[Mike Wise and Pam McGee - photo: K. Weidie]
When the basis for an article is interviewing a mom about her son, you know what’s bound to happen: irrationality entrenched in unconditional love. No big deal, it’s to be expected. But when the Washington Post’s Mike Wise loads his pen with the ink of JaVale McGee’s mom, Pamela, talking about her son: a media firestorm fueled by irrationality. Oh what, if anything, will Ted Leonsis’ blogging fingers say about these maternally induced pixels, seeing that through the conduit of Wise, Pamela calls out his coach and his franchise? The Wizards may wind up miffed because of Wise’s article, but they certainly can’t be surprised. Difficulties with JaVale McGee’s mom — the “Little League parent,” Wise calls her — are well-known throughout the organization.
She calls out Flip Saunders for “throwing JaVale under the bus” in criticizing his recent backboard dunk, a feat she says was done to “break up to monotony” of losing. (Does she realize how much Saunders bites the bullet to defend McGee already?) We also know that Flip didn’t even take McGee out of the game because of that dunk against Houston. He played the next five minutes of the third quarter and about the first three minutes of the fourth… before getting the hook for completely losing track of Jordan Hill for a points and then subsequently shooting a bad jumper.
Pamela McGee also claims, “They aren’t running any plays for him. With a 7-footer with hands like that, the kid is averaging a double-double without plays run for him; he gets those points off garbage.”
False. And a clear indication that her basketball sense is blinded by self-interest, also perhaps a window into the overall flaws of McGee’s game (lack of awareness, inability to score “garbage point” free-throws). Let’s go to mySynergySports.com for the evidence:
Last season McGee played 2,175 minutes. During those minutes, he was involved in 184 Post-Up plays that ended in a field-goal attempt, a turnover or a trip to the free-throw line. Essentially, this means McGee got more than three post-up opportunities per 36 minutes of action. This season McGee has played 411 minutes and has been involved in 72 Post-Up plays according to Synergy. This amounts to 6.3 post-up opportunities per 36 minutes. The Wizards have more than doubled the looks they give McGee in the post this season… But Flip Saunders isn’t running plays for him?
[Side Stat: And on Spot-Up plays? [Read: Jumpers] — McGee is averaging 1.3 Spot-Up plays per 36 minutes this season. Last season he averaged 0.78 Spot-Ups per 36… So a 69-percent increase in those “opportunities” since last season.]
Pamela criticizes her son’s playing time as well, more specifically, sporatic minutes… As if Flip Saunders shouldn’t penalize McGee for making the same stupid mistakes or selfish play they’ve instructed him on before. What kind of example does that set? Is she aware that there are other players on the team aside from her son? Wise’s article notes: “The club cites the Elias Sports Bureau in saying McGee averages the ninth-most minutes among NBA centers with 10 starts.”
The one valid point Pam McGee makes is the lack of investment the team has put into his development. But it’s not just him, there seems to be an issue with player development system-wide. I’ve always been under the impression that Gene Banks was the Wizards assistant coach responsible for developing bigs. According to Wise’s article, it’s former WNBA head coach Don Zierden. Either way, neither coach has the pedigree. Still, McGee gets what he puts in. In the video below, shot by TAI’s John Converse Townsend at Wizards Training Camp this season, Andray Blatche and Kevin Seraphin get in extra post work against each other after practice, while McGee tools around, alone, shooting jumpers and lazy hook shots. Perhaps not a complete window, but a whiff of the air nonetheless.
He’s a quick learner, according to UCLA assistant coach Scott Garson, who worked with McGee over the summer, which was paid for by the McGees according to Wise’s article. If that’s the case — and I do believe it could be – wouldn’t McGee also be served by putting in more quality work within the Wizards system? It certainly couldn’t hurt, unless McGee’s camp is resigned to not using the tools at their behest, even if the resume regarding Washington’s development of big men is less than stellar. There aren’t any esoteric secrets to scoring on the low-block. Its instruction isn’t reserved for NBA legends. And Garson? His bio on UCLABruins.com reads: “Garson handles the development of the perimeter players, working on both the offensive and defensive ends. He worked with the post players in 2006-07.” It does mention that Garson helped develop Andrew Bogut at the University of Utah as a member of then-coach Rick Majerus’ staff. Still, Garson was a guard when he played at Washington University in St. Louis, and JaVale McGee is no Andrew Bogut.
There shouldn’t be much issue with McGee’s mom taking all credit for his development. It’s actually very telling. After all, Pam, a former college all-American and WNBA player, was JaVale’s AAU coach, Wise reports. And lest we forget a past Deadspin post titled, “JaVale McGee Has NBA Upside, Says Mommy” — Pam wrote a glowing draft profile for her baby boy on MyNBADraft.com. Touting her son up beyond reason is a natural, although creeping into conceited within this particular environment. Problem is, Pam’s son is supposed to be a paid professional, not a kiddo she drops off at daycare.
Pam McGee’s ulitmate contention: the Washington Wizards are keeping JaVale from growing. But exactly what does babying him do? Maybe the answer is for mom to shut her mouth and let the professionals do the work. But we all know that’s not going to happen, naturally.