In Nick and JaVale’s alternate universe, they can’t believe they were shipped out of town for anything less than Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in their primes.
That’s why the Washington Wizards are making a stab at a change in culture by acquiring Nene, Denver’s 29-year-old Brazilian center, for McGee in a three-team deal that also sent Young to the Clippers. It’s a culture change as much as it is a change in the pivot.
Plain and simple, a swap by two teams with equal concerns over the futures of their franchise centers brings Nene from the Nuggets to the Wizards. Washington soured so badly on McGee this season that it decided it would rather take on Nene’s $67 million contract signed less than three months ago than be forced to give their glacially developing big man anywhere close to the equivalent this summer.
For a team president whose contract is expiring this summer, Ernie Grunfeld sending McGee and Young packing at the NBA trade deadline is analogous to coming back from 18 points down in the final three minutes to keep the season alive. Unless you believe Ted Leonsis was going to make Grunfeld his general manager for life, this was maybe Grunfeld’s last shot to save his job.
In parting ways with a 7-foot kid (and McGee, at 24, is still a kid), the Wizards bid adieu to a player with just enough promise to break their heart. Grunfeld was so unsure of whether McGee would ever “get it,” he got rid of him for a player who brought instant buyer’s remorse in Denver, where Nene is averaging as many points (13) as millions he will make per year until 2016.
The Wizards were unsure McGee would stop goaltending when the ball was on an obvious downward arc. They were tired of waiting for him to routinely grab a meaningful defensive rebound instead of gloating over a meaningless triple-double. They were tired of his mother, Pamela McGee, berating their coaches from her seat behind the basket near the Wizards’ bench at Verizon Center. For all McGee’s shot-blocking prowess and catch-and-slam forays above the rim, the Wizards were really worried he might never eliminate the brain freezes that manifested themselves in some of the most no, he didn’t bloopers that played on national cable shows.
This is twisted, but I’m going to miss how sublimely clueless Nick and JaVale were to the end. They never understood how or why an off-the-backboard dunk in the middle of a loss or a jack-knifing, three-point prayer with 21 seconds left on the 24-second shot clock — often when the Wizards were leading in the final minute — pushed any of the game’s etiquette or dumb-shot barriers.