PHOENIX — It was not where you would have picked JaVale McGee to be a month ago.
On Friday afternoon at Chase Field prior to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ tilt against the Los Angeles Dodgers, McGee took some batting practice, snagged some fly balls and got some long toss in ahead of his first pitch to promote his sixth annual Water For Life Charity Softball Game on June 22 at the ballpark.
The night prior, the Golden State Warriors won the Western Conference, defeating a Dallas Mavericks team that knocked McGee’s Phoenix Suns out of the playoffs.
That’s just how it goes, and the three-time champion with 14 NBA seasons under his belt knows that better than most.
“I’m the type of person where whatever happens, happens for a reason — it’s supposed to happen. But unfortunately I didn’t want that to happen,” McGee told Arizona Sports on Friday. “That Game 7, we definitely didn’t show up the way we should have but that’s the tide that’s turned. That’s how things happen.
“Good luck to Dallas and now they lost to Golden State so good luck to Golden State. It’s just part of basketball.”
McGee will continue to build up his relationship with the Valley via the softball game, one that will raise money for the Juglife Foundation. Since 2013, the foundation McGee co-founded promotes a healthy and active lifestyle through drinking water.
When McGee got to the NBA, one of the first things his mother preached to him was philanthropy. He took part in the usual turkey drives for Thanksgiving and handing out presents on Christmas but the foundation was a huge step forward to doing even more.
The Juglife Foundation has helped get six water wells set up in Uganda and is in the process of putting a sports complex there as well.
“We’re just doing a lot of things on that side of the world that people tend to forget about,” McGee said. “Third world countries that really need our help and that’s just what we’re passionate about.”
Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, Chris Paul, Cam Payne and Ish Wainright are the teammates McGee will have playing in the game at Chase Field you can purchase tickets to here.
“I just want the fans to come out and have fun and really enjoy the team because we had a great season like I said this year,” McGee said. “So just something other than basketball. It’s a great experience and every team I’ve done it with, it’s been a great turnout and everybody loves it. I’m excited.”
The question is if those will be McGee’s teammates next year. The 34-year-old is an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason. He joins Deandre Ayton (restricted) and Bismack Biyombo (unrestricted) as free agent centers on last year’s roster, and with the only player on the books for next season being the injured Dario Saric, there’s a lot of uncertainty around the position.
McGee spoke highly of his time in Phoenix throughout the year and said the Suns are on the list of teams he’d consider.
“Definitely consider it, definitely consider an opportunity,” he said. “At this point in my career, I’m definitely focused on myself and what’s best for me and my situation and my family. I know what I bring to a team if it’s any organization that I go to. For me, that’s what it’s all about. Make sure I’m valuing myself as much as the team (is) valuing me.”
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