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NBA / Feb 18, 2010 / 3:31 pm

What New York means for T-Mac

Tracy McGrady (photo. adidas)

Earlier this season, Dime had a photo shoot set up with an NBA player who is notorious within the industry for being difficult with the media. This time, however, the player and his handlers were uncharacteristically cooperative and excited to do this shoot and be on their best professional behavior. Why? Because as his manager told us, Player X believed he had one more big contract left in him, so he wanted to do everything to get more exposure and project a positive image.

I wish I could tell you that Player X’s mindset is a rarity, but that’s how many pro athletes think. The desire to be put in position to win games and simply play at a high level isn’t necessarily the point. It’s all about the next contract.

That player was not Tracy McGrady, but as T-Mac finally leaves Houston today bound for New York, I wonder how he is approaching this new opportunity. Is this purely a basketball move for him, or strictly a money move, like it was for each of the larger entities (Knicks, Rockets, Kings) involved?

From the time T-Mac let it be known he was physically able to play this season, every word out of his mouth has indicated that this isn’t about money — he just wants to play ball. And I believe him.

So what kind of ball will he play in New York? Looking at the roster, there’s no reason McGrady can’t immediately suit up and start at two-guard or small forward, but more likely he’ll be brought along slowly for a few games at least to see where his conditioning is at and how he fits into the system.

Being as objective as I can, I see McGrady playing like Vince Carter has played in Orlando, producing numbers on-par with VC or with Rip Hamilton in Detroit. He’ll score 15-18 points a night with 4-5 rebounds and 3-4 assists; he’ll sit out some games here and there; and when the Knicks need a crunch-time bucket, he’ll be the first place they look.

The biggest obstacle will be simply being able to stay on the court. When T-Mac returned for about a week to the Rockets lineup in December, he looked old and slow, and admittedly had trouble keeping up with the team’s faster pace. Mike D’Antoni hasn’t been running the usual track meet for which he became known for in Phoenix, but the Knicks still play up-tempo and T-Mac will have to learn to stay in the race.

The Knicks shouldn’t have to slow down to accommodate McGrady, but he will thrive more in their half-court sets, where he can post up or hit pull-up jumpers. The days of consistently beating guys off the dribble are done, although Mac did show flashes of explosiveness in his brief Houston cameo.

Defense will also be an issue. Whenever McGrady was on the court this season with the Rockets, opponents identified who he was guarding and made a point to go after him. When it was Jonas Jerebko, no big deal. When it was Carmelo Anthony, the results were disastrous. Mac’s defense should improve in New York as he shakes off the rust and builds up his wind, but he won’t be getting a break until he proves he can stop somebody.

“Microfracture (knee surgery) is not some simple surgery to come back from,” McGrady said the night after he made his season debut. “So far, man, it just feels good to know I’m able to go back on the basketball court and hopefully soon be myself.

“You guys have no idea what I went through. No idea. I don’t have to prove nothing to these guys. I mean, I’m a seven-time All-Star. I’ve got individual accolades that show I can play the game. I need to prove something to myself.”

Forget the next team and the next contract; what happens on the court over the rest of this season is all that matters for now.

More T-Mac stories:

- T-Mac is the new Magic Johnson

Dream Team 2010: LeBron, Bosh and T-Mac in New York

Breaking down T-Mac’s return

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  • control

    It is ironic that the main situation that contributed to Tmac’s injury history, is the same situation he is being thrust into when/if he comes back from injury with NY.

    When he was in Orlando, he was a star surrounded by shit, taking on double, triple and quadruple teams on a night by night basis…IF he plays with NY, he’s going to be the best player surrounded by garbage again (even rusty AND injured). He’ll be pulling up limp in a week…

  • Gnasche

    Was it Sheed? I love the guy, and wish he was on my team, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was ‘player x’.

    I’m sure even the best job in the world starts to feel like regular ol’ work after a while.

  • Big V

    @ control:

    Is it your goal to make a disparaging comment on every Knicks-related post on the site?

    Seriously, there are probably better things for you to be doing with your time. Probably.

  • Lady Luck

    NY means a chance for Tracy to play and see if he has it to play at a high level again. No, he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. People bag on him for being injured, as if he chose to tear up his knee. When healthy, he was a dynamic player. I enjoyed watching him play. Now, I hope that he is able to revitalize his career, a la Grant Hill. NY is a good place to showcase his particular skill set. He has some time to work himself into game shape because he is going to get time on the court.

    Will Sergio Rodriguez start over Duhon?

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    Tracy will probably avg 20ppg or so for NY. Which will give Knicks fans the fuel they need to fire the LBJ coming to NY flames. example: “TMac and LBJ have very similar games. If TMAc can do good in this system with a banged up body, imagine what LBJ would do? He’d avg a triple double!

    In Reality, TMAc will play the year out in NY, then sign with New Jersy or Phx or some team that will let him get buckets for 3-4yrs or until retirement.

  • control

    Big V

    It’s not a goal of mine but it seems to work out that way eh? I didn’t even think I said anything that was that bad about the Knicks on last post.

