The Warriors won the 2017 NBA Finals in five games over the Cavaliers, where they won 129-120 in Game 5 on Monday night. Kevin Durant was named the FInals MVP after averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in the series. But who cares about Durant? He never wore a Wizards uniform.
Let’s give congratulations to the two Warriors who once wore Monumental Red: JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston:
McGee played sparingly in the Finals, but he had a bounce back regular season where he averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds, while only averaging about 10 minutes a game. McGee did this over 77 regular season games and achieved a career-high per-36 scoring average of 23 points per game.
In the playoffs, McGee’s best performances were in the first round against the Trail Blazers, where he scored 15 points in Game 2 and 14 more in Game 3 while playing a combined 29 minutes. His time went down as Golden State progressed, but that is not unusual for reserve players.
As a Wizards player, McGee played from 2008 to 2012, where he gradually became the starting center in the early years of the John Wall Era when Washington was a very poor team. And unfortunately, Wizards fans will know him more for his persistent ability to goal tend shots, make silly decisions, or go on defense when his team has the ball:
After being a journeyman for a few years, McGee has now found a team where he can contribute the most with his strengths. As Golden State of Mind’s Derek Knight said, “the less you ask JaVale to do, the better he’ll look.” I agree with that.
McGee isn’t expected to carry Golden State’s frontcourt responsibilities. That’s Durant’s and Draymond Green’s job. But when he’s able to be a spark off the bench and be responsible for catching lobs and focus on blocking shots in a couple situations instead of all the time, he will be an asset for whatever team he’s on.
McGee’s time in Washington was unforgettable for the wrong reasons. But Livingston’s time in Washington was a bright spot for him personally as well as the Wizards, given the situation they were in when he first arrived.
Livingston had two stints with the Wizards. His first was in the latter half of the infamous 2009-10 season that was marred by Gilbert Arenas bringing guns to the team’s locker room. His second was for a brief stretch in the 2012-13 season when John Wall sat out the first half due to a knee injury. Though he was not as effective in Washington during his second stint in D.C., Livingston’s first in the 2009-10 season was a bounceback year for him personally.
On February 26, 2007, Livingston then played for the Los Angeles Clippers when he fell awkwardly after a missed layup. That fall dislocated his left kneecap and tore most ligaments. At the time, many wondered whether he’d play in the NBA again.
In the 2008-09 through the early part of the 2009-10 season, he returned to play sparingly for the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he never received meaningful playing time for a considerable stretch of time.
The Wizards signed him on February 26, 2010 while he was in the D-League, soon after Arenas was suspended for the season. It was also soon after they traded Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to other teams in a fire sale. Livingston quickly made the most out of his time in Washington by starting 18 of 26 games, while averaging 9.2 points and 4.5 assists. His performance in D.C. was good enough to the point where Mike Prada suggested that Washington should re-sign him — even after they won the Draft Lottery.
Livingston ultimately signed with Charlotte that offseason, but he continued to be a journeyman until he came to the Warriors in the 2014-15 season. Since then, he has become a reliable backup to the Stephen Curry - Klay Thompson backcourt. The 2017 NBA Finals win is Livingston’s second.
It’s good to see former Wizards win a title, but better to see the current Wizards do it here
Whenever we see a former Wizards player advance further in the playoffs with a new team, it’s convenient to accuse the front office of mismanaging them. I think we can make the case with McGee because he is just a couple years older than Wall, and he had a chance to develop as much chemistry with him as any.
With Livingston, I’m not so sure because we’d have to look at things from his perspective. He was a starting guard and a former lottery pick in 2010. His Wizards performance right before the Wall Era’s arrival showed that he had the potential to still play major minutes. If the Wizards didn’t win the number one pick in 2010, he may have re-signed in Washington. But they did and I’m not so sure if he wanted to see a considerable drop in playing time because of that.
At any rate, the Wizards have a strong team of their own with Wall leading the way along with Bradley Beal as their foundational stars. They had a bounceback season of their own when many wondered whether the Wizards peaked. I’d like to say that they haven’t.
So congratulations to JaVale and Shaun for being part of a championship team. And for the Wizards, they may not be as far away from the Finals as we sometimes fear.