When JaVale McGee picked up the player option for the second year of the two-year contract he re-signed with the Lakers on during free agency in 2019, his getting traded was so predictable that we theorized about it in the first story we published on his decision. So when he got dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers three days later to give the Lakers room to sign Marc Gasol, it was not exactly a shock.
The writing that McGee and the Lakers’ two-year marriage was over was also on the wall before that. There was a report that he was “probably leaving” the Lakers the day before he opted in to the $200,000 raise from his previous $4 million salary, and McGee himself had sold his Los Angeles home the month before.
So when McGee told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports this week during an appearance on the “Posted Up” podcast that he wasn’t surprised that the Lakers traded him, there is basically no reason to doubt that he’s telling the truth. Still, McGee also claimed that — apparently unlike Danny Green — he did not get an advance warning from Rob Pelinka that he was going to be dealt, but it also doesn’t seem like he has hard feelings about how it all happened:
“It didn’t catch me by surprise, but I didn’t know already either. It was just I had been on six teams already, you know what I’m saying? In my whole life I’ve never lived nowhere longer than two years. Even before the NBA. I’ve never been that person who just sets their feet in the ground and gets their roots in a place and is like ‘OK I’m comfortable.’ I’m never comfortable. Ever. I’m always on edge to where I’ve got to fight. I’ve always been that person. And I’m OK with that. I’ve always been that person.
“So when they traded me to Cleveland I was like ‘oh, all right, I’m going to Cleveland.’ (laughs) That was it. It wasn’t ‘oh, man, I’m sad for myself, I feel bad for myself.’ None of that, nah. I’m going Cleveland, I’m making more money than I made last year. You’ve got to count your blessings and realize you’re in the National Basketball Association with a brotherhood of 450 players only, and the average career is 3-4 years. That’s it. I’ve tripled that.
“So I’m like ‘you’ve got to count your blessings and take advantage of the opportunity when it comes,’ and that’s another example of it. When I get my time to shine here in Cleveland when I play, I play. So that’s what it is.”
McGee hardly sounds upset about the deal, and it’s not hard to imagine why. He’s now sacrificed to get three rings. He’s tasted winning. It’s hard to blame him for enjoying a chance to serve as a veteran locker room leader for the Cavaliers, while also getting the opportunity to showcase his talents on the court with a bigger role — he is using 24.5% of possessions while on the court for the Cavaliers, nearly 10% more than he is last season in L.A. — than he was ever going to play for this Lakers team:
McGee and the Lakers had a solid two years together that McGee wistfully reflects on during that podcast, but it was also clearly time for them to part ways after he was nailed to the bench during the postseason. Still, they can appreciate what they had, and the Lakers will get a chance to when they run McGee his championship ring when he rolls up with his new team later this year.