JaVale McGee has had quite the career. He went from promising young center, to a disappointing big contract, to a player seen as a joke by many casual NBA fans, and is now a two-time champion see by many within the Los Angeles Lakers organization as a mentor to the young core.
He’s been around several different situations, so when he judges the guys around him, it comes from all that experience. In an interview with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, McGee says he and the other veterans like what they’ve seen from Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest of the Lakers young core.
B/R: What’s the dynamic like in L.A. among the veterans and the up-and-comers?
JM: Everybody’s working hard—even the young guys. You usually see young guys worried about other things, but this is by far the most focused group of young guys I’ve been a part of. Rajon Rondo was saying yesterday that on the plane after the game, he walked up and down the aisle, and everyone was watching film. In 13 years, he’s never seen anything like that.
As has been the case since LeBron James showed up, the Lakers will really only go as far as the young core can take them. LeBron is great, obviously, but the combination of McGee, Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley is not the kind of group that you can realistically expect the type of production necessary to meet the expectations placed on a LeBron-led team.
Sure, if things don’t work out, the younger assets can be moved to bring in more predictable production, but that would lower the ceiling of what the Lakers might be capable of long-term. The Lakers will need at least one (and preferably more, obviously) of Ball, Ingram, etc. to live up to their potential if they really want to challenge the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics or other title contenders.
So the young core will have to mature faster than it might have been able to had James signed elsewhere. If we’re to believe what McGee and the other Lakers vets have said throughout training camp, the kids seem up to the task.