MEMPHIS – He’s only played one game and 11 minutes. But the Dallas Mavericks seemingly all smile in unison when center JaVale McGee’s name is mentioned.
McGee played his first game of the season this past Sunday in Oklahoma City and responded with eight points and six rebounds, and was 4-of-5 from the field. Not that for a guy who missed the entire training camp, preseason and first 12 regular season games while dealing with a stress fracture in his left leg.
"He did a lot of good things on offense the other night,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround at the FedEx Forum. "Defensively he’s a little behind because of the (lack of) reps.
"So we spent some time with him yesterday with film, and today with some on-court stuff. We feel pretty obvious that he can help us.’’
Zaza Pachulia is the Mavs’ starting center, and Dwight Powell usually is the first pivotman off the bench. But the Mavs now have an added bonus in McGee, who is 7-1 and weighs 270 pounds and has the athleticism the aforementioned two players lack.
"We don’t really have anybody like him,’’ small forward Chandler Parsons said of McGee. "We don’t have a lob threat like him.
"When he’s pick-and-rolling and rolling down the lane like that, he’s so long and athletic, just throw it up there and he’s going to go get it.’’
The Mavs (9-5) are hoping their pick-and-roll game with McGee will be on point Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they play the Memphis Grizzlies (7-7) at the FedEx Forum.
McGee was elated that his first game was against a Thunder team that has some quality big men in Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. He also likes the fact that the Grizzlies can send big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph onto the court, while the San Antonio Spurs – the Mavs play them on Wednesday – will roll Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge onto the floor.
"It’s a good time for me to play for the team and for myself playing against good bigs and not starting my season off with mediocre bigs,’’ McGee said. "At least we’re playing against good bigs and against good competition, so I can get used to that.’’
McGee’s minutes are obviously restricted at this time at probably no more than between 12-15 a game. The Mavs aren’t about to ring up his minutes and have him suffer a setback.
"We’re going day-to-day with him,’’ Carlisle said. "It got to a point where he wasn’t going to progress any more without getting into the games because of our lack of practice time.’’
Despite playing just 28 games the previous two seasons, McGee doesn’t feel like he has to go overboard to show that his skills haven’t eroded.
"I don’t feel like I have anything to prove,’’ he said. "I’m just out here just trying to work as hard as I can to help the team win.
"I just want to prove that we’re going to win, and that’s it.’’
McGee has much more of a defensive presence inside the paint than Pachulia and Powell. All three players, however, can have an impact with the Mavs.
"Those guys can both knock down the mid-range jump shot,’’ Parsons said of Pachulia and Powell. "JaVale actually can too.
"It can’t ever hurt to have another big body. Zaza and Dwight have been great, but JaVale is a whole another level of athleticism.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.