Until you meet that kid’s mother.
“He is not a knucklehead,” Pamela McGee says, sitting behind the basket an hour before her son, JaVale, and the Wizards would stun Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on their best night of the season — albeit the worst start to a season in franchise history. “JaVale is a good kid. My son is special. He has gifts you can’t teach: hands, height and heart. If I’m the Wizards and I’m really trying to build a franchise, really committed to rebuilding and developing, I would nurture that talent. I would help a kid like JaVale the best I could.”
When McGee felt the need to lob the ball off the backboard for a look-at-me dunk in a loss on Monday instead of just routinely depositing the ball through the rim on a breakaway, he became the latest flashpoint for the Team That Doesn’t Get It.
The same goes when he is pining for all-star votes on Twitter after the Wizards fell to 0-7 against the Knicks earlier this month. Or when he euphorically high-fived teammates after a mad scramble to record his first triple-double a year ago — at the embarrassing end of a game his team would lose by 19 points.
You want to give him the Knucklehead Treatment all day,
and then you run into Mama McGee.
“I know people are making a big deal of that play,” she says. “Look, JaVale does that to break up the monotony. Wouldn’t you if you were losing like this? He’s been here for four years and it’s been same ol’, same ol’. I don’t want him to get institutionalized to losing. My son is the future of the NBA. I don’t want him to be part of this culture of losing forever.”
Now Pamela McGee’s pupils have enlarged. Grabbing your arm, she becomes more animated, as if she were back running the floor with her sister Paula and Cheryl Miller on Southern California’s national championship team, as if she was trying to win a WNBA championship or trying to hang onto her playing career in Europe.
“The one thing I never did as a coach, never not once in my career, was throw my players under a bus,” she said angrily in a clear reference to Flip Saunders’s criticism of McGee’s play earlier this week. “If I had a problem, I would take that player in the locker room and would let them know and we would work it out. I would never throw my player under the bus.”
This is her first-born; this is personal. Where you see a guy prone to goaltending and poor rebounding position, she sees the player who leads the league with three blocks per game.
“One game, he goes in for 20 minutes; the next almost 40 minutes,” she says. “Sometimes he can’t even get into a flow, they’re yanking him in and out so much.”