JaVale McGee (Getty Images)
JaVale McGee, we're sorry, has spent a good chunk of his four NBA seasons playing like a bit of a knucklehead. There might be a sound NBA player in there somewhere, but so far the Washington Wizards center seems to want to remain the guy who chases down big stats and silly dunks at the expense of typical basketball protocol. Wizards brass, coaching staff and fans seem in constant exasperation with McGee, despite his many gifts.
McGee's mom, though, isn't having any of it. Pamela McGee knows the game, she starred at USC while playing alongside Cheryl Miller, and remains the only WNBA veteran to see a son make the NBA. She, as most moms would, seems to take issue with the 2-12 Wizards' handling of McGee more than she does her son begging for All-Star votes online after Washington started the season winless through a few weeks worth of play, or tossing down dunk contest-worthy slams during blowout losses. She doesn't want her 24-year-old son getting "institutionalized to losing." She offers up that her son "is not a knucklehead."
Also, in an interview with the Washington Post's Mike Wise, she calls her son "the future of the NBA." Oh, mom.
Here's a snippet from the interview, which reveals that Ma McGee is pretty cheesed off with Wizards coach Flip Saunders:
"The one thing I never did as a coach, never not once in my career, was throw my players under a bus," she said angrily in a clear reference to Flip Saunders's criticism of McGee's play earlier this week. "If I had a problem, I would take that player in the locker room and would let them know and we would work it out. I would never throw my player under the bus."
This is her first-born; this is personal. Where you see a guy prone to goaltending and poor rebounding position, she sees the player who leads the league with three blocks per game.
"One game, he goes in for 20 minutes; the next almost 40 minutes," she says. "Sometimes he can't even get into a flow, they're yanking him in and out so much."
We tend to see the opposite of what McGee sees. When McGee chased down his first NBA triple-double almost a year ago, he did so at the expense of a team that was already losing badly to Chicago. He might be the worst defender to ever lead the NBA in a defensive statistical category. The dunks and highlight-reel footage in the midst of Wizards losses? That's just silliness from someone who clearly doesn't think it's that big a deal, so we can't kill the guy for listening to his instincts. The betrayal of his gifts? That's open for a critical tone, though.
There might be a light at the end of that tunnel, though.
In Wise's interview, McGee's mother brings up Washington's inability to get through to McGee while utilizing a relatively no-name big-man coach. Nothing against Washington assistant Don Zierden, who acts as the team's de facto big-man coach, but often times it takes a star to get through to young players, and the Wiz haven't hired anyone along the lines of Patrick Ewing (in Orlando) or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (in Los Angeles). I'm not telling you that Washington is screwing up here -- at the end of the day it's up to the pupil to get it right.
McGee, though, has been studying at UCLA under the tutelage of Scott Garson. Kind of a big step for the son of a USC grad. As a result, not only is McGee one of the few NBA centers that actually pulls out the Kareem-esque skyhook from time to time, but Garson has no issues with going on- record in lauding JaVale. McGee, Garson told Wise, is a "very hard worker who did everything I asked of him."
We'd also like to ask McGee, Mama McGee, to keep going on record as well. Because that interview was fantastic.
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