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Posted Up - JaVale McGee on his NBA journey, becoming a leader in Cleveland

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The 13-year NBA veteran joined the Posted Up with Chris Haynes podcast to discuss his long career as a big man in the game of basketball, his experience in the Orlando bubble and the potential of him moving teams again this season. Hear the full conversation on the Posted Up with Chris Haynes podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

- JaVale, well, look, first of all, man, I've been trying to get you on for a while now. So I'm glad I got you. I want to bring-- let's go back-- let's go back to the beginning then we'll kind of work our way forward.

JAVALE MCGEE: It's like a-- it's like a blast from the past.

CHRIS HAYNES: Let's take blast from the past, JaVale, because I've seen a maturation process of you. And you know, that's just me observing you. But you probably could tell me something different. But talk to me about your early years in Washington and Denver. What was your mindset as a player? What was your goals at that time?

JAVALE MCGEE: My mindset in Washington was to just play basketball. I wasn't really worried about anything else, dude. Just play basketball, try to get my rebounds, my points, try to just be a great player. But I really didn't have that foundation of what it really takes to do that and to realize that you can have all the points you want, you can have all the blocked shots, all whatever you want. But if you're not winning, no one cares.

And then when I got to Denver and I got to a team that was winning already when I got there, it was a whole different feeling of, OK, this is the point. Like, people-- people don't care what you're doing as long as you're winning. And that's-- that's when I really felt love and was like, OK, this is-- this is what it's about.

CHRIS HAYNES: That's when you fell in love. You may have fell in love with the game of basketball or--

JAVALE MCGEE: Just fell in love with the whole thing that you have to have. You have to have a lot in basketball. It's not just go play basketball, go home. That's not what it is.

That's what it was for me, I feel like, in Washington. I didn't really have the mental in my game as much as I did until I got to-- to-- to Denver. And-- and I was like, OK, this is what winners do. This is how-- how you win games and also be successful as a player.

CHRIS HAYNES: There's a point where you transition to Dallas. And then that's-- that's the point where you kind of fell in my territory a little bit after that.

JAVALE MCGEE: Right.

CHRIS HAYNES: A lot of people, their career could have ended at that-- at that point. You came into Golden State on a non-guaranteed deal. Did you fear that this wouldn't work out? Or you knew good and well, like, no, I know I'm not a [INAUDIBLE]. I'm gonna make this team.

JAVALE MCGEE: No offense to my guy Varejao, but Varejao was there my first year. And I was like, if I can't-- if I can't-- I can't make the team and play over Varejao, it ain't meant to be. I ain't supposed to be in the league.

So I believed in myself from the jump, like, yeah, I'm going-- I'm going to make this team. That's not-- that's not an issue. The issue is, what am I going to do with this opportunity?

CHRIS HAYNES: And you got two championships from-- from that, from your time there.

JAVALE MCGEE: It was extremely gratifying to-- to-- to be on a team that literally won a championship and actually contribute. Like, I wasn't on the bench. It's like a-- it's like a-- a full circle. You're like, OK, they say I can't do this. They say I'll never be this. But I did the one thing that every NBA player wants to do, and that's the whole point of playing basketball should be is winning an NBA championship. And I did it twice back to back. So I mean, it's a beautiful thing.

CHRIS HAYNES: Tell me about your time with the Lakers, two-- two seasons there.

JAVALE MCGEE: It was-- I mean, it was amazing just being able to to have that free-- so-- so the reason I left Golden State was just because I knew that my role was going to be the same, a-- a bench player, coming off the bench, playing 10 to 15 minutes a game. And I just felt like I already won two NBA championships. Do-- what-- what more can I do?

And I figured what I could do is raise my stock and play-- play more of a game that I-- I want to play rather than just, I guess-- I don't want to say in the shadows, but just not behind people. You get what I'm saying? The opportunity to start for one of the most prolific franchises in the world and to play alongside LeBron is an amazing thing, opportunity to have. So I had to take the opportunity when it was presented in front of me.

CHRIS HAYNES: You obviously won a championship in the bubble. But the-- the-- the minutes were down compared to last year. You had Dwight backing you-- backing you up that season.

JAVALE MCGEE: Yeah. I feel like the second season was-- was good, too, especially that first half of the season. I feel like that three-month hiatus really messed me up when it came to coming back into the bubble.

