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McGee shines through amid Warriors’ roster of All-Stars

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San Antonio Spurs’ Rudy Gay and Warriors center JaVale McGee battle for a ball during Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Oracle Arena on April 16, 2018. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

It’s hard not to root for a guy like JaVale McGee.

He set the tone for the Warriors in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Spurs, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting with an array of layups and dunks while also stifling San Antonio All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge on the defensive end. But the first half of Game 2 wasn’t pretty.

McGee was repeatedly punished by Aldridge in the post and allowed point guard Patty Mills to convert a four-point play with careless flailing. But he turned it around in the third quarter with six points, and provided energy that helped the Warriors erase a six-point halftime deficit.

Life is good for McGee. He recently released a self-titled 16-track album under his stage name, Pierre, and UPROXX dubbed the debut “strong” and called McGee “a legitimate hip-hop producer.” In his second season with the Warriors, McGee has come a long way considering how the offseason began.

Fresh off winning his first ever NBA championship, McGee wanted to remain with Warriors, but he understood the business side of basketball. What he didn’t expect, if Golden State opted to move in another direction, was to be left stranded with no interested suitors.

According to Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, McGee was disappointed with the Warriors after they gave the entire taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.2 million) to Nick Young. Center Zaza Pachulia also received a nice 20 percent raise to a salary of $3.48 million.

Unfortunately for McGee, that multi-year contract never came. But on August 1, he was brought back to Golden State for just over $2 million dollars.

General Manager Bob Myers joined Greg Papa and me Tuesday afternoon on 95.7 The Game and spoke very highly of McGee’s perseverance.

“I thought in the summer, we all thought he’d get offers outside of ours. And when he didn’t, we certainly said, ‘Well, you want to come back here this is all we have to offer,” Myers said. “But you know what? In life, when you persevere and you’re patient and you do things the right way — look, he’s starting in the playoffs. And that’s a testament to just who he is.”

As Myers said, McGee wasn’t deterred from staying engaged, sharpening his focus and being an excellent teammate. He’s a hit in the locker room, and that was apparent when he was inserted into the starting lineup after the All-Star Break: The Warriors ran off seven straight, and many of his teammates credited McGee’s energy and athleticism for the winning streak.

What he’s done in the first two games of the playoffs is a testament to how far he’s come with this franchise. Think back to when the nine-year veteran signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors in September 2016. McGee had to shed the discourteous reputation that developed due to “Shaqtin A Fool,” a weekly segment from TNT’s postgame show, “Inside the NBA.”

Nobody, especially here in the Bay Area, views McGee as a guy who doesn’t have the intellect to play in the Warriors high-level system. Who knows? Depending on the matchup, McGee may rack up a DNP and not play until garbage time. But it doesn’t matter.

Basketball is about the team and not the individual. Everybody on the Warriors knows their role, and they don’t complain and cry about it. That’s why they’re the reigning champs.

Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.

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