JaVale McGee downplays return to Washington

February 23, 2013
I played in Washington? (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
I played in Washington? (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

JaVale McGee had no interest in being sentimental about his return to Washington. The place McGee called home for the first 3½ seasons of his NBA career before getting dealt for Nene at the trade deadline last March was no more important to the Denver Nuggets’ 7-foot big man than any other stop in his life journey – if you let him tell it.

“For some reason I have a selective memory, so it wasn’t like I was having flashbacks, stuff like that,” McGee said after his current playoff team lost to his former lottery-bound team for the second time in five weeks. “It wasn’t really that special to me.”

Considering how his reputation for perplexing plays trumped the occasional spectacular dunks and blocks, McGee is probably best served to leave his time with the Wizards in the rear-view mirror. Fans at Verizon Center certainly didn’t forget McGee – or his unfulfilled potential – as he was lustily booed every time he touched the ball, made a dunk or blocked a shot and cheered every time he committed a foul or made a head-scratching play.

Yes, even in his new, more structured digs, McGee is still capable of those mental lapses and blooper-reel-worthy moments.

McGee finished with nine points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 20 minutes his first game at Verizon Center as a visitor. He caught an impressive alley-oop lob from Andre Iguodala but his most memorable play came late in the third quarter, when he fouled Garrett Temple on a jump shot with five-tenths of a second remaining and allowed the Wizards to enter the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead.

Nuggets Coach George Karl still praised McGee for his contributions in a 119-113 loss to the Wizards.

“His presence was certainly felt out there on the court,” Karl said. “He altered shots when he was the last defensemen to beat because a lot of times the Wizards dribbled down the lane. JaVale did what I wanted him to do, rebound and play good defense.”

Karl still gives McGee about 20 minutes per game off the bench, believing that he most productive in short bursts. McGee is averaging 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19 minutes and his player efficiency rating is a career-high 21.1 this season.

The Nuggets are 21-11 this season when McGee plays 19 or fewer minutes and 13-11 when he plays 20 or more. McGee played 14 minutes when the Wizards defeated the Nuggets, 112-108, last month. Karl said McGee now plays, “more responsible minutes, more winning minutes than he did in Washington.”

Coach Randy Wittman said he hopes McGee continues to develop into a serviceable big man. “He’s one of the most athletic big guys in the league. He’s a guy that, at his size, speed and jumping ability, has a lot of tools,” Wittman said. “I had a good time with JaVale while he was here. I don’t ever root against any of my ex-players that I’ve ever had. You always feel you’ve had a hand, maybe in their development. You always hope…those guys continue to have good careers.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee | February 23, 2013