JaVale McGee

Why journeyman Alfonzo McKinnie is the Warriors' folk hero this year

Why journeyman Alfonzo McKinnie is the Warriors' folk hero this year

OAKLAND -- The Warriors have a folk hero every year, someone who isn’t on page one of the menu but somehow ends up getting ordered as a side dish merely by word of mouth from patron to patron.
 
So this year’s blue plate special, as though you couldn’t guess, is Alfonzo McKinnie.
 
I mean, cheering for TUS (The Usual Suspects) is fine and all if you’re bent that way. Backing front-runners is easy when they run to the front as easily as Wardell S. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Kevin Durant. It’s almost not worth the bother, really, the antithesis of a value bet.
 
But there is always one off-brand choice who the crowd gravitates toward, a once-battered fan base showing its DNA by finding someone who doesn’t get noticed quite so much or quite so often, but has backstory and front hustle to spare.
 
The current inheritor of that role is McKinnie, the little engine that couldn’t stop rewvving and helped fuel Golden State’s 117-101 win over traditional hard out Memphis. He was already a teammate favorite because of his bottomless tank, and is now the people’s choice once you skip the big names.
 
As there always has been, it seems.
 
In 2015 and ‘16, when everything was new and electrifying, there was Leandro Barbosa, the antediluvian Brazilian who created energy between the lulls and charged the crowd with his veteran guile. There was also Marreese Speights, whose nickname explained all of it – Mo Buckets.
 
In 2016, there was also Ian Clark, who fit that surprise fixture in the rotation, and we should mention Luke Walton, the assistant who took over when Steve Kerr’s spinal cord stopped playing defense and not only kept the ship righted but properly fueled for the 73-win season that ended five minutes too early. 
 
In 2017, all of the above were gone, but there was JaVale McGee, the seemingly cringeworthy signing who turned out to be a limited-minutes demigod, for whom fans always tried to concoct ways to get him more money just for services rendered. He was a different kind of energy-generator from a position that had been dominated by more plodding outlanders like Andrew Bogut, Anderson Varejao and Zaza Pachulia, and if his jersey isn’t retired, someone in Marketing should be fired as an appeasement to the god of misplaced opportunities.
 
There was also David West, but he was the thinking man’s work of art. He came in to calm people’s fears, including those of the players themselves. McGee was a different kind of genre entirely, and always will be.
 
And between those two subsets stands McKinnie, the 26-year-old perpetual undercarder whose path to the NBA is now less interesting than what he provides on the floor. Monday, it was 29 minutes in Green’s absence due to a foot bruise, in which he did what Klay Thompson says he always does, “knock down his first shot, from the time I first saw him,” and then bodied and scooted around the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol, and chased down loose balls and rebounds and captivated a crowd first worried by Memphis' stern early start, and then becalmed by the Warriors’ overwhelming third quarter.
 
“The atmosphere’s crazy,” McKinnie said when asked about the now standard crowd reaction to his work. “I’ve never seen anything like it, hearing everyone say my name, when I make a shot and everyone’s going crazy, it’s a great feeling.”
 
And it is a feeling he will have to grow accustomed to without ever taking it for granted or imagining it to be more than it is. He is the surprise in a banquet the arena patrons know by heart, and because he is the newest item, he is the one getting the buzz and the enthusiastic “you gotta try this” nudges. And he knows that this is only the start rather than enduring validation. After all, Patrick McCaw is still waiting for an enhanced contract offer that may never come because he overvalued himself on a team that seems to always have a new, cool roster get at the ready.
 
And Alfonzo McKinnie is this year’s get, this year's McGee. He may not have JaVale’s inherent quirkiness, but his more traditional gifts are being appreciated by a discerning audience that always likes it when the chef brings out something new.

LeBron James, JaVale McGee suit up for Lakers for first time

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AP/USATSI

LeBron James, JaVale McGee suit up for Lakers for first time

Warriors fans are going to have to get used to seeing LeBron James in purple and gold, and Sunday was the first chance to do so.

The four-time NBA MVP suited up for the Lakers in a game for the first time, playing 15 minutes in a 124-107 preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets in San Diego. He missed his first shot from the field -- a turnaround jumper -- 33 seconds in, but hit a cutting Brandon Ingram in stride for a dunk 1:57 into Los Angeles' preseason opener. 

In all,  James scored nine points, dished out three assists, and grabbed three rebounds.

"I played a little bit more than expected, actually," James told reporters 

Former Warriors big man JaVale McGee also made his Lakers debut, and threw down an emphatic alley-oop for the game's first bucket -- seconds into the contest.

McGee led Los Angeles with 17 points, and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. 

The Warriors still have to wait a while before their McGee reunion, and their first crack at James' Lakers. Golden State plays Los Angeles at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Oct. 10, and both teams wrap up the preseason Oct. 12 in San Jose. 

Steph Curry taught JaVale McGee something important about raising a girl

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Twitter/@JaValeMcGee

Steph Curry taught JaVale McGee something important about raising a girl

Did you know that former Warriors big man JaVale McGee has a 22-month-old daughter?

Her full name is Genevieve Grey McGee, but JaVale calls her Gigi.

In early September, Sam Alipour of ESPN went with JaVale and Gigi to "a warehouse not far from the Lakers' facility to get a lesson alongside the adorable and highly talented cast of Le Petite Cirque, a troupe of circus performers that Nathalie Yves Gaulthier -- Le Petite Cirque's owner, director and our coach today -- calls a "Cirque du Soleil for child prodigies."

Why were they there?

"I want to foster her athleticism," JaVale told ESPN. "She's gonna be extremely tall, and already she's very athletic. Also, I want to help her creativity and confidence. That's why I have a habit, especially in public places, of letting her roam, doing whatever she wants as long as she's not walking into a pit of fire.

"Steph Curry has two girls, and he taught me to instill confidence in her. That's a big thing with little girls, he said. I really took that to heart."

In mid-August, Curry hosted a free girls-only basketball camp in Walnut Creek.

In late August, Curry wrote an article for The Players' Tribune. An excerpt:

"I want our girls to grow up knowing that there are no boundaries that can be placed on their futures, period. I want them to grow up in a world where their gender does not feel like a rulebook for what they should think, or be, or do. And I want them to grow up believing that they can dream big, and strive for careers where they’ll be treated fairly.  And of course: paid equally."

Curry does a lot of winning off the court, too.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller