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.

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.