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JaVale McGee thriving since discovering he has asthma

I was able to catch up with JaVale McGee after Team USA practice at the New York Knicks practice facility in Tarrytown, N.Y., on Friday afternoon and he confirmed that he discovered late last season that he has asthma. If weren't able to get past the first few paragraphs of my story on his chances of making the U.S. roster for the World Championships, you probably missed it.


I might not block this shot, Kevin, but I can breathe again. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

McGee said he started developing problems breathing while in college at Nevada and regularly found himself winded after a few sprints. The problem persisted with the Wizards, but he usually chalked it up to poor conditioning. "Before I would get tired and it wouldn't be body tired, it would be I couldn't breathe," the 7-foot-1 McGee said. "I thought, even in college, I thought I was out of shape all the time."

Asthma is a lung disease in which airways become blocked and prevent the flow of oxygen in the body. Team USA center Tyson Chandler, a player with whom McGee is often compared, was also diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma as an adult. The 7-foot-1 Chandler didn't find out until his fourth season with the Chicago Bulls -- when Chandler was 22 -- after it became increasingly difficult for him to do routine practice drills.

In his first two seasons in Washington, McGee's coaches always seemed to notice a precipitous drop in production the more he stayed on the floor. He also would pick up cheap fouls, partly because he was in the wrong position, but also from a need to slow down. McGee said Coach Flip Saunders first suggested that something else was likely contributing to his inability to play more than short bursts on the court. Saunders recommended late last season that the 22-year-old McGee get checked out and he was diagnosed with the condition, which he has been able to control with medication.

"He said I would get tired too fast and he had never seen that," McGee said of Saunders.

McGee said that it was comforting to discover that asthma had been holding him back for so long. Since he began treating the condition, McGee said he has more energy and can be more effective for longer stretches. He mentioned a home game against Charlotte last March, when he had 14 points and 12 rebounds in a career-high 46 minutes "and I didn't go to my knees once and it amazed myself."

McGee has had a surprising rise this summer, with him growing another inch, adding nearly seven pounds of muscle, and another stellar performance in the Las Vegas summer league. He still has a long way to go before he can truly become an effective starting center, as evidenced by his uneven outings in Team USA scrimmages, but has made some strides. McGee has also discovered more patience, but it's likely because he can finally catch his breath.

"Great relief, because I thought I wasn't in shape. I feel like I would've been diagnosed in college, I would've been in great shape [before entering the NBA]," said McGee, who has even intensified his offseason workout regimen to include boxing. Boxing "is great for conditioning. And the weightlifting program that my boxing instructor has on me is crazy."

Still, for as long as McGee sticks around with Team USA, the coaching staff still plans to use him much the same way that Saunders did most of last season -- with McGee coming off the bench to provide a spark and a change of pace with rebounds, blocks and possibly some dunks. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seem content with veterans Chandler and Lamar Odom getting the bulk of the minutes at center. While praising McGee for his incredible athleticism, Odom also provided a rather astute assessment of McGee, noting that he still needs to develop a better feel for the game "because the game is called basketball, not run and jump."

By Michael Lee  |  August 14, 2010; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  JaVale McGee  
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Comments

Not surprised and very glad it was discovered now, but my question is what took them so long? With the big slender kid always seemingly out of breath after being in the game only a few minutes you would think that the Wizards medical staff would have been a little curious about his inability to BREATH!

And Lamar Odom's statement is a true one and hopefully Javale is listening and learning from his far superior teammates.

This experience can only be a good one for our Javale McGee, future all-star.

Posted by: zxhoya | August 14, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm still not sure Javale is a center, particularly on defense. If he had a decent jumper, I suspect he'd already be playing mostly at the 4 spot.

Posted by: Samson151 | August 14, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I look forward to Javale beating most centers down the court and finishing a lot of John Wall fast-breaks.

Posted by: jweber1 | August 14, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I agree Sam151, with his mobility and quickness he's probably better suited for the 4 at this stage of his career. Also with his lack of physicality and he's not the best rim protector, the 4 would be ideal for him, but you don't find 7 ft's anywhere with his abilities so you put at center and let him learn and deal with his limitations.

Posted by: zxhoya | August 14, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

by the time JM is in the meat of his career, traditional centers may have gone the way of the dinosaur (if they already havent). Gaining 7 pounds doesnt sound like much, but it represents a quantum leap in strength...once he can defend Cs adequately, I dont think it will matter how he goes about scoring. And in a perfect world, 3yrs from now the twin towers of him and AB could be a superb combo

Posted by: divi3 | August 14, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

With the big slender kid always seemingly out of breath after being in the game only a few minutes you would think that the Wizards medical staff would have been a little curious about his inability to BREATH!

Posted by: zxhoya | August 14, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

zxhoya

Because it's the Wizards medical staff?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | August 14, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

With the big slender kid always seemingly out of breath after being in the game only a few minutes you would think that the Wizards medical staff would have been a little curious about his inability to BREATH!

Posted by: zxhoya | August 14, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Because it's the Wizards medical staff?

Posted by: bulletsfan78

Sure, his mom missed it, his dad missed it, all of his high school coaches missed it, the Nevada staff missed it, all of the NBA teams who had him in for a workout and a physical missed it, but let's blame the Wizards medical staff.

How about just "Good catch by Flip"? Ahh, right, we can't give anyone related to the Wizards credit for anything.

Posted by: ts35 | August 14, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"With the big slender kid always seemingly out of breath after being in the game only a few minutes you would think that the Wizards medical staff would have been a little curious about his inability to BREATH!

Posted by: zxhoya | August 14, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Because it's the Wizards medical staff?

