It's finally over; well, almost.
McGrady clamored to play, and the Rockets finally caved in. Granting him seven to eight minutes per game, the Rockets had a chance to see his production while potentially having an ulterior motive: the ability to showcase T-Mac to potential suitors.
In his return, the deal was, in the first six games McGrady would play six to seven minutes during the first quarter, and that would be his only stint regardless of how well or how poorly he played.
After that, he would be further evaluated for a potential bigger role in the offense.
The six games came and went, and McGrady suggested it was time for the Rockets to increase his minutes.
He didn't do anything eye popping. But for a player coming off of micro-fracture knee surgery and not having played in nearly a year, McGrady had already defended the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, and Vince Carter, while showing some of the flashes of his explosive self against the Clippers.
He showed signs, but looked lost at times both on offense and defense. Regardless of his play, the consensus was seven to eight minutes wasn't enough to judge whether he was back to the once-so-smooth offensive player that he was, or had he become another "has been."
When Rick Adelman refused to grant McGrady's more minutes, McGrady left the Rockets, and the organization agreed.
The decision was made: McGrady and the Rockets would be splitting up. Both sides agreed a trade was the best situation for both parties.
McGrady will never suit up for the Rockets again, a team in which McGrady enjoyed three seasons making the All-NBA team, and finishing in the top 10 of MVP Voting.
The Rockets have to trade him, and trade him fast. This will only become a greater distraction down the road.
The Rockets will continue to play, but not until McGrady is traded will the media and fans stop talking about the situation and give more credit for the team's success to where it's due, the emergent sixth man of the year, Carl Landry.
The question now becomes, to whom, and for what?
ESPN has already reported the Rockets have turned down a deal based around Gilbert Arenas. It's a good move on the Rockets part rejecting the deal, as his contract is a negative, and for the same reasons the Rockets don't want to give McGrady more minutes, the same qualities Arenas possesses.
Arenas could potentially disrupt the chemistry, demanding the ball in his hands.
Finding a trade partner will be harder than it seems. Contending teams don't have the pieces to match up with McGrady's league-leading $23 million salary, and rebuilding teams don't want to give up young pieces for a player who creates some financial flexibility but won't be there next season.
Pat Riley and the Heat have reported interest, but a straight-up move of Jermaine O'Neal for McGrady doesn't make any sense for the Heat.
Their big man depth is putrid enough, and with Quentin Richardson playing well and Dorrell Wright finding himself in the rotation, the wing depth and production is much stronger than the depth the Heat would have in such a scenario.
Udonis Haslem, James Jones, and Quentin Richardson would work under the cap, but the deal doesn't make sense for Houston taking on Jones' longer contract with no real incentive to play Haslem with both Landry and Scola.
The Knicks are seemingly involved in every rumor, but aside from breaking down McGrady's expiring deal into smaller pieces, the Knicks don't have much to offer. It'd be expected as a last-resort type of deal.
It's reported the Rockets are not completely opposed to the idea of acquiring long-term contracts, but not for the likes of Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries.
The Kings are another team as a potential suitor. In Kevin Martin's absence, Tyreke Evans has emerged as a potential star. This could leave Martin on the block. But for a hefty price, and that would likely include the addition of taking on long-term contracts like those of Andres Nocioni and Beno Udrih.
Even then, it's hard to imagine the Kings won't give Evans and Martin another chance together. Both are young, and with Evans' slashing game, and Martin's perimeter scoring, it'd seem like a match that's waiting to happen. It would likely be the best-case scenario for the Rockets, but for that reason alone, that's an unlikely scenario.
Based purely on speculation, the Chicago Bulls seem to be the most realistic destination. With the recent firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro, the need for a shakeup is obvious.
The Bulls could potentially offer the contracts of Brad Miller and John Salmons, both of whom would contribute on the Rockets, and the Bulls save some potentially large money if Salmons were not to opt out of his contract.
McGrady would give a big name, with the potential to make the Bulls a better team, at the worst he's another shot-creator aside from Rose.
The Rockets get a center who is proven under Adelman in Miller. Salmons is a versatile hybrid-guard/forward who is struggling, but could thrive with a change of scenery, similar to his first year with the Bulls.
Ultimately, no one knows what Daryl Morey and the Rockets have up their sleeves. There's certainly the option that the Rockets would keep holding out, potentially all the way to the deadline, but the longer McGrady is not traded, the bigger the distraction becomes.
It's not an option to let his contract expire, as that would tarnish the franchise's name, virtually holding him hostage and potentially ruining his career.
The McGrady era in Houston is almost over.
For a guy who will be remembered for giving up on defense against the Toronto Raptors and Jamario Moon instead of his spectacular offense, it's a sad end to his tenure in Houston.
All the good memories get erased, such as All-NBA teams, numerous games in which the same Houston fans chanted "MVP, MVP" at every home game.
The 13 points in 33 seconds, the famous dunk on Bradley, and being the main man, carrying the Rockets to the playoffs in three of the five previous seasons.
But ultimately, the goal had not been reached, the failure to advance past the first round. And when that success finally came for the Rockets, McGrady was not present to take in the glory, as he was on the sidelines watching his teammates do something he's yet to do in his bittersweet career.
He's not done yet; He claims whatever team acquires him, he will be a "hungry" player ready to produce and lead.
But the chances are slimmer every time McGrady misses a game. He's still got game and will be an impact player, but how much an impact he will make is yet to be seen.
As a young 25-year-old, coming off a disappointing Game Seven against the Dallas Mavericks, McGrady avenged that he would have the last laugh.
Unfortunately from that point, it's been more ridicule, both rightfully so, and those uncalled for. There's still time for that, but as of now, it seems Adelman is the one laughing.
In any situation, this one has been for a couple months coming. When it's finally done, and McGrady is traded, you can only hope it's best for both sides.
The ideal situation is one in which McGrady can prove his worth, and the Rockets come away with an impact player who is only able to add on to the unheralded story of those gritty and tough Houston Rockets, still finding ways to win without that supposed superstar.
It's the end of the road for both sides, but also a time for new beginnings.
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