During these long summer months where there’s no basketball on, I’m reminded of random basketball plays from Wizards history that make me smile. The one that popped into my head today is the one from a player who didn’t always make me smile: JaVale McGee.
It came in a November 2010 game against the 76ers. The headline matchup was supposed to be between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the draft that summer, but the best battle of the night belonged to McGee and Elton Brand.
You’d be hard-pressed to find two more dissimilar players at the time. McGee, entering his third season in the NBA, was still raw, but he was so athletic that teams still had to take him seriously as an offensive threat. Brand, on the other hand, was playing his 11th season in the NBA. He was no longer the same athlete he was during his peak days as a Clipper, and had to rely on his veteran savvy and hoops IQ to be a difference maker in Philadelphia.
It was a back and forth affair, as both players exploited the weaknesses in each other’s games. Brand went for 19 points and 7 rebounds while McGee racked up 24 points and 18 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end.
It finally came to a head late in the fourth quarter. With the Wizards down by 9 with under four minutes to go, John Wall zipped a pass to McGee down low. Brand was a half-second slow in recovering, leading to this outstanding dunk by McGee:
Brand was immediately ejected from the game for the flagrant foul on McGee, and McGee was very excited to hear the news. Even though he was a bit sore from the fall, he made sure to give Brand a wave goodbye as he left the court:
The and-one proved to be the spark the Wizards needed to close out the game. They went on a 15-8 run to force overtime and then pulled out the win in overtime, 116-114 (boxscore here).
Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for McGee with the Wizards. Injuries and knuckleheaded play kept him from ever becoming the force inside that fans would have hoped, but plays like this will always serve as a reminder of what could have been.