A conversation with Washington Wizards assistant coach Don Zierden about JaVale McGee

Today unfortunately didn't include a chance to track JaVale McGee any further, because JaVale was sitting on the bench as the ineligible player. The NBA only allows you to dress four guys that were on an NBA roster last year, and the Wizards have five in Andray Blatche, Javaris Crittenton, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and JaVale McGee. Today was JaVale's turn to sit out, so he was on the bench wearing an all-grey ensemble and a raggedy hat.

Even so, we all know JaVale's development is a major key to the Wizards' season next year. There are teams upgrading their frontcourts in the East, and there are minutes currently on this team for JaVale to take. That said, it's clear from the first two games of Summer League that he still has a ways to go to get to the point where he can be counted on all the time.

I talked about this stuff with Wizards assistant coach Don Zierden after tonight's loss to the Timberolves. I imagine these quotes will be used too when I write a more extensive piece on JaVale that includes input from Brendan Haywood and JaVale himself (though not much from JaVale. Remember when we had a discussion about whether he was unaware of specific things he needed to do or was just not particularly insightful as an interview. It's the latter). Still, I wanted to throw this out there first.

Mike Prada: It seems JaVale's looked a little listless at times in Summer League. What do you think he has to work on based on his first two games for his last two games?

Don Zierden: The biggest thing for us is giving him repetitions out here so that he gets to know us, we get to know about him. After Summer League, we'll formulate what we need to do to get him as close to where he needs to be [as possible].

Mike Prada: With his post defense, what more do you think needs to be worked on?

Don Zierden: Obviously, everybody's going to say that he's got to get stronger and all that. I just think experience with positioning, film study and learning how to play down there in the post. He's been blessed with unbelievable athletic ability, so we're just continuing to work with him.

Mike Prada: JaVale's got a freakish kind of body, not the type of thing you see in a lot of players. How much does that help his development? How much might that hurt his development where he may be a little more unique in terms of his body?

Don Zierden: I don't know that it'll hurt him, but I just know this: he's long and athletic. He's been blessed with some physical skills that he utilizes. He's going to help us down the road. How soon? That's going to be up to JaVale.

(I asked him about film study, but my tape got cut off here for a second. Zeirden said that he hasn't done much yet, but they're putting together some clips of him from Summer League and will show them to him after Summer League is over. He also stressed that there are still two games left).

Mike Prada: Last year, his minutes were a bit up and down. What do you think that may have done to his development, as an outsider looking in and now working with him.

Don Zierden: You know, I can't really comment on that, because I was buried with my own things. You'd have to ask him that. (Editor's Note: I did).

Mike Prada: If you have to think of one area where he really has to improve from the beginning of Summer League to the end of Summer League, what do you think it would be?

Don Zierden: I think he showed it the other night in the Cleveland game (editor's note: I think Don meant the Denver game, though I might be wrong about that). He can be a game-changer defensively. When he does that every single night -- he had five blocks, double-figure rebounds. When he does that every single night, he's going to help our ballclub immensely.

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