Posted by: bulletsfan78

Sure, his mom missed it, his dad missed it, all of his high school coaches missed it, the Nevada staff missed it, all of the NBA teams who had him in for a workout and a physical missed it, but let's blame the Wizards medical staff.

How about just "Good catch by Flip"? Ahh, right, we can't give anyone related to the Wizards credit for anything."

lmao....amen brother. Kudos to FS!!!!! Nice catch and way to know your craft. The Wiz medical staff is not the only staff to miss things although "they" do have a small history. I think things are magnified when you are basically a losing franchise for 30 seasons.

Posted by: rphilli721 | August 14, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

That sort of asthmatic problem is not so hard to miss. Assuming McGee has the same condition that Tyson Chandler has -- EIA, or exercise-induced -- then the symptoms wouldn't appear until he'd reached a threshold of aerobic activity. That threshold might well have been higher when he was in his teens, and the asthma impairment less obvious. An attack of wheezing can be followed by a longer period of remission and apparent normal function.

And the EIA sufferer may have no symptoms when other asthma sufferers do -- in the presence of smoke or smog, for instance.

I think Jerome Bettis had EIA.

Posted by: Samson151 | August 14, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Odom also provided a rather astute assessment of McGee, noting that he still needs to develop a better feel for the game "because the game is called basketball, not run and jump."

Wow, real astute of Odom. Really.

Set shot or jump shot.

Fast break or walk it up.

Above the rim or below the rim.

Jump for rebounds or not jump.

What is Odom really saying when McGee needs feel for the game? Is he saying that McGee is a raw young fella like he used to be?

Astute, really. Not so much.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | August 14, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Asthma is a real and a mysterious illness. It can be deadly serious and as simple as a minor nuisance.

It roots can be from a simple allergy to a serious emotional reaction.

It appears though that McGee has a handle on his and that is good.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | August 14, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Good point, LarryInClintonMD. The synptoms of asthma can be wide ranging. Now that the Wizards staff is aware of JaVale's medical condtion, they should plan his minutes accordingly.

The BEST move the Wiz could make would be to acquire a big-body power forward/center [Songalia, Bogut] to clog up the middle while McGee gets his rest. Hopefully, a veteran big man will be available at a minimal price before we begin the 2010-2011 season.

Posted by: musicmanjr | August 14, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Astham can be a mystery, but the first thing he should do is change his diet. Eat only organically rasised foods with no sugar products and no pasteurized milk products. This first step could eliminate the asthma from his life quickly. He should keep a dairy and put down when he has an asthma attack and note the correlations between different foods and the asthma attacks. There is a cause for everything. He might be just have an allergic reaction or a bad response to GMO foods.

Posted by: meadowrock | August 14, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

"The BEST move the Wiz could make would be to acquire a big-body power forward/center [Songalia, Bogut] to clog up the middle while McGee gets his rest. Hopefully, a veteran big man will be available at a minimal price before we begin the 2010-2011 season.Posted by: musicmanjr"

Jeez, you want to spend the rest of this season listening to people complain about Flip not giving enough minutes to the younger players?

Besides, Andrew Bogut is not going to be available for a minimal price. Or at all, most probably.

Posted by: Samson151 | August 14, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

He's one of the most athletic players I've ever seen in my life," said Odom...
If he can just get his feel for the game together, he can have an impact on a team. Because the game is called basketball, not run and jump."
---------------------
I've always viewed Lamar Oden as a very astute player. His statement above just reaffirms that for me!

No one has said it better. Javale has to learn that Basketball is a game of specific skills and not just running and jumping. We all in D.C. look forward to that day.

Posted by: bazteal | August 14, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

PLEASE DURANT QUIT THIS TEAM IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE PLAYING CENTER. This is an accident injury waiting to happen. What the F88k is Couch K thinking, Kevin think of your NBA career.

Posted by: getagripped | August 15, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

PLEASE DURANT QUIT THIS TEAM IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE PLAYING CENTER. This is an accident injury waiting to happen. What the F88k is Couch K thinking, Kevin think of your NBA career.

Posted by: getagripped | August 15, 2010 9:00 AM
-----------------------

Hey buddy I think you need to do like your sign on name and get a grip. Durant is not going to ruin his career by playing center in international competition. He'll be ok.

Posted by: 6thsense79 | August 15, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Odom, characterizing McGee's game as symbolic for run and jump is not astute at all to me.

Basketball is about run and jump. The game revolutionized itself when run and jump became a major part of it.

An uncanny statement at most but astute, absolutely not.

The running and jumping of a basketball player is an acquired skill. Acquired through repitition, practice, exercise, strength training, and natural size and talent plays a part.

Here we go again unwittingly taking away from and degrading athleticism over ones perceived lack of know how.

Gosh we fall for traps so easily.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | August 15, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Odom, characterizing McGee's game as symbolic for run and jump is not astute at all to me.

Basketball is about run and jump. The game revolutionized itself when run and jump became a major part of it.

An uncanny statement at most but astute, absolutely not.

The running and jumping of a basketball player is an acquired skill. Acquired through repitition, practice, exercise, strength training, and natural size and talent plays a part.

Here we go again unwittingly taking away from and degrading athleticism over ones perceived lack of know how.

Gosh we fall for traps so easily.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD

With respect, Larry, that was not me or any of the other bloggers on here saying that. That was an actual NBA veteran. Someone who plays on a championship team and plays for one of the best coaches in the NBA. And all he's saying is that the kid still has some things to learn. He's not saying McGee can't learn, just that he's not there yet.

What's so hard to accept about that?

Posted by: ts35 | August 15, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

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