The Golden State Warriors shocked the NBA this offseason by adding a player very few thought would join an established franchise that figured to enter this season as championship favorites no matter what. Naturally, I’m speaking of their late-July training-camp deal with center JaVale McGee, a player best known for his two “Shaqtin’ A Fool” MVP awards.
McGee is an avatar of goofiness, a man who will forever be spoken of as a child despite turning 29 years old this upcoming January. He seemed out of step with other players Golden State added to fill out the bench around Kevin Durant and the roster’s holdover stars. McGee wasn’t exactly like David West, a trusted veteran looking to win a title before retirement. He would be lucky just to make the roster.
It now appears that the Warriors will indeed have McGee in uniform for next Tuesday’s season opener against the San Antonio Spurs. According to head coach Steve Kerr, McGee is in line to claim the team’s 15th and final roster spot. From Anthony Slater for The San Jose Mercury News:
Entering camp, guard Elliot Williams was the only of the candidates who had any type of guarantee in his contract. But he’s missed all of the preseason after an offseason knee scope. Meanwhile, center JaVale McGee has emerged as a potential contributor, looking healthy and making an impact when given opportunities.
In the past few games, Steve Kerr has given McGee extended minutes with some of the Warriors other rotation players, even playing him over Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo, two other big men with roster guarantees. Increasingly, the Warriors seem to be leaning toward keeping McGee.
“I think he’s got a good chance (of making the roster),” Kerr said on Monday. “He’s had a good camp.” […]
“It would mean everything,” McGee said.
McGee has not yet played more than 16 minutes in any of his five preseason appearances and has has seen fewer than 10 in three of them, so we’re not exactly talking about a likely rotation player. Nevertheless, JaVale has impressed with his never-in-question athleticism and raw ability to protect the rim. The Warriors will be in need of the latter, in particular, and could use an extra body to spend time on the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins throughout the season. At his best, McGee will fill those roles and maybe even occasionally have lines like the one he put up Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, when he had 12 points, four rebounds, two blocks, and this dunk in 14 minutes.
This would be an impressive accomplishment for a player whose reputation has somewhat unfairly been marred by his copious lowlights. McGee has had trouble sticking with several teams and certainly won’t ever win any awards for consistency, but the history of the league is full of big men who never reached their potential and still found ways to contribute to very good teams. Providing any value to a championship squad would at least begin to balance out all those negatives. If J.R. Smith can win a title, then surely no rules prohibit JaVale McGee from doing the same.
This is what the beginning of a reclamation project looks like. It might not end in eternal glory, but JaVale can start to push back on the idea that he will be a joke forever.
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