LOS ANGELES — JaVale McGee is one of the most defiantly confident players on the Lakers, with the latest example of this quality coming not just in the fact that he had the chutzpah to attempt a running hook shot in the fourth quarter, but also in his reaction when he was asked why he had taken said shot.
“I always look to use my hook shot, because it’s definitely unstoppable,” McGee said.
For what it’s worth, McGee is shooting 44 percent on hook shots this year, according to NBA.com. Still, in fairness, the one he made looked pretty sweet.
This was a nifty hook shot from JaVale last night. pic.twitter.com/3z1PFVl92A— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 25, 2019
That shot was also part of a recent incredible run of production for McGee over the last two games, in which he’s seen a resurgence back to the high level of play he displayed earlier this season.
McGee has played so well, in fact, that he’s now put together at least 17 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks while shooting 75 percent from the field in each of his last two games. Here are other players in NBA history to have put up at least 17 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks while shooting 75 percent from the field for two games in a row.
- JaVale McGee
- That’s it
Suffice it to say, McGee has been playing at a high level, and the Lakers think it’s why the team is playing better as a whole, even if it’s too late to help them with a playoff run.
“We’re very good (on defense) when JaVale is kind of quarterbacking the whole thing, letting the guards know that picks are coming. Sliding over when guards get beat. (He’s) able to change shots at the rim, either block shots or just change the trajectory of guys trying to go in there for layups and dunks. He did that multiple times tonight,” said Lakers forward LeBron James after the team’s 111-106 win against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
James was asked specifically about McGee’s play, but Lakers head coach Luke Walton wasn’t, going out of his way to credit McGee postgame when asked why he thought the team’s defense had turned around over the prior two contests.
”I think JaVale McGee has done a really, really nice job of anchoring that. When we were having success defensively earlier in the season, our centers were a big part of that,” Walton said. “JaVale was kind of in and out of the rotation when he came back from that illness, but I thought he showed what he’s capable of as far as being that anchor defensively for the last two games.
“I think he had five blocks (on Sunday), but he changed probably at least five, six, seven more shots where people came into the lane that he has to get credit for when we get stops because of it.”
The Lakers have also played their best two defensive games in a row since mid-January during McGee’s re-emergence, and James says the team is making a conscious effort to show their appreciation for everything he does defensively.
“It’s great when he’s active, and on the offensive end we’re just trying to reward him... by getting him the ball, getting him lobs, getting him pocket passes to dunk the ball or finesse his way into the paint,” James said.
Two games isn’t enough to base a (logical) free agency decision off of, but in combination with how well McGee played earlier in the year, the past two games have served as an interesting reminder of how helpful of a bargain the Lakers had in him to start the season. Even so, it will take a few more games to build a stronger argument that McGee should be re-signed when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
If McGee keeps this up for the rest of the year, though, it will be fair to ask if it really was mostly just the pneumonia that sapped his effectiveness, and wonder if he could be a solid backup center next year, even if the Lakers don’t want to gamble on his health as a full-time starter again.
Whatever happens, McGee’s level of play will be worth monitoring down the stretch.
”I’m just trying to stay in the right places, and my teammates were finding me,” McGee said. “That’s really been working for me.”
If it keeps working, the Lakers may have to think long and hard about keeping McGee around.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.