Ring in hand, JaVale McGee welcomes Nuggets-Lakers playoff rematch

LOS ANGELES — The polite applause and the occasional piercing shout he heard at Staples Center on Monday night wasn’t quite all that JaVale McGee wanted.

He’s won titles before, and he’s been in parades, and he’s partied with teammates and friends and celebrated like the world was ending – back before the world did actually end. The Lakers’ title in 2020 barely had any of the gilding that makes winning one seem so sweet: “I feel like I’ve been deprived of all the good (expletive) that you get when you win a championship.”

But the past year has taught McGee, 33, everything he can still get has its own value. If he had come back on March 26, when the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Lakers in L.A., the 19,000-seat arena would have been all but empty, his championship ring ceremony soundtrack accompanied by pre-recorded crowd noise. But because he was traded from Cleveland to Denver, and because he never made it to L.A. back then, and because Staples Center started allowing about 2,000 fans per game as of mid-April, well – maybe everything worked out the best it could.

“When I said I would wait for my ring, I didn’t know there would be fans there,” he told Southern California News Group. “It’s crazy that it worked out that way.”

Short of a Denver win on Monday night, McGee’s visit to Los Angeles – where he spent two wildly unpredictable seasons – went about as well as he could have hoped. Shortly before the game, the Lakers set out a table for the now-Nuggets center, who gleefully placed his third career championship ring on his pinky and held it up for the cameras. He got hugs from old teammates, which you’d expect with one of the most affable members of last year’s title-winning squad.

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And then he had minutes in the game itself, a rarity for McGee these days, but he had a 5-for-7 shooting night for 10 points, including one powerful dunk on a pick-and-roll feed from Austin Rivers. It feels good to have a good night against your old team, even if it would feel better to win.

“Resentment” might be too strong of a word to describe how McGee felt in November, when the Lakers traded him to Cleveland to create room to sign free agent Marc Gasol. Little more than a month after their title-clinching win in the NBA bubble, McGee probably would have preferred being part of the Lakers’ pursuit of a repeat.

His Cavaliers teammate, Andre Drummond, eventually wound up in L.A. instead, inheriting the starting role McGee once manned. But McGee did definitely hear some fans asking as the team hit a bit of a lull in March when Gasol was out due to COVID-19: Is there any way to bring JaVale back?

“Sometimes you don’t get appreciated until you leave a place,” said McGee, who averaged 9.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in 130 starts for the Lakers during his tenure. “Unless you’re one of the All-Stars, …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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