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JaVale McGee embracing role as Lakers’ defensive anchor

JaVale McGee, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have had plenty of frontcourt drama since the beginning of the summer. They signed DeMarcus Cousins to be the man in the middle, only for Cousins to suffer a torn ACL. Most indications pointed to the Lakers pivoting to Joakim Noah as a potential replacement, but they instead elected to bring back Dwight Howard, who was–for all intents and purposes–excommunicated from Los Angeles following a one-year stint with the Lakers during the 2012-13 season. One forgotten man amidst all the drama has been JaVale McGee, who re-signed with the Lakers after he made 62 starts for the team last season.

McGee told Mike Bresnahan of “Spectrum SportsNet” that he is enjoying his role as the Lakers interior stopper (transcript via Christian Rivas of SB Nation):

“I’ve been working on the same things. Just getting strong, staying strong, getting in my best shape and best conditioning. Making sure that I can run the floor, rim run, block shots and be a defensive presence like I’ve been. I’ve been working on my shot a little bit, but with the guys we have, the shooters, we have, I’m sure that’s not going to be one of the useful parts of my game.”

“I mean, of course if coach draws it up, I’m ready. My shot is there. But I know my role, I know what I’m here for. (To) be a vocal person on defense just because I’m the anchor of the defense, and just making sure that I’m in the spots I need to be at, especially with the great players that we have.”

Last year marked the first season since 2011-12 that McGee played at least 20 minutes per game, and he took full advantage.

The 31-year-old averaged a career-high 12.0 points per game in addition to 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The Lakers do not have the most imposing of defensive personnel, but McGee and L.A. newcomer Anthony Davis form a fearsome defensive frontcourt.

If McGee can stay healthy, he figures to once again play a vital role for the Lakers.