Lakers Praise JaVale McGee And Dwight Howard For Their Maturity In Handling Less Playing Time

Melissa Rohlin

JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard have taken a backseat role in the Lakers' Western Conference semifinals series against the Houston Rockets. 

McGee, who averaged 16.6 minutes in 68 starts during the regular season, has played in just three of the team's four games against the Rockets, averaging 8.9 minutes. 

And Howard, who averaged 19.8 minutes in 69 games, hasn't played in the team's last three contests, only playing 11 minutes and 9 seconds in Game 1 of the series. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he intended to play Howard in Game 2, but a strong performance off the bench from Markieff Morris made him change course. 

The Lakers have played Anthony Davis at center for much of the series to better match up against the small-ball Rockets. 

After their 110-100 win over the Rockets in Game 4 on Thursday, Davis praised the way McGee and Howard have handled less playing time. 

"As far as the two bigs, JaVale and Dwight, it’s tough coming into a series where you start playing and then you get pulled out and then don’t see any minutes," Davis said. 

The Lakers' bigs have shown maturity throughout it all. 

And that's not common. 

"A lot of guys can just fadeaway and be upset that they’re not playing," Davis said. "Guys come in and say they want to do whatever to help the team win, but when they don’t get minutes they, like I said, fadeaway. But those guys said at the start of the season that they want to be here and do whatever they can to help the team, and you see it."

Instead of sulking, they've become the team's most vocal cheerleaders. 

"They’re the loudest guys on our bench cheering for our guys, talking to us during the game, talking to us during timeouts and that’s what we need," Davis said. "Two guys who have been in the league for a long time. Dwight’s been to The Finals, JaVale, multiple championships, so, those guys know what it takes to win and we try to listen to them. And when their number is called, they still do the right thing to be ready." 

Vogel echoed Davis. 

He said over the team's last couple of games, he talked to McGee and Howard about how even though they have a decreased role on the court, they're still every bit as important to the team's success. 

"Their energy on the bench is a big part of our group’s enthusiasm," Vogel said. "There’s no fans, you know what I mean, so how active we are, how engaged we are with the guys that are not on the floor, is a big part of generating our own energy. And Dwight and JaVale were the loudest guys on the bench last night."

Vogel added that it's been a big relief that McGee and Howard have been so selfless and understanding. 

"Their role acceptance in a matchup-oriented series like this is everything and it’s a big reason why we’re winning," Vogel said. "If they’re unhappy or disgruntled or anything like that, it pulls away from what we’re trying to do. Those guys deserve a lot of credit for their approach and handling the role that’s been given to them for this series."