T-Mac and L.T.: Has the Media Forgotten Who They Are?

Martin JohnsonContributor IApril 9, 2009

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 28:  Runningback LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball during the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on December 28, 2008 in San Diego, California.  The Chargers defeated the Broncos 52--21.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Last season, Yao Ming missed 27 games, and the Rockets were without their All-NBA Center for much of the second half of the season. Yao Ming left the team during their 22 game winning streak, when the Rockets had already won 12 consecutive games in the streak.

Tracy McGrady carried the Rockets in the second half of the season, while Yao was out. T-Mac averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game in the 29 games he played after the All-Star Game.

He averaged 21.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in 66 games last season.

While McGrady was playing great basketball, while Yao was out, Luis Scola, Rafer Altson, and Carl Landry stepped up also.

While T-Mac was drawing the attention of defenses, Alston was able to get wide open shots and became a vital option in the Rockets' offense.

Luis Scola and Carl Landry benefited from Yao's absence. They got more playing time and were able to score on their opponets' zone defense, since teams really couldn't play man to man with McGrady as the only big scoring threat.

That's how the Rockets won 55 games last season—just one game behind New Orleans and San Antonio for the Southwest Division Crown. McGrady led them in postseason in a conference where every playoff team won at least 50 games and 48-34 Golden State Warriors missed the postseason.

He finished eighth in MVP voting and was on the All-NBA Third Team. Unfortunately, the Rockets lost to the Utah Jazz in six games in the first round.

In the 2007 season, Ladainian Tomlinson led the NFL in rushing with 1,474 rushing yards. He also had 15 rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns and 1,949 total yards. He made the Pro Bowl and was named as the All-Pro first team running back.

Since Tomlinson doesn't play in the preseason, he started out the season a bit slow and is partially the reason why the Chargers started the season 5-5. However, he stepped up is game, and the Chargers finished the season on a six-game winning streak. Thanks to L.T.'s play, quarterback Phillip Rivers started to play better and that led to Rivers' great play that postseason and last season.

LaDainian Tomlinson even helped in the development in Michael Turner and Darren Sproles that season.

LaDainian Tomlinson didn't have all the carries for the San Diego Chargers that season. There were many times that the Chargers had two running backs on the field at the same time.

With a running back like L.T. in the backfield, defenses would focus on him since he was the Chargers' main option on offense. Now, when the Chargers went to Turner or Sproles, it caught defenses off guard. In 2007, Turner had 316 rushing yards, and Sproles had 164 rushing yards.

With everything that T-Mac and L.T. did in the 2007-2008 season, why is the media treating these great stars like they're past their prime, because they had a down year in the 2008-2009 season?

They both are just 29 years old. In the NBA, that's usually when a player is in their prime.

McGrady's production has severely declined this season. He averaged 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in just 35 games this season, but his decline isn't because he's past his prime but he was playing with an injury.

Even with his injury, the Rockets still ran their offense with McGrady as the second scoring option.

McGrady struggled with that role and messed up the chemistry of the team. That's why the Rockets' have done better since McGrady announced that he was going to take surgery and would be out for the season.

I understand that part of the reason for McGrady's criticism is his postseason failures.

I really can't defend T-Mac on that point. He's one of the best postseason performers in NBA history, statistically anyway, but in the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, his team, Orlando Magic, led the series 3-1, but couldn't close the deal, and his team lost the series.

The other two series, McGrady was in, went to game seven—one of the games was at home—he lost them both and at one of them, during the 2005 Western Conference Quarterfinals, his team lost by 40 points.

Although, in the NFL, a running back's prime usually ends at about 30, L.T. is still in his prime. The only reason his production declined last season was because he didn't play in the preseason, and he was injured.

The only time last season he was 100 percent was during the first half of the Denver game in Week 17. He had 96 rushing yards in just 14 carries.

Even though, he had a down year last year, he still had 1,110 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. That's still among the best in the AFC.  

Last season, the Chargers wouldn't have beaten the Colts with L.T. in the game. He was hurt, he would be ineffective, and the Colts would focus on stopping Phillip Rivers, knowing that's there's no threat in the running game.

Darren Sproles was needed to win the game, but that shouldn't mean that Sproles is better than L.T. The Chargers shouldn't have made Sproles the highest paid running back on the team.

As you see, two great superstars have been disrespected by the media, because of a down year due to injury.

I just hope that L.T. bounces back and shows the world why he's still one of the best running backs in the NFL today and that T-Mac plays like the great player we all know and love.