JaVale McGee moves on from Warriors, dignity intact

JaVale McGee moves on from Warriors, dignity intact

Few player-team alliances in sports history can claim to be as pleasantly surprising and mutually beneficial as the two-year marriage between JaVale McGee and the Warriors.

It was the kind of pairing that caused more than a few folks around the sports landscape to wonder. Why would the nouveau riche Warriors, after zooming into the NBA elite, bother with such an established hoops bungler?

Two years later, the Warriors are two-deep in championship parades and McGee has two championship rings, with his popularity at an all-time high and eight years of derisive graffiti scrubbed from his image.

The relationship officially ended Sunday, to the disappointment of considerable segment of fans, when McGee agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers, as reported by ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

The unofficial end came on June 8, after Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland. McGee started and played 16 minutes of good basketball, finishing with 6 points (3-of-4 shooting from the field), three rebounds, one block and some perimeter defense that may be described as “inspirational” insofar as it came from a 7-footer.

McGee was plus-21 in a game the Warriors won by 23 (108-85) to take the series. He dived into the postgame celebration, grinning as if he were paid in gold to do so and telling everyone how he enjoyed this team, this championship and this life.

“Coming to the Warriors was definitely a blessing,” he said. “I came on a (non-guaranteed contract), contributed, and we won the championship. Then this year was kind of rocky for me also, just playing time-wise, but we all were grinding. We all came through and back-to-back. That's just an amazing feeling.”

McGee, 30, surely had an idea that this, barring an unforeseen turn of events, would be his last party with this bunch. He knew the Warriors were edging toward a future that looked less like him and more like young centers Jordan Bell and Damian Jones.

From All-Star Draymond Green, McGee learned the importance of communicating. From All-Stars Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, McGee learned that marquee players could be, needed to be, selfless for the sake of the greater good. He learned from fellow big men David West and Zaza Pachulia that being a professional means being ready even when you might not be needed.

“That I’m a part of it, being behind the scenes and seeing how unselfish these guys are, is amazing,” McGee said after Game 4 of The Finals. “I'm just so happy I got to be a part of two back-to-back championships with four All-Stars who are as unselfish as they are.”

McGee played 171 games, playoffs included, starting 37, for which he was paid about $2.67 million. Though he wasn’t perfect, not even close, he gave the Warriors much more than his salary would suggest. The Warriors gambled and won. Big.

Yet McGee may have gotten the better end of the deal. He got his dignity. The laughter and ridicule that preceded his arrival are, for the most part, relegated to history. He became a favorite of Warriors fans, with cult status. His career was resurrected.

The two seasons during which McGee was a Warrior delivered as much jewelry as joy, as little consternation as calamity. Everybody won. It gets no better than that.

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Klay Thompson is a well-rounded, versatile player. He shot 52.6 percent from 2-point range last season. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range. He made 83.7 percent of his free throws. He averaged 2.5 assists per game. He's the Warriors' best perimeter defender.

There's not a noticeable weakness to his game.

But his father Mychal spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler on Saturday to talk about what kind of differences we'll see in Klay will be during the 2018-19 season and he shared the goal he's set for his son.

"I think you'll see a hungrier player. He's going to try to get more versatile, try to get to the basket a little more, more free throws, being more efficient on offense that way. I always tell him, try to make it a goal to shoot eight (free throws) a game. Eight or 10, like James Harden does," Mychal Thompson told Ostler.

Thompson attempted a career low 1.3 free throw attempts last season. His high-water mark was 3.3 free throw attempts per game during the 2014-15 season. By comparison, Harden attempted 10.1 free throw attempts last season and has surpassed 10 attempts per game in five of the last six seasons.

Of course, the elder Thompson was asked about his son's free agency next summer. Klay told the Bay Area News Group on Saturday that he wants to remain with the Warriors for the rest of his career. His father said the same thing at the Thompson Family Foundation's charity golf tournament on Saturday.

“Oh yeah, you can mark it down. Klay’s going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform. He’s going to play at Chase Center (the Warriors’ new arena, opening in 2019), and he’s not going to be at Chase Center as a visiting player, he’s going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years," Mychal said according to The Chronicle.

Klay Thompson addresses impending free agency: 'Number one on my list...'

Klay Thompson addresses impending free agency: 'Number one on my list...'

Editor's Note: The above video is from June 6, 2018, after the Warriors beat the Cavs in Game 3 in the NBA Finals.

With the 2018 offseason wrapping up, the talk surrounding the Warriors will shift to next summer's free agency of All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson.

Thompson and his father Mychal have said several times during the last few months (see above video) that their intention is stay with the Warriors long-term. But that's not stopping speculation that the seven-year veteran may bolt the Warriors following his eighth season.

On Saturday night, Thompson reiterated his desire to remain with the Warriors in an interview with the Bay Area News Group.

“I’ve said it many times before: I would like to be a Warrior for life. Contract negotiations are way down the line. But I think we all have the same interest. I would love to be here for the rest of my career,” Thompson told Mark Medina.

Pressed on the possibility of signing an extension with the Warriors before he hits the open market, Thompson left the door slightly ajar by offering this:

“It’s tough to say. I’d definitely be interested. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be a free agent in 2019. Number one on my list would obviously be to stay with the Warriors,” Thompson told Medina.

Thompson is entering the final season of a four-year, $68.97 million contract. He will make $18,988 million for the 2018-19 season.