A few weeks ago in a Saturday morning matinée, the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks squared off in the “Mecca of Basketball,” Madison Square Garden. Aside from it turning out to be a rather entertaining game, the drama went beyond the clutch shots exchanged between both teams.
It marked the eventual comeback of Tracy McGrady to the Houston Rockets, but this time as an opposing player on the Knicks. T-Mac was traded to the New York Knicks in a three-way deal on February 18th, with the Rockets receiving a variety of pieces, including draft picks, rookie Jordan Hill, and star scoring guard Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings.
McGrady showed signs of his old-self, scoring 15 points, grabbing seven boards, dishing out five assists, and contributing defensively with two blocks and two steals. It bodes the question, did the Rockets do the right thing in their decision to trade T-Mac?
It's important to know the events that led to the decision, a relationship that had shown all signs of a divorce from early last season.
Fresh off a year in which the Rockets had won 22 games in a row, McGrady opted to have shoulder surgery on his non-shooting hand, and arthroscopic knee surgery in the off-season.
Coming into the 08-09 season, the Rockets had large expectations with the addition of Ron Artest. A move that was supposed to catapult the Rockets into legitimate contenders.
Instead, it was obvious McGrady was not in shape to begin the season, and the rust didn't seem to wear off as the season progressed. In and out of the lineup, McGrady showed signs of his normal self with a triple double, and other various bursts of scoring, but it was more often than not, mediocre-to-poor games on both ends of the floor.
He looked slow, and his jump shot was broke. It wasn't until the Rockets played the Milwaukee Bucks. McGrady had stolen the ball, ran the length of the floor going up for what would have been an easy dunk.
Instead he barely grazed the rim, failing to get any sort of elevation.
At that point, McGrady sought more doctors' opinions on his troublesome knee. Rocket doctors told him he would be able to pay through the pain, but McGrady wasn't convinced. He was out of the lineup until Dr. Tom Clanton suggested micro-fracture knee surgery for Tracy.
McGrady agreed, but instead of telling the Rockets of the decision, he told the media first. The same way I learned of his season ending surgery, was the same way the Rockets organization did. That created the bridge between both sides.
And to make matters worse for McGrady, the Rockets advanced past the first round, beating the Portland Trailblazers, a feat the Rockets hadn't accomplished in over a decade of their recent history, and something Tracy has yet to do in his bittersweet career. The bridge began to grow larger, it seemed like the Rockets no longer needed McGrady.
Fast forward to this season, McGrady had teamed with world renown trainer Tim Grover to get back at the level we're all accustomed to. In a surgery expected to miss over a full calender year, McGrady seemed on track to get back in six months.
He missed the first month of the season, and clamored to play more. This time the Rockets decided against it, claiming he wasn't ready, even when the doctors had cleared him to play.
Then in a decision out of the blue, Adelman decided to play McGrady for a six-game stretch where he'd receive seven minutes per game. After those six games he would be re-evaluated. McGrady played sporadically in those games, but showed signs with an 11-point game in one of those seven minute cameos. McGrady then clamored for more minutes.
McGrady had showed enough to warrant a slight boost in his minutes, especially with the abysmal play of Ariza and various injuries to Battier and Budinger. Adelman refused, claiming “There were no minutes to go around, and not wanting a repeat of last year.” It seemed Adelman had an agenda with McGrady to put it simply.
Both sides would then agree parting ways would be the best decision for both parties. It seemed like McGrady handled the situation poorly last season, but the Rockets were the culprits this season.
Two months later and the Rockets traded McGrady in a three-team blockbuster.
Since then, McGrady has played in 23 games with the Knicks this season. In those games, he's had a couple of explosive games, including his first game back with a 26-point outburst against Durant and the Thunder.
But ultimately, much like last season, to an even greater extent, he's had considerably more worse than the good.
He's not played in most fourth quarters due to fatigue, missed three games because of soreness (games in which the Knicks have gone 3-0). He's only scored over 15 points in three games, none of which occurring this past month of the season, and 11 games in which he's scored six points or less. For the season, he's averaging: 9.7 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game on 38.9% from the floor, and 25.0% from downtown.
In the end, Adelman didn't want a repeat of last season, and that's exactly what would have happened had the Rockets had caved into the demands of McGrady for minutes. He's already burning bridges with the Knicks, as he has played poorly, hurt his stock while still suffering from various injuries, and already started rumors that he won't be in the Knicks plans next season.
There was no hidden agenda all along, Adelman was spot-on, and with the resurgent play of Jordan Hill, and Kevin Martin providing what was expected when acquired, and potentially valuable Knicks first-round picks, the Rockets made out like bandits.
It was a relationship that showed signs of ending last season, and with the Rockets getting back what are solid pieces for both the present and future to make a title run next season, the Rockets most definitely made the right move in trading McGrady.