On Friday night in Denver, the Wizards officially become reunited with their old pal JaVale McGee. It will be the first on-court meeting since Washington swapped its 2008 first-round pick to the Nuggets midway through last season for Nene. We've provided updates since then on the athletic and often baffling 7-footer, most recently last month, specifically how at the time McGee and Nene ranked among the NBA's Top 10 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
Both players' ratings have dropped since, though McGee's 21.2 ranks as his career-best and the highest on Denver Nuggets despite averaging only 19 minutes per game off the bench (his basic numbers: 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks).
Advanced metrics aside, McGee still doesn't have a clue about what it takes to be a smart basketball player.
At least that's what the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla wrote on Jan. 4 when the Nuggets' record hovered just over .500. In a blistering column slamming the player Denver signed to a four-year, $44 million contract, Kiszla pulled no punches from the start:
"For $10 million, you would think Nuggets center JaVale McGee could buy a clue."
"You would be dead wrong."
"It's impossible to make a basketball player smarter by overpaying him."
"In a single 7-foot bundle of confusion, McGee and his unfulfilled potential represent everything that's wrong with the Nuggets, a team coach George Karl labeled as arrogant and immature after a putrid home loss Thursday night against Minnesota."
Ouch, right? Ironically, immediately after the column, Denver won six straight games before losing 117-97 to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, though McGee's role and statistical contributions have largely remained unchanged. He played exactly 20 minutes in each of his last three games.
(By the way, if at this moment you need or want a visual reminder of all things JaVale from his time in D.C., may I recommend this tremendous and hysterical compilation video. For more recent fare, we have falling down and throwing the ball away JaVale and dancing after making a 3-pointer JaVale.)
After describing a defensive sequence in the previous game where McGee seemingly passed on steeping in front of driver attacking the rim, Kiszla wrote:
"I would give McGee a one-way bus ticket to Altoona, Pa. Trade his unfulfilled potential in a heartbeat. Don't let the door hit you on the way out of town, big fella."
"But, based primarily on a single, amazing 21-point playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri gave McGee a four-year, $44 million contract, in effect doubling down on a bet that money can instill passion in a tall guy who doesn't particularly love basketball (e.g. Nene)."
"There are advanced hoops metrics that suggest McGee is the team's most productive player. But as I watched McGee struggle like a frustrated third-grader, as he stubbornly tried to pull on a dress shirt and a sweater over his head at the same time following the loss to Minnesota, my lone thought was: Wow, can stats tell a real doozy of a lie."
Anyone that lived through the McGee's 3 1/2 years in Washington is picking up what Kiszla is putting down. We all get to witness all the JaVale-ness Friday night. One way or another, should be a doozy.