As you can see above, in the third quarter of the Wizards latest loss Monday, JaVale McGee decided to showboat a little with the self ally-oop.
It pretty much summed up the Wizards — impressive but unnecessarily showy and self-serving, all while the team was losing. Actually, what would have made it the perfect Wizards play is if he missed the dunk, but at least we were spared that.
The dunk promptly got McGee benched by coach Flip Saunders for most of the rest of the game. Saunders is coaching the most unprofessional locker room in the NBA and he picked this bit of showboating to put his foot down. Here is what Saunders said postgame, via Mike Prada and Bullets Forever.
“I told him that’s unacceptable,” Saunders said. “Maybe I’m too old-school, but you see that and the [lobbying] for the All-Star Game, that right there is where we have to get to where we identify with meat and potato basketball. Playing hard, setting screens, playing the right way, and not highlight-type play. We’ve said this many times. We have some players that look for highlights instead of substance.”
McGee didn’t really get why the anger.
“Apparently, if you get a fast break and you throw it off the backboard in the third quarter and you’re 1-11, you’re not supposed to do stuff like that,” McGee said, seemingly sarcastically. “I felt like I was trying to get the team hyped and trying to make a good play, so I felt like we did that, and we went on a run from there.”
Actually JaVale, it’s 1-12. McGee’s confusion may stem back to this kind of thing not being consistently enforced through the Wizards season. Part of that falls on Saunders. But it falls on the Wizards’ players also. Royce Young said it well at Eye on Basketball.
I like McGee. I don’t think he’s a total knucklehead. I think he plays hard, tries to get better and wants to win. But he, along with some of his teammates, continue to do dumb things. It’s a culture thing. You can’t continue to think about yourself or highlights. You have to think about the team and what’s most important… At some point, you’ve just got to grow up. You can’t continue to waste talent and opportunity. Be a professional. An NBA game isn’t your own personal playground. It’s about the final score. It’s about winning and losing, the latter of which you know plenty about.
That the locker room was divided on the play and Saunders reaction tells you all you need to know about the Wizards locker room. John Wall sided with Saunders. Veteran Maurice Evans did as well. But Nick Young diplomatically tried to take McGee’s side.
There is a culture change that needs to happen in the Wizards locker room and this is one step on a long journey. A journey that is going to require some roster moves because this team doesn’t want to “play the right way” most nights. Saunders needs to more of this — and the locker room needs to start policing itself.
Right now, the D.C. locker room is about as focused on what is best long-term as Congress in that same town. It has to change. With the Wizards it might.