The tale of JaVale is one of high-flying fashion
The league didn’t want him, but Andre said we must have him
Now two years later, he’s a champ brimmed with gold
To see him leave chokes me up like a Cinnamon Bro
Since Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors, most of the talk and highlights surrounding the team has trended towards the four All-Stars that headline it all.
But in the midst of this dynastic run, one of the more overlooked successful endeavors that has helped keep the franchise on top has been its ability to identify players most other teams would skip over, and to put them in positions to succeed and meet their potentials.
Two years ago, JaVale McGee fit that bill.
Fast forward to today and McGee is now a two-time champion and better known for his hard-hustle and acrobatic jams than his Shaqtin’ a Fool highlight reel.
Despite leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers early in this free agent period, McGee couldn’t have left on better terms — with his last memory imprinted onto the minds of Golden State fans being an impressive NBA Finals performance, where he slammed and defensively LeBron-jammed his way into helping the Warriors sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Remember back to when the Warriors looked lifeless and uninspired during the regular season?
That month-long stretch before the All-Star break featured several heartbreaking losses that had some of us questioning whether or not this team could find its way back to the top of the Larry O’Brien mountain.
There was the nail-biter loss to the Houston Rockets, which was subsequently followed by getting blown out by both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. The Warriors simply did not look themselves against the top-tier competition in the league.
That was until McGee was inserted into the starting lineup by Steve Kerr to shake things up following the midseason break.
His box score numbers weren’t spectacular, but McGee was never going to be a stat-sheet filler on this Golden State team.
Javale up and under for the pic.twitter.com/a7tfM6tznu— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 23, 2018
What he instead provided was a vertical threat and the intangibles that the Warriors desperately needed at that point in time — a boost of energy that was so palpable, it was as infectious to viewers through their television screens as it was to the players on the court.
Javale with the so hard he got T'd up after the play. pic.twitter.com/CN7betbA1T— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 9, 2018
That may be perhaps McGee’s best quality both on and off the court. He brings a certain joy and liveliness to things that helps energize those around him — no matter how many terribly inaccurate Draymond Green lobs it may encourage.
The knee-capper and head-scratcher
On the other hand, that over-abundance of energy turned into a double-edged sword late in the season when McGee’s attempt at an unreachable rebound lead him to tumble right into the knee of the face of the franchise, Stephen Curry.
But like Zaza Pachulia’s clumsiness (ask Durant or Kawhi Leonard from the season prior) or Green’s hot temper pushing the boundaries of what referees may tolerate, there’s always a chance of McGee’s activity on the court still producing the same head-scratching, disastrous results that plagued his early career.
That was an area that McGee never particularly grew during his tenure as a Warrior. But that may be correlated with the coaching and team philosophy espoused. The Warriors know their players’ weaknesses and strive to avoid putting them in positions where those can be exploited by minimizing their time on the court.
Up, up, and away
Perhaps that was part of the reason why he started the season so low on the depth chart along with the Warriors finding a better defensive, high-flying option in Jordan Bell.
But despite frustrations with his minimized role on the team and his increasing tally of DNP’s, McGee continued to be the consummate teammate.
Before game opening jump balls, he could be seen hyping guys up with handshake routines that could rival Stomp the Yard choreography. During timeouts and breaks, he almost always was the first guy off the bench to fire up the guys coming off the court.
He continually found ways to be the energizer, and that finally paid off as his trajectory began to rise as the season progressed, culminating in a starting role to begin the Warriors playoff run.
In that opening round against the San Antonio Spurs, he rewarded Kerr’s decision by going for 15 points and 2 blocks in only 16 minutes of play in Game 1 of that series. He effectively rendered LaMarcus Aldridge as useful as a box of wet matches on a number of possessions.
KD and JaVale making it look easy ✋ pic.twitter.com/6pJ4Z2OIPQ— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 14, 2018
He’d go on to provide solid minutes the rest of that series before hardly seeing any court time against both the New Orleans Pelicans and Rockets.
However, just like earlier on in the season, he stayed ready and eventually came back in a big way against the Cavaliers as Kerr decided to start him again for the series’ final three games. He would make 14 of his 17 shots in those games to help the Warriors break out the brooms and champagne in Quicken Loans Arena.
A final farewell
It’s been quite a journey for the seven-foot lanky big man and a little disheartening that his time with the Warriors is now coming to an end.
However, with the team wanting to open up rotation minutes for the burgeoning young bigs on the roster, it only makes sense for both parties to split at this juncture.
Furthermore, moving to Los Angeles could help McGee expand his JUGLIFE foundation that has already become a huge hit in the Bay Area with his annual fundraising celebrity softball game.
There’s no doubt that Hollywood could grow that event to new heights and that the entertainment capital has plenty of opportunities for McGee to further develop his Parking Lot Chronicles series and music career.
Best of luck to you in your next chapter JaVale, that is until the Lakers and Warriors meet in the playoffs of course.
At that point, feel free to start Shaqtin’ a fool as much as you want and can.
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