This Player Lock investigates the battle between two starting NBA centers with similar skill sets and celebrity parents.
With just over four minutes left in the second quarter, Derrick Rose worked a pick and roll with Taj Gibson about 25-feet from the hoop. John Wall zipped around Gibson’s 6’9″ frame like a slalom skier around a flag. Easy. But Andray Blatche did little to contain Rose — in fact, did little more than shuffle his feet — in what played out to be a trademark foray to the basket. However, fortune was on the Wizards’ side when Speed (Rose) and Greed (McGee) reintroduced themselves above the rim; JaVale recorded his third block of the night.
And then, it was showtime.
John Wall scooped up the loose ball and took off on the break, with McGee matching him stride for stride. With a skip just outside the three-point line, Wall floated a pass in the direction of the rim. Kyle Korver, one of those walking-paradox types (you know, the unathletic professional athlete), made a concerted effort to prevent the inevitable. McGee flashed his otherworldly athleticism by snatching the ball away from Korver mid-flight and finishing the alley-oop.
This sequence left me drunk with nostalgia. Summer League was too much fun. Stacey King, Bulls commentator, had this to say:
“Valiant effort by Kyle Korver, but somewhere down the line you have to know your limitations.”
Speaking of limitations … in The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, Bethlehem Shoals writes that, “[Red] Auerbach put his players in chains so that they might really be free, limiting their roles so they might truly flourish.”
The Wizards would do well by following such a script, particularly with their bigs. (Andray Blatche, once again, had more three-point attempts than free throw attempts. That’s just silly.)
McGee’s errors and lack of discipline on both ends of the floor overshadow every exciting ‘Dunk’ or ‘Block of the Night.’
“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,” Flip Saunders reiterated after the Wizards lost to the Bobcats on Friday night.
If he could realize his full potential, he would be a more explosive, hyper-dynamic Joakim Noah. But I’m not sure that will ever happen. Instead of dedicating himself to becoming a stronger defender and preventing his mark from getting close to the basket, McGee insists on being a shot blocker. Instead of developing a versatile post-game, JaVale emulates Tyreke Evans.
McGee’s go-to move in the post — which he showcased several times last night — is to face-up, spin into the lane, and hope that the ball rolls off his fingers softly enough to find the hoop. Stacey King described that move as “a crazy looking shot.” King’s commentary partner Neil Funk provided viewers with this comic sound bite:
“McGee wheels in the lane! Wild shot! WOW!”
How many times will we have to watch opposing centers waltz uncontested into the paint? Early in the first quarter, Noah was able to get McGee to leave his feet twice with a couple of quick pump fakes and finish with the easy score. On another occasion, McGee recorded a big block on Joakim, but only after Noah had successfuly worked his way directly under the basket. More often than not, Noah will be fouled (he shot 12 free throws Saturday night) or he will finish the easy layup. And Noah did. He finished the game with 21 points.
All night, McGee was slow to react to plays off the ball, was reluctant to pressure inside, and wasn’t active enough on the boards. This was disappointing, though not exactly surprising, since McGee tweeted this yesterday morning:
“Definently enrolling in K.Love’s school of rebounding online…. bout to watch these 31 and 24 rebounding games… especially after 2 rebs”
JaVale McGee only saw 20 minutes of game time, but Flip Saunders had seen enough. He was relegated to the bench with just over 13 minutes left in the game and didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. This was particularly telling of both Saunders’ expectations of and lack of confidence in McGee, especially because the Wizards were short on big men with Yi Jianlian out with a bone bruise in his right knee.
“You don’t reward people who make mistakes. I’m just not going to do that. Because if you do that, then young players won’t get better,” resigned Saunders after the Bobcats came, also indicating that on at least one occasion against Charlotte, McGee didn’t know what to do out of a timeout — a lack of focus that’s unacceptable in year three in the NBA.
“They’re going to think that if you accept mediocrity, then the best you’re going to become is mediocre. And we’re not going to accept mediocrity,” finished the coach.
In the end with McGee, it was the same old story. All sizzle and no steak. Or in Chi-Town, the equivalent of a thin crust pizza with lots of pretty toppings.