It was just a little over a year ago when the lockout forced a group of NBA rotation players overseas in search of employment. The Chinese Basketball Association opened their doors to a handful of players under the condition that those players finish out their contracts in the league no matter when the lockout ended. Guys like J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin all came “home” after stints in the CBL and joined playoff contending teams to finish out the season last March.
This year a new trio of fairly well known names look to share the same fate — except this time it’s not that the lockout forced them abroad. It was a lack of interest from NBA teams that sent them to China. A harsh and humbling reality that may still hold true for some of these players. Nonetheless, the triumvirate of Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas and Eddy Curry all played well (statistically speaking) in the CBL. Nobody will expect them to come back to the league and average the same numbers they did in China. However, they could be useful rotation pieces to teams in the playoff hunt. All unrestricted free agents or players currently playing overseas can be signed all the way up until the final day of the regular season: April 17.
Let’s take a look at each and name five teams that could potentially use their services for the final push of the season.
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CBL Stats: 25 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 56 percent shooting in 29 games
McGrady’s all-around skill level has never been in question, but his heart and ability to stay healthy often have been. After a heartfelt goodbye/retirement from the NBA in a letter in the fall, T-Mac set sail for the CBL and led his team, the Qingdao Double Star Eagles, to a disappointing 8-24 record. His stats indicate that he can still play in the league but is he even interested? Who could he help?
The Portland Trail Blazers need help in just about every position off the bench. McGrady could play behind Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum at the two and three positions, giving the team another playmaker to help them make a run at the No. 8 seed in the West.
The Memphis Grizzlies are long on defense but short on offense, ranking just 26th in points per game. Scoring has never been a problem for McGrady and his ability to share the ball would fit nicely with the bigs Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
The Golden State Warriors lack a legitmate backup at the small forward position (no offense Richard Jefferson) behind rookie Harrison Barnes. Instead, they opt to slide Klay Thompson to the three and play a backcourt of Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry when they rest Barnes. It works and I am certainly not knocking it, but T-Mac is a viable option to help bolster the bench. Plus he has some playoff experience (albeit in losing efforts), something that not many of the young Warriors have.
The Brooklyn Nets are another team with limited scoring ability, ranking just 20th overall in the league. However, it’s McGrady’s playmaking that would be a welcome addition in Brooklyn. The Nets are an abysmal 28th in assists per game and are desperate for someone to get that second unit going. T-Mac also has some familiarity with Joe Johnson as a teammate after the two joined forces in Atlanta a season ago, which would make for a nice reunion and a sizeable backcourt.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been a rumored desired destination of T-Mac for a few years now. How awesome would it be to see T-Mac and the Mamba on the wings with Steve Nash leading the break? Okay I realize this isn’t 2002, but nostalgia is fun sometimes. Still, T-Mac could be a serviceable backup to Kobe and Metta World Peace, limiting the amount of time Jodie Meeks is on the court. McGrady’s ability to pass would be immense in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and could make Dwight Howard a happier Superman.