He Got Paid, So Where Is JaVale McGee?

DALLAS — JaVale McGee put a sweet spin move on his man, drove baseline, swooped under the basket, cupped the basketball on the under side of his wrist and was on his way to the top highlight slam dunk of the night.

Until he made an almost predictable U-turn onto the blooper reel.

McGee’s right-arm windmill action didn’t quite whip up high enough and he practically jammed the ball between the back rim and the backboard.

So JaVale.

The 7-footer is in his first full season with the Denver Nuggets after being acquired last year in a trade for veteran big man Nene. In the offseason, the Nuggets committed to the 24 year old bursting with potential but so far is still more of a proven goofball than All-Star.

Denver awarded McGee a four-year, $44 million extension. It figured then that McGee would become Denver’s starting center, playing alongside Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Kosta Koufas is the starter with McGee getting about 19 minutes a night. In Friday night’s 106-85 rout of the Dallas Mavericks, McGee got just 16 minutes, slammed home a couple of alley-oops, plus another dunk for his six points to go with four rebounds a blocked shot and three fouls.

McGee rarely finishes games. He is averaging 10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds a game. His most impressive stat is 59.2 percent shooting, by far a career best. But he has a reason for that.

“Less shots,” McGee said. “I got the same dunks and layups I did in Washington here, it’s just I had more opportunities. But here I don’t get shots so it’s a higher percentage.”

Karl said he doesn’t regret the franchise handing a big contract to the affable McGee, who is often times equally aggravating in an innocent, slap-your-forehead kind of way.

“I think he’s a really good, important player for us,” Karl said. “But in the same sense I’m going to play the guys who I think can help you win the game.”

So much of McGee’s career has been steeped in potential. His size and skill is tantalizing. Just trying to apply it all can drive a coach bananas. Which is part of the reason Karl has McGee coming off the bench and playing the fewest minutes he has since his second year in the league.

“I think he’s showing me he’s about a 20-minute basketball player,” Karl said. “For me, I go into most games, I have no idea who’s going to finish the game and it’s earned as the game goes on.”

McGee had all the right answers after Friday’s game when it came to his limited playing time. Perhaps three-plus seasons in Washington will do that to any player.

“As long as we win, I can’t feel any way about it,” McGee said. “I’m just trying to help the team win and do everything I can to make sure that we win games. It’s definitely a blessing being on a wining team. It’s a lot more positive. Just happy to be here.”


  1. jacobm says:

    if karl gives him minutes he will only improve. he has all the physical tools to be a dominant big man especially with the speedy smaller lineups being popularized

  2. McGuire says:

    This is why I hate guaranteed contracts…in any sport. McGee didn’t do anything to warrant that kind of extension.

  3. ben says:

    javale has huge potential. if he bothers to listen to coach karl at all, he could become 25 and 12 player.
    but right now, he is more likely to just feature on shaqtin a fool

  4. steppx says:

    it is lazy journalism to make Javale jokes. Fact of the matter is, he has played far better than a lot of big men making a lot more money. Same problem for jimmer…………….always a joke even when he’s shooting 40% of his threes and playing much improved defense. LAZY…………….McGhee is a huge talent just scratching the surface. Go make fun of Deron Williams maybe….someone who deserves it….say, maybe dwight howard?

  5. steppx says:

    Its lazy journalism to make Javale jokes. McGhee has been pretty damn good this year. Far better than a lot of big men who dont get made into jokes. Its the same with Jimmer…………shooting 40% of threes but still the perception is he cant play. In the case of McGhee maybe you just need to watch some denver games to see how much value he has.

  6. googergieger says:

    Tonight is proof as to why Karl needs to go. McGee gave the best minutes tonight and he still didn’t get more play time. Much more he constantly is sticking with proven line up failures.

  7. jlam319 says:

    “As long as we win, I can’t feel any way about it,” McGee said. “I’m just trying to help the team win and do everything I can to make sure that we win games. It’s definitely a blessing being on a wining team. It’s a lot more positive. Just happy to be here.”

    This right here tells me hes on the right track. They dont play him because he says/does stupid things, but you know what, he’s maturing and understanding that its not all about talent, but also attitude. He’ll get unleashed sooner or later, probably not this year, but soon. He’s still very young and WAY more talented than Koufas. However, Koufas is much more coachable, hence the reason why he gets more play time.

