices and games everyday, and of course I know the Grizzlies were a bit dejected because McGee had a hand in their close loss. Still, it was clear that in Memphis’ locker room, they viewed McGee has one of the main culprits in their loss. Here’s Hollins and Rudy Gay on McGee:
“JaVale (McGee) does a great job of coming over everybody and tipping or dunking and anything around the rim. It’s hard when you have a player like that. It’s hard to disengage and go help somebody else, but you have to.” – Marc Gasol
“Let me tell you that dude is long, that dude is active, and he plays the paint good, because he can cover so much ground so quick. He hasn’t put it all together yet, but that young fella is working on his game slowly but surely and he’s getting a lot better. That’s what I like about him, I workout and play in the summer leagues in L.A., and I’ve played against him there and I’ve seen what he can do when he’s really focused, so games like tonight are no surprise to me. He has awareness, he can score, he’s active, he runs the floor, man he’s a player. Now he needs to quit falling for those damn head fakes.” - Zach Randolph
Other notes from the Grizzlies locker room:
I talked with Mike Conley before the game about a variety of topics ranging from his new contract, Matt Moore’s reaction to it, getting comfortable playing point guard, and guarding Gilbert Arenas versus John Wall.
On getting a new contract:
“I definitely knew there were negotiations going on, and I knew I wanted an extension, but as you know, it wasn’t a guarantee that I was going to get one with lockout coming and all that. So I just tried to stay focused on winning games and playing hard, but once I got it it was a definite relief and now I can play relaxed without having to answer questions about if I’m going to get it or not.”
On Hardwood Paroxysm’s Matt Moore and his highly-critical article on his contract:
[Laughs] ”I didn’t see it initially but I had some folks show it to me, and man what can I say? People are certainly entitled to their opinion and I have no problem with that. What I care about is that the Grizzlies believed in me, and my teammates believe me, and we have a young nucleus that can only get better with time. I’m not out to prove anyone wrong, I’m just out to play my best.”
On defending Wall and Arenas:
“Well of course both of them are talented, and they get to spots on the floor at will. Wall is very quick, active and athletic. He can get to the basket for himself, he creates plays for his team and he’s slowly becoming a beast defensively. Gilbert is still trying to get his quicks back, so he’s concentrating on his shot, shooting the three ball, and tonight I assume he’ll be running the team since Wall is out. It’s easy to sit here and say it’s easier to defend the Wizards with Wall out, but Gil dropped 30 on the Bulls the other night, so it ain’t easy at all.”
On how long it take to get comfortable playing point guard:
“You know it’s at least two years, and that’s assuming you have the same coach, same system and the same personnel both years. It takes that long to grasp the whole game in terms of seeing the whole floor, knowing what you can do, knowing what others can do, how they will defend you, and all that. Guys are coming to the league younger and younger and this is a different game than high school and college, so there’s a huge learning curve. Luckily for me, Damon Stoudamire is here, he’s still in game shape, and he helps me out, guards me in different drills, and it really helps out a lot.”