Over the course of the summer Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee has worked hard to keep himself fit.
During the 2018-2019 campaign, one of the biggest surprises for the Los Angeles Lakers was the performance of center JaVale McGee. Prior to the start of last year, McGee was perhaps best known for his fairly regular appearances on TNT’s Shaqtin’ A Fool segments.
As a result, some Lakers fans were concerned about the one-year deal the team granted to McGee at the time. In all fairness, their concern was valid given that McGee was renowned for making the highlight reel no one wants to be linked with.
In spite of his rocky past, McGee seemed determined to change his reputation in 2018-2019. He wanted to show the NBA that he was more than a goofball.
Boy, did he prove his haters wrong during his first stint with the Lakers. It is fair to argue that the big man had a career year for Los Angeles.
The seven-footer averaged 12.0 points a game for the team, which was a career-high for him. Additionally, he gobbled up 7.5 rebounds a night for the purple and gold, his best mark since the 2011-2012 campaign. McGee also managed to be a major rim protector for the ball club by virtue of registering two blocks per contest.
On that note, it is reasonable to say that McGee made his mark with the Lakers. His strong level of play earned him a two-year, $8.2 million contract this summer.
Speaking of the summer, the center did not invest his time sitting in beach chairs while sipping on chilled Coronas. On the contrary, McGee did his part to stay active and keep his body in tip-top shape headed into what should be an exciting year for the Lakers.
Not too long back, the Lakers’ big man conversed with Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet about this matter. Per transcription from Christian Rivas of SB Nation, here is what McGee stated about what his summer entailed.
"“I’ve been working on the same things. Just getting strong, staying strong, getting in my best shape and best conditioning. Making sure that I can run the floor, rim run, block shots and be a defensive presence like I’ve been. I’ve been working on my shot a little bit, but with the guys we have, the shooters, we have, I’m sure that’s not going to be one of the useful parts of my game.”"
It is encouraging to see that JaVale has been working on his game. Because he got a new contract from the Lakers, it sometimes becomes easy to grow complacent under those circumstances. Thus, to realize he is working his tail off is reassuring.
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Moreover, it is also important that McGee seems to have a good grasp of his role. What he described perfectly depicts where he excelled for the Lakers last season. If he can continue to do things like catch lobs on fast breaks and protect the paint, he is bound to get the bulk of the minutes at the five.
Of course, it is not to say McGee does not have some competition in his way. Albeit the two-time champion expects to be the starting center this year, Dwight Howard is also in the equation for Los Angeles.
Howard is in a fairly sticky predicament given his questionable past. However, because this could be the last legitimate chance he gets to prove himself, Howard would be smart to show he is hungry. If he does just that and the results are there, balancing minutes will become trickier.
At any rate, it is a luxury that the Lakers have two centers that are adept at doing the dirty work. Their presence in the paint is going to be a key ingredient this season, especially in order to preserve the body of work of superstar Anthony Davis.
The one unfortunate thing about Howard and McGee is that they do not shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. Nonetheless, that is the beauty of having a guy of Davis’ caliber. His ability to shoot the rock from the outside will be crucial once the season unfolds.
Granted JaVale has been working on his shot, he likewise understands what his primary duties are (via text from Rivas). The returning Laker is willing to accept that his main job is to patrol the middle at all costs.
"“I mean, of course if coach draws it up, I’m ready. My shot is there. But I know my role, I know what I’m here for. (To) be a vocal person on defense just because I’m the anchor of the defense, and just making sure that I’m in the spots I need to be at, especially with the great players that we have.”"
Frankly, it is not the end of the world in terms of McGee not being a dead-eye shooter. That is not his game, and he appears to know his strengths and weaknesses per his comments.
As long as McGee can continue to perform at the level he did last year for L.A., keeping him off the court will not be easy.