    McGee will blow up soon enough, as long as he keeps working hard and doesn’t complain.

  8. KungPaoHood says:

    Here’s the problem, rising again — Coach Karl. While he’s much loved in Denver media, he’s suspect to the fans. His mighty-big-ego thing has him trying to play the humble-wise-guy Popovich routine, only with a pet-project point guard (Lawson’s a North Caroliner, and a shorty like Boykins and Iverson) who’s no match for the big guards of the playoffs, and a strange routine of limiting minutes for talented players. Example A is his denial of the impressively talented JR Smith’s role alongside Carmelo. Karl promised Smith—without honor apparently—starts at the shooting guard position. But Coach always seems to take the talented, complementary pieces he’s given and shoves them into the outdated compartments of his mediocre perception. Last year, for instance, the team had Fareed. And he’d grab every rebound and beat everyone down the court and then would be taken out of the game. Damn. So JaVale must suffer the dictates of a hardened coach who operates on how Karl thinks Pop would do, instead of being allowed to practice and develop his talent as a starter.

  9. Big Al says:

    Denver was once a powerhouse team, then lost all their great players and is now without a superstar. Iverson, Nené and Carmelo were together for a time and could have contended for a championship, then they decided that The Answer isn’t the answer. Anthony subsequently wanted out as well. Now the man without a surname is gone as well. Obviously, most of the decision makers don’t have what it takes to make good calls, brains. They now just have a bunch of clowns doing slam dunk exhibitions all the time, a handful of treys here and there, which is overall simply inconsistent.

    • Eduard says:

      You don’t know basketball if you think the Denver roster is just a bunch of clowns. Nuggets are at 17-14 after playing 21 of their first 31 games away. What do you think about that?
      They have a point guard with a lot of skill and potential in Ty Lawson, a do it all guy All Star gold medalist in Andre Iguodala, a versatile scorer in Gallinari, a high motor player in the Manimal, 3 very talented and coachable 7 footers: Koufos, McGee and Mozgov, and also a great bench which combines veterans with young blood: Miller, Brewer, Wilson Chandler who is injured now, Jordan Hamilton and that French kid Fournier.
      I’m a fan of the Nuggets since they drafted Melo, and I witnessed that team with AI, Melo, K-Mart, Camby and JR Smith. That team was fun, but it didn’t win any games. This team took LAL in 7 games last playoffs, and now are starting to play a lot better.
      I think you are the clown, sir!

      • Rafa Brazil says:

        “3 very talented and coachable 7 footers: Koufos, McGee and Mozgov”

        coachable and Mcgee in the same sentence? are you sure?? really?? If he were coachable, he would listen to a great coach like Karl and do his thing, improve, and reach his huge potential, but instead he’s losing playing time to the REALLY coachable players, Koufos and Mozgov!! Maybe the clown is you, sir!

    • LBJ says:

      Nene does have a surname, its Hilario.

  10. Jacques Durceille says:

    I feel bad for Mcgee. I feel he should be posting 22 points and 14 rebounds night in and night out. All of the big men in the league are under-performing. He needs to become disciplined and stop ending up on shaqtin a fool even though I think shaq keeps picking plays from him to put on the fool episodes that he would not pick from anyone else just because he has been a feature on it so much.

    But mcgee should be better. It is sad that I look at this league and all the wasted talent. So many underperformers in the league today. It is sad really. Mcgee should have 22 points and 14 rebounds everynight and if that is too much to ask for then don’t ask anything of anyone. We have a point guard who some say is the best in the league (Rondo) who can’t shoot the basketball worth a damn. This league is sad. We have 7 footers who think they are shooting guards who refuse to work down low and grind out points but shoot from outside the paint all the time. Mcgee is a product of the league he is playing in. A subpar league with underperformers produces these kinds of players.

    • slider821 says:

      haha, watch McGee on Shaqtin a fool and tell me any other players that should have gotten his spot. He is an airhead and plays like one. That fast break behind the back to stumble and fall into his own teammate while hucking up a halfcourt allyoop that hit missed the backboard entirely, that was the funniest/dumbest thing I’ve seen a professional do, ever. I can watch that 100 times and laugh. He deserves shaqtin a fool until he stops actin a fool and learns to play smart.