A season ago, JaVale McGee was a find for the Lakers, a starting center plucked from the back end of the Golden State Warriors’ bench. He out-performed statistical projections. He made more shots and scored more points than in any other season in his decade-long career.
McGee’s minutes have been sliced by 25% this season and his shots have been cut in half. If Dwight Howard keeps performing and Anthony Davis wants to play more minutes at center, those subtractions could grow.
So, naturally McGee’s not enjoying this season as much as last, right?
“A year ago, we weren’t winning,” McGee said Friday. “It’s your priorities. I want to win. If that’s what we’ve got to do to win …”
More Howard and Davis has been what it’s taken for the Lakers to win so far. With McGee on the court, the Lakers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents. With Howard manning the middle, the Lakers are 13.8 points better.
McGee has shown signs of life in his last two games. He scored 10 points against Chicago and hurt Miami for nine. He also had 16 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals in the wins.
Even if his minutes stay short and chances to score remain scarce, McGee is good with it. He did it before with the Warriors and proved his skills could help a winning team stay on top.
“Being on Golden State set me on [a path], let me have a mindset to where I’m not worried about minutes,” McGee said.
There’s a caveat, one that rings true in all locker rooms. Sacrifice is OK, if the results are there too.
“If we’re losing and this is happening,” McGee said, “then it’s a different situation.”
The next Heat wave
While Jimmy Butler has looked like a star capable of carrying Miami to a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, Heat rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are big reasons why the team is off to a 6-3 start.
The duo is second in the NBA in combined scoring for rookies, trailing Memphis’ Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke by decimal points. The big difference between Nunn and Herro — they’re doing it for a winner.
Herro’s met his projections — an offensively gifted guard with a nice long-range shot. Nunn, though, has been a surprise, making Miami‘s roster after spending last season with the Warriors’ G League team.
He went undrafted after being one of the top scorers in college because, in part, of a guilty plea to a domestic battery incident in 2016.
“We’ve thrown them into the fire,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
There’s still some skepticism about the upside for Nunn, who is second among all rookies by averaging 16.6 points.
“He’s just hot,” one longtime scout said. “He can get his own offense, but does he make anyone else better? I’m not sure.”
The defending champion Toronto Raptors’ only trip to Los Angeles this season will be marred by the absences of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. The two won’t be on the court to face Danny Green and the Lakers on Sunday and Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers on Monday because of thumb and ankle injuries, respectively, that each sustained Friday. … Boston was dealt a huge blow when it learned that Gordon Hayward broke his left hand. His timetable to return is unknown. Hayward’s averaging 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in what had been a great bounce-back start for the former All-Star. … In addition to Rajon Rondo and Paul George set to make their season debuts this week, former Clipper Blake Griffin should be on the court for the Detroit Pistons. Griffin has been out with a hamstring injury and knee soreness. … Portland guard Damian Lillard scored 60 points Friday in a loss to Brooklyn, the 70th time in NBA history that a player has scored 60 or more — with 19 of those games coming in losses. Wilt Chamberlain did it the most times (11) in a losing effort. … Speaking of Portland, NBA sources expect the Trail Blazers to be active buyers on the trade market as they look to bolster an injury-riddled frontcourt.