- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

LAS VEGAS | The Washington Wizards aren’t keeping it a secret that they are shopping for an experienced big man.

Rumors continue to swirl that the Wizards are targeting anyone from Fabricio Oberto to Chris Wilcox to fill a void at center.

JaVale McGee thinks he can put an end to that. Entering his second NBA season, the 7-footer who played at Nevada knows he needs an impressive summer league performance to earn a spot in the Wizards’ starting lineup.

“That’s definitely my main goal right now,” McGee said. “Any player wants to be the main guy. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can and be the best at my position.”

As a rookie, McGee appeared in 75 games, starting 14, and averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15.2 minutes. Although those numbers are a far cry from the 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds he averaged in his last season at Nevada, the Wizards think McGee can develop into a marquee center in the NBA.

“That’s why he is here,” said assistant coach Randy Wittman, who is coaching the summer league squad. “He has to show that he can control the paint in this setting because it’s a whole other level in the NBA. He has to take these five games and say, ‘I’m going to dominate the paint’ from a scoring standpoint but also in rebounding, blocking shots and overall play.”

So far, McGee has yet to dominate in his second summer league stint. In the Wizards’ first two games, McGee is 6-for-21 from the floor. On the plus side, he is averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, up from 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds last summer.

“I don’t know; I feel the same, and I think I’m more prepared,” McGee said. “Every game is another chance to prove yourself.”

Even though the Wizards might sign a free agent to help back up Brendan Haywood, McGee faces stiff competition from the summer league roster, too. The team is loaded with big men, including Andray Blatche, 7-footer John Edwards and rookies Alade Aminu and Josh Heytvelt.

“We are all trying to earn our spots, but right now I think both me and JaVale really need to do what we can to prove that they don’t need to go out and find somebody else to be the big man,” Blatche said.

Despite attracting a lot of attention in college, former Gonzaga star Heytvelt barely has been on the court, averaging seven minutes and only taking three shots so far. Meanwhile, the more experienced Blatche, who is starting alongside McGee this summer, is averaging 24 points and 12.5 rebounds.

Ultimately, McGee’s age and durability could make him an attractive long-term choice. McGee, 21, did not miss a game because of injury last season.

“We really want a versatile player at center,” Wittman said. “We want a big guy that we can run our offense through - someone who can post up, pass and dribble.”

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