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JaVale McGee is trying to mix style with substance

JaVale McGee anticipated Atlanta Hawks guard Jordan Crawford's pass and lunged in front of Etan Thomas to intercept it. McGee scooped up the ball, dribbled it behind his back, sprinted up the floor and took an extra-long step before dunking.


Like this move? (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

"I got a lot of moves people don't know about, but you might see them this year," McGee said with a grin, when asked if he thinks some people are shocked by what he can do at 7-feet-1. "I definitely think people are surprised, like, 'How's a 7-footer doing that?' It's just natural for me. It's not hard for me."

McGee admitted that he developed his ball-handling skills from his mother, Pam, a former Olympian and WNBA star. Pam McGee told her son that he couldn't just bank on being tall. "My mother always made me do ball-handling and all that because she was like, 'What if you stop growing?' Because I always kept growing, but she said, 'What if you stop growing? You're like 6-8. What do you going to do, be like a post man at 6-8? She always had ball-handling skills. In high school I used to go coast to coast all the time at 6-11."

Coach Flip Saunders is aware of McGee's athleticism and skills, but he has always demanded more substance than style from McGee, who is a candidate for a SportsCenter Top 10 Play anytime he's out on the open floor. He has always searched for the right way to maximize McGee's talents and ability to change to course of the game.

After starting McGee through the first three games, Saunders brought him off the bench behind Yi Jianlian against the Hawks and McGee responded with arguably his best game of the preseason with 16 points and 11 rebounds. McGee made cuts to the basket, where teammates found him for uncontested dunks. He even drove around and got a driving, swooping, one-handed layup to fall.

"I thought JaVale did some very spectacular type things," Saunders said. "What I liked more about what he did, was his rebounding, how aggressive he was as far as rebounding. He's still got to work. He got put in the box a couple of times where he let guys back him in and just score over him. He's got to work on getting a little more resistance in the low block. But he played hard; he really played hard. The impressive thing is to be able to play hard for an extended period of time."

McGee was active on both ends of the floor, which led to questions about whether Saunders would put him back in the starting lineup. Saunders joked that he may have to keep him coming off the bench since he looked his best in that role. "He had some style. I like how he responded," Saunders said. "There's no question he's going to play a lot. It's just a matter of whether we're going to get him to play at that intensity level all the time. Which is what we're striving to do. He can have a real impact on the game. He's a big part of what we are. He's going to play a major role in what we do."

McGee said that he is still unsure about what Saunders expects from him. "Truthfully, I don't understand what exactly what substance he wants. I'm trying to rebound so if that's the substance he wants then I'm going to try my best to do that the most but I don't understand, so I'm just trying to go for everything, offensively and defensively, even if it's not even my rebound. I've decided I just don't care. I'm just going to try to get as many rebounds as possible."

But he said that he can't help that he brings some style and flair to the table every now and then. "It's a habit, so it's just natural," McGee said with a smile.

By Michael Lee  | October 14, 2010; 12:47 PM ET
Categories:  JaVale McGee  
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Comments

javale's improvement is really showing. He learned so much from coach K and the Team USA camp experience.

Posted by: jefferu | October 14, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

He got put in the box a couple of times where he let guys back him in and just score over him. He's got to work on getting a little more resistance in the low block.

What would you expect when Sam is the one who is backing him down in practice?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | October 14, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

McGee sounds just like the new crop of 21-24 year old interns I just started managing.

Lot's of energy and enthusiasm, and a ton of skills, but not much wisdom or real world knowledge.

JaVale...when coach tells you to do something, say "absolutely" and then go do it.

i was about to say "when coach says jump, ask how high." but in Javale's case, that might put him out of the gym.

Keep on it, my man. You have a bright future.

Posted by: Blurred | October 14, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

What I got outta this was Javale needs CLARITY. Go to the coach and ask detailed questions as to what he wants and, how he expects you to get them done.

Posted by: Mikereese23 | October 14, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Or maybe someone could just copy Flip's comments and tweet them for JaVale, or put them in YouTube video for him where the role of Flip is played by Iron Man. Whatever it takes.

Posted by: ts35 | October 14, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm going out on a limb..because
I can't believe the nagative comments and knocking this kid for minor things. He is 22 years old people. You should be talking about McGhee like you do Wall. Wall has a lot of things to work on his game, nobaody points aqny of that out. McGhee can be another Kareem with more speed and jumping ability. He'll faster if Flip is more encouraging and plays him more.

Posted by: bobilly2 | October 14, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse


I'll get more excited about McGee and Young when they string together consistent performances. Both have BOOM or BUST written all over them. Still.

Posted by: Firuz1 | October 14, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

"Wall has a lot of things to work on his game, nobaody points aqny of that out."
Posted by: bobilly2 | October 14, 2010 3:08 PM

(A) That's not true. There's been quite a bit written and said about Wall's shaky jumper and penchant for turnovers. (B) Several people have, in fact, commented that the early expectations of Wall are unrealistic for a rookie, esp. a rookie PG with only 1 year of college. (C) Wall has yet to play a single meaningful NBA game. McGee's been in the league 2 years. Two completely different standards.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The fact that McGee is even thinking about "style" at this point is a problem as far as I'm concerned. From what I saw of the Hawks game, I was much more impressed by McGee's tenacity and activity on defense and the boards than I was by any of his alleged "moves." Granted, the Hawks have a relatively smallish front line and, aside from Josh Smith, are short on athleticism. But, to his credit, McGee did exactly what he should do against a shorter, floor bound front line: reach/jump over the top of them and snatch rebounds/loose balls out of the air. More of that and less of those "moves" would help the team immensely (because, while he did hit a couple of those shots and they may have looked cool going down, that didn't automatically make them good shots).