CHRIS HAYNES: You were still a-- a ultimate teammate. But-- but-- how-- how was that process like for you?

JAVALE MCGEE: I mean, the process was beautiful. Only thing I didn't like is just staying in one room for three months.

CHRIS HAYNES: Yeah.

JAVALE MCGEE: I felt like that was low-key depressing. I didn't-- I didn't like it at all. I liked being in the real world rather than the bubble, by far.

CHRIS HAYNES: There was-- there were guys-- and I'm gonna ask you this question. You can answer it however you want to. But there was guys that dealt with a level of depression there, you know, Paul George. I think Danny Grant, I think he might have said something. What was your mental state like there?

JAVALE MCGEE: I definitley-- I definitely feel like I felt the same way. At first, when they were saying that, I was looking at it like, what is there to be depressed about? But then I, like, after the bubble I sat down and really just looked at how I was in the bubble and how I felt in a bubble. And I was like, well, maybe I was depressed too. Because, you know, like, in the Black community, you really don't communicate what depression is or what this is. You just taught, like, something wrong. Get-- get over it. You know what I'm saying?

Like, we're men. That's what we're supposed to do. So in the Black community, we really don't talk about stuff like that. But I feel like I definitely was depressed in the bubble. It just wasn't-- it just wasn't it.

CHRIS HAYNES: Yeah, I was there. I felt the same way. So let's-- let's transition now to where you are right now. This is your 13th season. OK. So you're not a spring chicken. So I got to ask you this, Vale. How are you handling being on a young squad that you know that this is just a rebuild? Like, how are you coping with this?

JAVALE MCGEE: I enjoy the leadership role because technically when I found this out when I first got there, I'm the oldest player on the team.

CHRIS HAYNES: That's crazy.

JAVALE MCGEE: But I enjoy it. I enjoy the young guys. I enjoy my teammates. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy going out there and not say I don't play a couple of games, going out there the next time I go and actually being productive and just showing guys, like, how to be a pro.

CHRIS HAYNES: Could you have done this five, six years ago? Could you have this mindset?

JAVALE MCGEE: No, not at all. Not at all. I had a total different mind-- I had a total different mindset five, six years ago. I would have been-- probably would have been AWOL if-- if-- if it was a different situation.

CHRIS HAYNES: Yeah. Your name right now, man, your name is pretty hot as far as teams that-- contender teams that-- that are looking for a big. And right now-- we talked about it-- you got Joel Embiid over in Philly. You got Joker in Denver. You got Rudy Gobert in Utah. These are teams that have legitimate big men. And, you know, your name has been tied to some teams.

What-- what do you foresee happening? Do you welcome-- do you welcome a trade to a winning situation? What are you looking for? What's your expectation as the trade deadline approaches?

JAVALE MCGEE: Man truth--truth-- truthfully, I have no idea, man. I'm-- I'm just-- I'm just working hard every day, staying in shape, working-- working on my craft, keeping my mental right, making sure my family's good. And that's all I can really worry about. Everything else, it happens how it happens. If I-- if I end up being traded or-- or picked up by a contending team, that'll be a blessing.

But [BLEEP] Cavs might be a contending team the way we playing right now. There's just so many aspects to how the NBA is to where you can't really get your hopes up with anything. Like, you never know what could happen.

CHRIS HAYNES: Well, you know, Brooklyn is a team that you've been linked to.

JAVALE MCGEE: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS HAYNES: Now, you've seen-- you've seen those rumors. You've seen that out there, JaVale.

JAVALE MCGEE: Yeah.

CHRIS HAYNES: Come on. You-- you look good, you know, playing, you know, catching lobs from Kyrie, James Harden, KD, come on.

JAVALE MCGEE: I guess-- I guess they take into my-- my-- my-- my-- my time in Golden State and-- and just plugging me in there also because they're like, yeah, he thrived when he was in Golden State. So he definitely would thrive if he was in there-- over there in Brooklyn. But, hey, man, I'm just-- I'm just trying to go day by day and make sure I stay focused and focused on myself. If a-- if a team comes and gets me, then it is what it is. But, yeah, that's all I can do is just-- just stay in shape and stay myself and stay bouncy and stay dunking on people. That's all I can really do.