After he bit on a pump fake, left his feet and fouled Milwaukee center Drew Gooden on a three-pointer with one second left in the first half on Tuesday, JaVale McGee had to wait nearly 29 minutes of game action before he got the chance to play again for the Wizards.
Coach Randy Wittman reacted to McGee’s silly foul in Milwaukee by placing his hands upon his head and gritting his teeth. Then he decided to let McGee and the rest of his teammates know that the Wizards needed to do more than play; they need to play with a purpose. And certain actions weren’t going to be tolerated.
He benched McGee for the rest of the second half, then put Kevin Seraphin in at starting center against the Orlando Magic. McGee scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in a season-low 16 minutes in the Wizards’ 102-95 loss on Wednesday. But McGee still doesn’t know what he is supposed to learn from this experience yet.
“I can’t say I do, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out sooner or later,” McGee said after the game.
McGee made an immediate contribution when he entered the game in place of Seraphin, as he hit a foul line jumper then blocked a Dwight Howard layup attempt on the next possession. He still finished with the worst plus-minus of any Wizard, posting a negative-12 in limited minutes.
The Magic outscored the Wizards, 40-28, when McGee was on the floor, which wasn’t totally because of him. But he did admit that the players “definitely have to be a little bit faster on the rotations.” And, the Wizards did come back from a seven-point deficit to tie the Magic within three minutes of McGee being pulled for the final time in favor of Trevor Booker with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter.
McGee couldn’t hide his disgust when he wasn’t allowed to battle Magic center Dwight Howard down the stretch. “I would like to have a chance to be on the floor, but I wasn’t, so I had to make what was given to me,” McGee said. “Just frustrations with losing and just not being able to play. It wasn’t anything that serious.”
McGee makes spectacular plays and is having a career season, but his defensive lapses also frustrated Wittman’s predecessor, Flip Saunders. With his athletic gifts, McGee can sometimes mask his errors on defense by recovering for blocked shots, but Wittman has talked about accountability ever since taking over.
Wittman said he spoke with McGee and Nick Young, who also was benched, after the game. He explained that he had to reward Seraphin and Jordan Crawford for how they performed in helping the Wizards come back from a 22-point deficit and nearly pulling out a win in Milwaukee. When asked what they discussed specifically, McGee said, “That’s between me and him.”
Seraphin said he was surprised to hear that he was going to get his first start of the season against Orlando and didn’t know how long it would last. He had four points, two rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes and also made Howard work for nearly everything he had inside.
“I’m just waiting to see. That was just one time,” Seraphin said of the start. “That’s an opportunity for me, now. I have to show that I get it or it go away. I have to go get it now.”
McGee will likely return to the starting lineup but, either way, he plans to approach the remainder of the season, “with a positive mindset and just going out there and playing as hard as I play and keep doing what I do.”