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Mcgee is progressing nicely. My comments are about why you would publicly say you don't know what coach wants.

If I'm the coach and I hear that, its prettty quick I let you know what I want.

Maybe Flip is not a good communicator, but my money is that on McGee is isn't listening.

And he also seems to be taking PR pointers from Arenass.

Posted by: Blurred | October 14, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

And this:

"McGhee can be another Kareem with more speed and jumping ability. "

is just crazy talk.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I love all you couch potato coach's trying to figure out McGee and the rest of this year's version of fifty plus game losers,then there's some of you like Blurred who drag "Arenass" into the fray if they finish at.500 it would be a miracle of epic proportions,just let them play and see what happens, personally i'm just waiting for Mr.Leonsis to get a clue and fire both Ernie and Flip.

Posted by: dargregmag | October 14, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse


Let me see if I've got this right, dargregmag: Wait to see what happens, but fire Grunfeld now.

You're an idiot.

Posted by: Firuz1 | October 14, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

personally i'm just waiting for Mr.Leonsis to get a clue and fire both Ernie and Flip.

Posted by: dargregmag | October 14, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

This team goes nowhere with Flip saunders as head coach.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | October 14, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

This team goes nowhere with Flip saunders as head coach.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | October 14, 2010 4:57 PM

That's for damn sure. But if he develops the young guys for a season or two he'll have done his job in my book. This group isnt ready to win now (obviously) no matter who the coach was.

Posted by: divi3 | October 14, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

McGEE - yes.

Posted by: glawrence007 | October 14, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

And this:

"McGhee can be another Kareem with more speed and jumping ability. "

is just crazy talk.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse
____________________________

How about Marcus Camby without all the injuries?? ... score garbage baskets, block shots, get steals & rebound... that is all this team needs from the C position.

Let Wall, Arenas, Blatche, & Howard (when he returns) be the primary scoring threats with contributions from NY, Hinrich, Yi, & Thornton.

I don't understand all the "this team isn't going anywhere" talk... I think they have a chance to surprise some people. Only problem? we are in the wrong division with Miami, Orlando, & probably Atlanta being better than us... that means less than 2 teams can come out of the other 2 divisions to make the playoffs. I would like our chances in the East or Central a lil more.

Posted by: tony325 | October 14, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"I don't understand all the "this team isn't going anywhere" talk"

To clarify, I think they could sneak into the 8th seed this year....just don't see Flip as the long term guy at head coach when it's time to start seriously competing

Posted by: divi3 | October 14, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"How about Marcus Camby without all the injuries?? ... score garbage baskets, block shots, get steals & rebound... that is all this team needs from the C position."

Which is why I said McGee needs to stop worrying/talking about his "moves" and worry about blocking his man out under the boards and holding position on the defensive end until the ball is secured rather than taking off to the other end for the half court lob as soon as the ball grazes off the rim.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Driving home you know what I was thinking? Remember the coaching/personal improvement conversation?

When someone doesn't get better...we blame the coach.

Last year Flip got with Blatche early...and he had his best season ever...but Flip gets no credit. It's "AJ got traded and he finally got a chance."

McGee shows improvement...and "it's because of Coach K and Team USA."

Let alone people say EG can't draft but we all said "who?" when McGee got picked...and let's not even talk about the Nick Young fan club.

I guess that's just how it is. All blame...no credit.

Whatever his shortcomings as a coach, AB had a breakout year under FLIP. McGee is showing development under who? FLIP.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | October 14, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I always thought Camby is who he should model. I remember last season people were saying we should sign Shaq to mentor McGee.

That makes NO sense. That's never going to be him or his style. Camby would be a perfect model...still with the ridiculous athleticism.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | October 14, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I'd say a legitimate arsenal of post moves would qualify as substance. But then there's always open court dunks...

Posted by: crs-one | October 14, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

It seems that Gilby is more content to fester in misery, and still get paid while at it, on this team than to do whatever it takes to walk the straight and narrow to increase his chances of getting traded.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 14, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Post about McGee...nobody even talking about Gil and you just can't let your bromance with Arenas go.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | October 14, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Javale doesn't even need a post move arsenal. He's probably never gonna be THAT strong to consistently hold post position. A turnaround jumper. Consistent 10-15 footer and that sweeping hook is all he needs...as long as he can do them consistently and take advantage of his height, athletic ability and long arms.

NOBODY should be able to block those.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | October 14, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"I'd say a legitimate arsenal of post moves would qualify as substance. But then there's always open court dunks..."

Posted by: crs-one | October 14, 2010 5:35 PM

The likely reality is that McGee will never become a reliable post player because, at 3 years into his NBA career, it's probably too late for him to develop post skills to the point where he becomes an actual, reliable offensive threat. Most big men who become legit offensive options come into the NBA already carrying some clear offensive skill/acumen, however raw. McGee came in without a clue on offense. People can cry "He's only 22" all they want, but when you consider that most legit offensive players have been honing their skills since their early teens or before, he's already way behind the curve.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 14, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

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