I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim lately. Yeah, I’m really late on that one, but I like to stalk my video game prey for a couple years, wait for all the extra content to come out, and strategically pounce when it’s all bundled up in a nice little package for practically no cost. In Skyrim, you take on the role of a protagonist who is dragonborn, which means you have legendary powers dating back hundreds of years in Nordic history. You stumble into Skyrim as a seemingly irrelevant wanderer in a cruel, unforgiving land at a pivotal time when the country is coming apart at the seams due to an ugly civil war and the presence of dragons, only to discover you wield the unspeakable powers needed to put an end to all the fighting. In short, you are JaVale McGee.
Google JaVale McGee right now. Do it; I can wait. Notice a trend? People with media credentials took notice of the impact he made on the game against Memphis last night. Suddenly everyone is talking about the fact that he does things no one else on the Mavericks can do. Suddenly everyone is realizing that the Mavericks are terrible at stopping opponents when they get to the basket, and that they have to stack J.J. Barea on Dirk Nowitzki‘s shoulders if they want any chance at ever throwing down a dunk.
I’m getting a little carried away, but that’s because I’ve been in love with McGee from the moment I started this blog, well before he appeared in his first game with the team. No one seems to think much of the guy. Fans of teams he’s played on in the past complain that he has terrible instincts, that he goaltends just as often as he gets a block, that he makes questionable decisions, and that he isn’t a very smart player in general. All of this may well be true, and it’s every bit as true that Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell have done a great job in their minutes on the court this season. McGee’s presence figures to reduce the playing time for both, particularly Powell, and that doesn’t sit well with most people.
Look, I love Powell as much as anyone, and I even wrote an entire post about him earlier in the season, but he isn’t a center like McGee is a center. I had to wait eight games to see it, but I’ve been on the edge of my seat every time an opponent takes a shot with McGee’s long-ass arms nearby, and I finally got what I’ve been waiting for, what I knew was certain to happen eventually: emphatic rejections no one else on the Mavs could pull off even if they were playing defense in Iron Man’s suit. Zach Randolph became the first victim of McGee’s blocking prowess in the 2015-16 season, and because he enjoyed it so much, he made sure it happened three times.
When McGee wasn’t swatting shots, he was leaping hundreds of feet in the air and slamming down lobs from his teammates. He would finish with three alley-oops as well as an additional non-lob dunk by the time the game ended, giving him 10 already on the season in just over 80 minutes of playing time. For reference, that’s already more than everyone else on the team except for Powell. The final result was 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a team-best +20 in the plus-minus department. Yes, he got called for goaltending once, and yes, he was hit with a three-second violation. He isn’t perfect by any means, but there probably isn’t a single team in the NBA that needs his talents more than the Mavericks. This is exactly why I love him so much, and I’m just not in the mood to hear anyone bitch about his shortcomings considering he has a skill set literally no one else on the team can match.
Oh I’m sorry, did I just spend over 600 words talking about JaVale McGee? I forgot to mention that the Mavericks won convincingly over the boring Grizzlies, and that the offense hummed along as well as it has all season. I forgot to mention that Chandler Parsons dropped in 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists to continue his comeback quest. I forgot to mention that Dirk went back to hitting shots, as he finished with 20 points on 7-for-13 from the field with a dunk of his own, albeit one that involved very little liftoff.
In the end, the Mavs still didn’t shoot particularly well (43.6 percent), but they got in a great groove in the second half. With Parsons’s playmaking abilities at full blast and McGee’s high-flying antics, this looked like a different team last night. After Memphis took the first meeting between these teams, it was especially nice to see Dallas storm back and put them in their place. The 19 turnovers may have tipped you off to the fact that it wasn’t anywhere close to a perfect game, but I saw some exciting things on Friday night. I saw things that hinted this Mavericks team has some hidden depths they’ll need in the upcoming stretch against several quality opponents.
The team gets to enjoy three days off while sitting at 15-12, and that should feel good. The flames from JaVale McGee’s dragon-mouth lit up the court last night, and rising from the ashes was the recently reborn Chandler Parsons. Let’s hope these two mythological creatures aren’t done rising to such a level, because the city of Dallas needs them. The world needs them. I need them.