OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors reserve center JaVale McGee got a rude awakening by his mother Pam McGee one early morning while he was attending Detroit Country Day School in Michigan.
McGee said he had a “bad game” as a sophomore on the junior varsity team and didn’t perform up to his potential, or for that matter, his family’s name. The game of basketball must be taken seriously in the McGees’ household, he would learn.
Pam McGee, who was a basketball star for University of Southern California and one-time player in the WNBA, woke her son up the next morning, but not for having a lousy game, as he mentioned after a playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Pam McGee, who was an assistant coach for Detroit Country Day boys’ varsity team, was upset with her son’s lackadaisical effort during practice. It was not the McGee way of doing business.
“She had me up at 6:00 a.m. in the morning running around in the snow in boots,” McGee said of the awkward event staged by his mother. “I was like, ‘What are we doing right now?’ My mother was definitely working me hard.”
Pam McGee was an All-American at USC where she played with her twin sister Paula. She was the second player picked overall in the 1997 WNBA Draft despite her 34 years of age. She played two seasons in the league with the Sacramento Monarchs and Los Angeles Sparks.
JaVale McGee’s father George Montgomery was a 6-foot-9 center for the University of Illinois and was a second-round draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1985. Yes, the Warriors’ center comes from a legitimate basketball lineage.
His sister Imani Boyette stands 6-foot-7, plays for the WNBA Chicago Sky, and she can dunk a basketball. Pam McGee was also a successful head coach for the Sacramento High School girls’ basketball program. She is the first WNBA player to have a son play in the NBA and daughter in the WNBA.
McGee realized that day in the snow that his pedigree is a special and he must live up to it. Outside of all the unwanted attention he has garnished for his questionable decisions and understanding of the game of basketball, McGee has solidified the Warriors’ bench.
“I basically have a basketball family. So, it was instilled in me. Basketball is all we know,” McGee said. “I feel like that’s what we need to do to be able to be a part of the McGee family. You’ve got to be athletic, you’ve got to be running the floor, and you’ve got to be doing something. So it’s just crazy. It’s just in my family to play basketball.”
At a minimum, what’s not insane is McGee’s contributions he has made for the Warriors. He played just over 39 minutes in the first two home games against the Portland Trail Blazers. But he has made every tenth of second count.
In nearly 10 minutes, McGee had six points, five rebounds, and two blocked shots in the Warriors 121-109 victory over the Trail Blazers in Game 1. He also made 3-of-4 shots from the field.
When Kevin Durant had to sit with a left strain calf injury in Game 2, McGee stepped it up another notch. In less than 14 minutes, he had 15 points, five rebounds, four blocked shots, and one steal to help the Warriors defeat Portland 110-81.
McGee made all seven of his shots from the floor, tying the franchise record for most field goals made without a miss in a playoff game. In the first quarter of Game 2, McGee came off the bench and scored on three alley-oop dunks, two assisted by Stephen Curry.
When the Warriors went on the road to play Portland in Game 3 and Game 4, McGee loaded up for additional increased production. He had 14 points, four rebounds, and one steal in 14 minutes. He made 6-of-8 shots from the field and both free-throw attempts.
“We can’t allow JaVale McGee to come in and impact the game the way he has,” said Portland point guard Damian Lillard. “We’ve seen him play a number of games and he has his moments. We’ve got to try to limit that if we want a chance to win.”
The Trail Blazers never got around to taming McGee. The Warriors beat Portland 128-103 in Game 4 to close out the series. McGee had four points, three rebounds, and three blocked shots in nine minutes. He shot 18-for-23 from the field in 48 minutes and a total of six blocked shots.
When McGee is out on the court, he gives every indication that he loves playing for and with the Warriors. He signed as a free agent on Sept. 16, 2016, appeared in 77 games, and has started 10 games. In 9.6 minutes per game, McGee shot a career-best 65.2 percent from the field.
“I just try to be efficient out there. I don’t try to do too much,” McGee said. “I just try to do what’s necessary for me in the minutes that I’m out there, and I feel like I’m doing a good job of that.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr likes the way McGee has settled into his role, too. Golden State has been trying to mix and match at the center position since Portland has been thin in that area and playing smaller lineups. The matchups are working to McGee’s advantage.
“He’s energy is great,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “His length, his ability to catch that lob and be a presence around the rim. JaVale has given us great minutes in that role. He’s still able to cover smaller players and be a force.”
McGee selected 18th in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards after playing two years at UN-Reno. He was the first son of a WNBA player to be drafted in the NBA. McGee has played for Denver, Philadelphia, and Dallas before signing with the Warriors.
The days of running around in the snow in boots in Michigan may be long over, but McGee keeps the experience in his memory bank for safekeeping. Lesson learned.
“It worked, obviously,” the 29-year-old McGee said.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer