Prior to the current NBA season, JaVale McGee was seemingly past his prime at the age of 30, a formerly productive player who had become more famous for his appearances on NBA on TNT‘s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” blooper segment than anything else. With that in mind, many fans were doubtful that McGee would make an impact after he signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. Now that McGee is playing his best basketball in several seasons, his superstar teammate, LeBron James, recently opened up in an interview to discuss why he wanted him as a teammate for the 2018-19 campaign.
Speaking to the Associated Press‘ Tim Reynolds on Thursday, James explained that he “lobbied” for McGee to be signed by the Lakers because he was impressed with how he played as a member of the Golden State Warriors in the last two NBA Finals. At that time, James was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost on both occasions to the Warriors, and as he recalled, McGee’s high-energy play and defensive skills stood out the most during those two NBA Finals series.
“It’s his energy, his energy level, his ability at the rim and his ability to protect the rim. If you don’t have that on your team, you’re not going to have much, man. You need to have people with a high IQ, which he’s got. That’s why I wanted JaVale to be part of this.”
For his part, JaVale McGee told the AP’s Reynolds that James’ vote of confidence helped him in his ongoing career renaissance, given how there were so many other players whom LeBron could have asked the Lakers to sign.
“It’s just a reassuring feeling, a confidence-builder I guess, knowing that you’re going into a situation wanted as an option, like you’re really wanted. That’s pretty dope,” said McGee, who is currently in his 11th NBA season.
As shown in his Basketball-Reference player page, McGee had not averaged in double figures since the 2011-12 season, when he had 11.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while splitting time with the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets. In 17 games so far as the Lakers’ starting center, he is averaging a career-best 13.4 points, along with 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in only 25 minutes per game. Last season, he averaged just 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Warriors in less than 10 minutes per outing.
Going forward, McGee still has big hopes for his NBA career as he prepares to celebrate his 31st birthday in January. But while he mentioned making the All-Star game, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, and leading the league in blocked shots among the goals he has for the future, the Associated Press stressed that McGee’s main priority at the moment is to share his experience as a league veteran and a two-time NBA champion to the Lakers’ younger players, many of whom have yet to play in the postseason.