    In fact, Tmac was one of my favorite players, I hope the guy gains a second wind in his career and tears some shit up. I’m not worried about his tearing it up on the Knicks actually improving their record though (due to the other players dragging him down), so it’s a win-win situation for someone who likes Tracy but dislikes the Knicks.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    the knicks dont play no uptempo style. shit, not with that puss duhon at the point.

    mike d’antoni is a wack ass bum ass coach. the knicks set their futures back by drafting his italian project; who sucks by the way.

    as for Tracy McGrady, he’ll play out the string in NY. maybe get a dunk or two. then He’s gonna sign with either NJ or the LA Clips.

    remember, homeboy is only 30yrs old.

    you think the Knicks are renting him, but he’s actually renting the Garden (for free)……

  • Michorizo

    Tracy is a girl’s name…

  • b

    heckler

    “mike d’antoni is a wack ass bum ass coach. the knicks set their futures back by drafting his italian project; who sucks by the way.”

    that is classic. definitely callin someone ‘a wack ass bum ass’ later.

  • Promoman

    I think the Rockets are more to blame as to why the McGrady Era in Houston failed. McGrady should’ve been shut down the minute that it was discovered that his knee was a problem. He may not have had to have microfracture surgery in the first place if he was rested and getting treatment. They also could’ve done the same with Yao too. It’s easy to bash him because he’s been out and he’ll need a good chunk of time to see if he’s really as washed up as people say.

  • spk2629

    My knock on T-Mac is an long-running one—- When he was in TOR w/ VC he cried that he wanted to be the “MAN”, he pouted and made his way to ORL to be as such, then had the gall to cry that he really didn’t want to be the “MAN”, he limped over to HOU w/ Yao and never actually took them to the levels that two premier players in the league @ that time should have been able to, since both have been nominated to the “Grant Hill / Marcus Camby Most Fragile Player in the NBA Award”.So, after a few years he out of the blue and like a little kid secretly, w/out conferring w/ the team that was in the playoffs, has season ending surgery. Usher in this year and what have you seen from T-Mac and his illustrious career? He isn’t a team player, he isn’t 22 years old, and he has everything to prove if he wants to get into the HOF.

  • http://opkpok.com JLEE

    Tracy Macgrady got tip drill

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @spk269 — I get where you’re coming from, but put yourself in T-Mac’s position. You’re a kid in Toronto with all the talent in the world but you’ll never be more than #2 because Vince is there (and you don’t really want to clash with your cousin anyway). So you say you want to be “The Man” somewhere else. Then you get that opportunity, and it’s not like you knew exactly what it would be like, thus you find out it’s harder than you imagined. (Plus T-Mac wasn’t originally supposed to be The Man in Orlando. Grant Hill was.) So now you’re older, wiser, and you realize you can’t do it all by yourself. It’s easy to say “crying” and “whining” when talking about these athletes, but remember they’re just people living and learning just like the rest of us.

  • UncheckedAggression

    Well put, AB.

    I am honestly curious about how this will work out. Just about the only thing that would surprise me is if he stepped in and played like an all star.

  • quest???

    this is what i hope happens. Mcgrady plays well this season, the knicks sign him for almost nothing next season. They sign two max worthy free agents (not necessarily, lebron or wade) for the sake of argument, lets say they sign bosh and Johnson. Then they go out and sign iverson to be the sixth man. Thats a pretty good team worthy of making a run in the playoffs.
    Potential starting lineup:

    Sergio Rodriguez/Allen Iverson
    Joe Johnson/Chandler
    Tracy Mcgrady
    Danilo Gallinari
    Chris Bosh
    Thats a pretty good rotation. The rest is to sign people on the minimum to round out the roster.

  • JBaller

    @ quest

    you crazy man

    that shniz aint right at all

    we be lucky if gallo don’t go bust and back to italy, and one max player comes to town much less puttin together a roster full of all stars

  • quest???

    @ jballer lool. yea they knicks are pretty much screwed if no one comes and they are forced to overpay for B level talent, but thats a risk they have to take.

  • quest???

    was that player x allen iverson?

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    Dang late on this and knew it was coming.
    Nice writing again AB. I agree with it all.

    I personally feel in short that Houston is as much if not more to blame for T-Mac’s time of being there. They failed to do what Boston showed was necessary. That is put people around your star quickly and while they are ready and able.

    More than injuries, more than different coaches, more than him not performing at varied times in playoffs, it was them not giving him what he needed early and he suffered, the franchise suffered and present day status is not really better for the franchise and not good almost at all for T.

    Hopefully things work out in NYC, he was good to the people and team of Houston and I will always be impressed with dude’s heart and the load he carried.

    Bang like T-Mac ~Jay-Z

  • sh!tfaced

    Hughes, Tim Thomas, Vin Baker, Starbury, Jonathan Bender, Penny, McDyess, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry and now TMAC

    What the fuck is up with the Knicks and has-been/never-was players?

    They love to acquire old, high-priced, washed-up superstars but when it comes to signing their own young solid players with potential (i.e. David Lee), they suddenly become penny-pinching negotiators?!

    Makes one wonder even more why they never gave AI a chance…

  • gmoney

    Did Tracy McGrady “invent” the whole “first letter of the first name, follow by the first 3 letters of the last name” thing? I can’t remember anyone before that….

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    A-Rod might have had that going before T-Mac, I can’t really remember. There was a while when that “Letter-Syllable” thing was out of control. “J-Ho” for Josh Howard was the worst.