- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fresh off the red-eye from California, the day before the Washington Wizards officially began training camp, center JaVale McGee arrived at Verizon Center on Thursday for a light workout with teammates John Wall and Andray Blatche.

McGee spent most of his offseason in the Los Angeles area following a conditioning routine that included swimming, boxing, and running along the beach and the Hollywood canyon. This year, McGee says he’s a different player.

“This summer, I mostly worked on my post moves, getting better and working on my hook shot,” McGee said. “I’m extremely glad to be back. I’m definitely excited to start the season again. I’m just really happy to see everybody.”

McGee will be a restricted free agent after this season and has a lot of expectations. Like his teammates, he’s also talking playoffs.

“I’m just trying to be a leader, trying to lead the team at least over a .500 season and hopefully to the playoffs,” McGee said. “We’re a young team, and I feel like we have an advantage over the older teams. Personally, I’ve seen some vets not play the second game of a back-to-back, so I know a back-to-back-to-back is going to mess up some schedules for some teams.”

McGee acknowledged that he does think about his contract status and expects it to affect how he performs this season.

“My expectations for myself are over a double-double, and three blocks,” McGee said. “I feel like even if I don’t perform well, but I help the team win and I’m a part of that, it will still be good.”

The 7-foot-center will be entering his fourth season with the Wizards after averaging 10.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks last season. McGee says the 66-game schedule could be just the advantage the Wizards need to make a run for the playoffs.

“This would be my first playoffs, if we make it. In a 66-game season, we might be able to do it,” McGee said. “We’ve got a lot of young legs, a lot of healthy legs and a lot of games with out any rest in between, so that’s really going to be to our advantage.

“The last month of our schedule is crazy with a lot of back-to-back-to backs. We have two of them. It’s crazy. I’ve never seen nothing like that before.”

McGee remains optimistic that the team will re-sign Nick Young, but says he’s hasn’t spoken with Young about his status.

“I’m definitely worried about whether or not Nick comes back,” he said. “That’s my friend and my teammate. He’s a big part of this team.”

Young is a restricted free agent, who averaged 17.4 points last season. Young and McGee also are also linked after their YouTube cinnamon challenge video became a media sensation, and caused Wizards coach Flip Saunders to question their maturity.

McGee said he’s seen Saunders’ comments.

“I don’t know how he wants me to do that, balance maturity and immaturity. We had other videos where we were giving book bags to kids, giving out turkeys, going to schools and stuff,” said McGee, who sometimes uses the alter ego “Pierre McGee” on his Twitter account.

“It’s really not that serious.”

As for Saunders’ other issue with McGee, his tendency to dribble full-court in his attempt to imitate a point guard, McGee said he’s done with that.

“No,” he said simply, when asked if he would do it again, then pulled his T-shirt over his head and shook his head.