JaVale McGee

Retirement not an option for McGee after ‘fine' season with Kings

NBC Universal, Inc.

NEW ORLEANS – JaVale McGee put the finishing touches on his outfit and began walking out of the visiting locker room at Smoothie King Center on Friday night. As the rest of his Kings teammates were either headed for the shower or beginning to get dressed themselves, McGee was going back out to the court after the Kings’ 105-98 season-ending loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Play-In Tournament. 

Maybe it’s customary for McGee to take a look around the arena when his season comes to a close. The game forever is ingrained within McGee. From his bloodlines to his basketball brain, his heart beats to the rhythm of a ball dancing on the hardwood. 

The moment didn’t serve as one last time for the 16-year pro to soak everything in. At least not yet. 

Retirement isn’t an option for the 36-year-old center right now, McGee told NBC Sports California on Friday night. 

"Just to play basketball,” McGee said when asked by NBCSCA what’s next for him. "Keep focusing, keep working."

Sacramento signed McGee to a one-year contract in September, four days after he was waived by the Dallas Mavericks. McGee won two titles with the Golden State Warriors while Kings coach Mike Brown was an assistant on Steve Kerr’s staff. The 7-footer was a natural fit on the Kings for much more than what he still can produce on the court. 

But McGee played a career-low 7.4 minutes per game serving as a backup to star center Domantas Sabonis, as well as veteran Alex Len. He averaged 4.0 points, also a career low, and 2.7 rebounds per game. McGee played 2 minutes and 13 seconds Tuesday night against his former team in the Kings’ win over the Warriors on Tuesday, recording one blocked shot and one dunk.

He never had to take his warmup jacket off Friday night in New Orleans, with two heavily wrapped legs on the bench, but always encouraged teammates throughout the action and during timeouts. 

"I feel like my experience was fine,” McGee said of his season with the Kings. “Great group of guys. Obviously wanted to go further and at least make the playoffs and go far in it, but it didn't work out. But hey, it happens sometimes. 

“We just got to make sure we lock in this summer. Everybody get their work in and make sure they do what they need to do so we have a great season next year." 

McGee was the oldest player on the Kings this season by four-plus years. Even in his reduced role, McGee served as Sacramento’s spiritual leader in the middle of the Kings’ pregame huddle. 

Whether it was stars like Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox or the bottom of the roster, McGee’s impact was felt and respected by all. 

"Great,” Sabonis said of his experience being teammates with McGee. “Great veteran, big time. He helped everyone – from me, Foxy, all the way down to G League guys. Always present, always had his great attitude and held us accountable for everything."

McGee enters unrestricted free agency open to all opportunities. He loves the game and doesn’t want to let it go. His career has evolved from being a first-round draft pick to unfairly being the butt of jokes far too often, becoming a three-time champion and now an esteemed locker-room presence in the least. 

Whatever his future holds, McGee didn’t hesitate in stating what’s at the top of his priority list for his next destination – whether that’s a return to Sacramento or somewhere else. 

"Definitely a winning opportunity,” McGee said. “Playing time is second, of course. But definitely winning. Winning is my end goal more than anything.”

The Kings’ season ended far sooner than all of Sacramento hoped. Now, the marathon continues for McGee.

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