WASHINGTON D.C. - When he was in college, JaVale McGee said he couldn't go more than two minutes without breathing hard. He thought he was out of shape. As it turned out, he had a different problem altogether: athletic asthma.
The only problem? Nobody knew about it until last year.
Speaking at Wizards media day today, McGee opened up about his battle with athletic asthma, which in part caused him to struggle so much during his first year and a half in the NBA. McGee revealed the Wizards only identified the problem last February, after coach Flip Saunders suggested to McGee that he should get it checked out.
"Probably like two months to the end of the season last year," McGee said, when asked when he found out. "Even through college, I thought I was extremely out of shape."
Athletic asthma is different from normal asthma in that it only comes into play during exercise. McGee does not have panic asthma attacks when he walks, for example; he just was wheezing and out of breath after a certain amount of time on the court. McGee said the Wizards immediately gave him special pills and an inhaler to help him manage the disease, both of which he uses every single day.
"I noticed it immediately. Probably like three days after I started taking the medicine, I just felt so much better," he said. "I felt like I could breathe a lot better."
McGee's production went up after the trade deadline last year, so clearly, the asthma treatment is making a difference. It's kind of remarkable when you think about how he was able to be a first-round pick while playing through that kind of ailment, but either way, it looks like he's put that part of his development behind him.
"It's a lot easier to get up and down the court. I'm starting to figure out what body exhaustion is and what not being able to breathe is."
- He said he now weighs about 260 pounds, which is eight pounds more than he weighed at the end of last year. He added that he doesn't want to weigh more than 265, presumably to maintain his quickness.
- That said, he feels like he is strong enough to continue through contact now.
- On Team USA, McGee said it was more about getting on-court experience than it was about skill development. "USA wasn't really a teaching session. It was more of a 'you know what you have to do' session. So it wasn't really about skill-wise getting better. It was more of an experience of getting better."