JaVale McGee says he feels “good,” but Brian Shaw won’t guarantee playing time

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JaVale McGee played in just five games for the Denver Nuggets last season after suffering a stress fracture in his left tibia. He made his return this week in a preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and says he feels “good” so far in training camp, but the high-flying, eccentric center doesn’t seem to be on the fast track to getting minutes anytime soon.

Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw says he isn’t going to re-insert McGee into the rotation until his conditioning is back where it needs to be. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

“I’m not waiting on anybody,” Shaw said. “So, the depth chart, for instance…at the center position right now is (Timofey Mozgov), (Jusuf) Nurkic, and JaVale. JaVale is just starting to practice, he’s just getting on the floor and playing, and Nurkic is ahead of him right now.

“So, when we start, if he hasn’t outplayed him or Timo or anybody who is in front of him by the time we start the regular season – and I don’t want to just judge him off of (Tuesday’s) performance because he’s been out for a year. But if he’s not there, if he’s not ready yet, as fast as he comes along we’ll move him that fast. As slow as he moves, in terms of passing guys up, that’s how slow he’ll come along.”

At this point, Mozgov is the clear-cut starting center for the Nuggets. Nurkic, the 19th overall pick in the 2014 draft, wasn’t expected to get much playing time but he has impressed in training camp. It says a lot about McGee’s conditioning that a rookie is already ahead of him in the depth chart even though McGee suffered his injury almost a year ago.

The Nuggets don’t have many options when it comes to trading McGee, either. He’s making $11.2 million this season and $12 million next season. Between his health and conditioning, it’s going to be hard to trade a contract like that. So McGee might have to deal with being buried until he gets up to speed.

In the meantime, look for plenty of self-retweets and #JugLife photos on Instagram.