JaVale McGee finally has what he always wanted: respect and appreciation


JaVale McGee finally has what he always wanted: respect and appreciation

OAKLAND -- Though he was born with genes for immense height and a predisposition for athletics, both of which helped him earn $50 million by age 27, the affirmation JaVale McGee craved most were the hardest to achieve.

He liked the money, loved being in the NBA and enjoyed his teammates. The 7-foot, 270-pound center relished making plays that altered the trajectory of a game. Life was, on the whole, quite good for McGee.

But not until last season, his ninth in the NBA and first with the Warriors, did McGee get what he really wanted, in addition to a winning environment: respect and appreciation.

And, please, do not confuse them with fame and adulation.

For so long respect and appreciation were buried under copious images of goofy moments, some mental and others physical. Nothing unnerved McGee more than knowing that, in the eyes of some, he associated mostly with being the most frequent punch line on Shaquille O’Neal’s video clips show, “Shaqtin’ A Fool.”

McGee’s play last season kicked that caricature in the teeth. He became a regular contributor to a championship Warriors team and gained status as a fan favorite, the most popular player coming off the bench.

“The crowd roars, and they’re happy for me to come in,” McGee told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday. “And I’m happy to perform for them. It’s entertainment. That’s what we’re doing. And that’s what I’m trying to do to the best of my possibilities.”

McGee’s entrance into games at Oracle Arena is routinely greeted with a wave of applause and an edge-of-seat anticipation. He’s an energizer, throwing lob passes through the rim, blocking shots and, perhaps most of all, sprinting up and down the court as if his salary were based merely on effort.

It’s apparent that as much as Dub Nation loves what Four All-Stars bring to the Warriors, nothing warms hearts quite as much as McGee’s story of redemption, perseverance and salvation.

Think of it. One year ago, McGee as a free agent went through an entire summer without being pursued by any of the NBA’s 30 teams. Two weeks before training camp, he settled for a non-guaranteed one-year contract with the Warriors.

The man who was coming off a four-year contract worth $45 million was battling with an array of upstarts to earn the team’s 15th and final roster spot.

McGee won the job, and won over the Warriors. His per-game averages of 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds, over 9.6 minutes, don’t seem like much until one considers those numbers jump to about 23 points and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. As for efficiency, McGee shot a career-best 65.2 percent from the field.

It wasn’t enough, though, to prompt teams to chase McGee this summer. Though there was communication with several teams, there is little doubt that his asthma, which limits him minutes total, hurt his value on the open market.

So, with the Warriors essentially keeping his seat warm, McGee ended up signing another one-year deal -- this one guaranteed -- to return.

“I just took my time, and then I decided to come back, basically, that's about it,” he said. “It wasn't really a crazy . . . ‘Oh, no, I get to go back to Golden State, win a championship, oh no!’ ”

McGee’s role will be much the same as it was last season. He’ll get the occasional start, but on most nights he’ll enter midway through the first and third quarters, stirring the crowd and sending a shot of adrenaline through the building.

“It feels great,” McGee said of the reception he gets at Oracle.

“But I’m not really a star. I don’t like fame and being in the spotlight. That’s not really my thing. But it comes with the territory. It’s like, ‘Do you want to be famous? Or do you not want to play in the NBA?’ I want to play in the NBA, so that’s what comes with it.”

Fame is easier to accept when much of the past is associated with infamy and now, to the surprise of many, you’re waving a championship ring. It’s absolutely OK when that ring is accompanied by respect and appreciation.

Bulls forward Bobby Portis suspended multiple games for punching teammate


Bulls forward Bobby Portis suspended multiple games for punching teammate

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls have suspended forward Bobby Portis for the first eight games for injuring teammate Nikola Mirotic during a fight at practice.

Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion on Tuesday. He will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely.

The team announced the suspension on Wednesday. Chicago opens the season at Toronto on Thursday.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds. He will be allowed to practice with the team while he is suspended.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

In Warriors' season-opening loss, Young brings swag while burying 3-pointers


In Warriors' season-opening loss, Young brings swag while burying 3-pointers

OAKLAND -- The Warriors hired Nick Young to bounce off the bench and enter games firing 3-pointers, with the belief that plenty will go through the hoop.

Young in his Warriors debut Tuesday night granted his new team’s best wish.

“Nick was great,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 122-121 loss to the Rockets at Oracle Arena. “I was thrilled with his play. That’s what we brought him here for. Great shooter and he gave us great minutes tonight.”

Young led the Warriors in scoring, pouring 23 points in 26 minutes off the bench. The veteran guard shot 8-of-9 from the floor and, moreover, was 6-of-7 from beyond the arc. The six triples are a record for a Warriors player making his debut.

“It’s a great thing when you’ve got teammates telling you to shoot the ball and having that much confidence in you,” Young said.

The USC product is on his fifth NBA team and hoping for a season of revival, to change the narrative without totally sacrificing his “Swagy P” persona.

Young is 32 years old, in his 10th year and only once since his rookie season in Washington (2007-08) was he on a playoff team. That was in 2011-12 with the Clippers, where he was a late-season acquisition.

His career, up to this point, has been defined mostly by goofy moments on the court and his former relationship with the Australian rap artist Iggy Azalea, the two maintaining a high-profile courtship during most of Young’s four years with the Lakers.

The idea is to change that, to make Young better known for being a key component of a winning team. He’s off to a good start, even if the Warriors failed to gain the win.