Tracy McGrady a Future Laker? Why Mitch Kupchak Could Be Targeting T-Mac
Coming off a championship, Mitch Kupchak has quickly gotten to work to ensure the Lakers have the pieces they need to contend for another title this upcoming season.
This includes bringing back arguably the heart of the Lakers in Derek Fisher, losing Jordan Farmar to free agency but replacing him with proven veteran Steve Blake, and selecting two promising rookies in the second round of the draft.
As of right now, the Lakers have 10 guaranteed contracts on the books for next season. However, the stellar play of draft choices Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter at the Las Vegas Summer League make it very likely that both of those players will end up making the Lakers roster, taking the slots of DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell.
Assuming that both make the team, and they don't bring back restricted free-agent Adam Morrison, the Lakers then have 12 players on the roster.
They will need to make one more move to round out their team for next season.
There seems to be a very small likelihood of the Lakers looking at making a trade to round out their roster. I'm sure that Mitch Kupchak wants to keep the core group together, even more-so after Phil Jackson announced he would be returning for one last season as the Lakers head coach. Besides, this is a team that has gone to three straight NBA Finals.
With Luke Walton's uncertain future regarding his recurring back injuries, and three years left on his deal, it makes him just about untradeable. Sasha Vujacic, entering the last year of his contract, may be a tradeable asset, but Mitch will likely keep him around as insurance.
Another name that has come up quite a bit is Lamar Odom. However, there has been no chatter at all regarding his name in trade talks, usually when a team is shopping a player around his name will get out to the media, but Lamar's name has been out of the spotlight, save for mentions of the new reality television show he is starring in with his wife Khloe Kardashian.
Therefore, it looks most likely that the Lakers are not looking to make a trade, leaving them to look at free agency to find the final piece to their puzzle. With Raja Bell signing with Utah, the Lakers will need to look elsewhere.
Shannon Brown has been rumored to be close to returning to L.A. Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports has quoted Shannon Brown's agent Mark Bartelstein of saying, “Mitch [Kupchak] and I have been talking and we’re getting there on something.”
So, it looks like Shannon may likely return to the Lakers, but until a contract is signed, nothing is official. Let us assume then that that the Lakers are still looking at free agent candidates to sign.
A rumored free agent candidate acquisition for the Lakers is small forward Tracy McGrady. T-Mac has had an injury and conflict-plagued last several seasons, but may be interested in showing the league he still is a good player, and may want to win a ring.
The fact is though, while Tracy has had a number of injuries, his attitude may be what is keeping most teams away from him. He's had a falling out in all of his stops.
He never informed the Rockets management he would be out for the year, they heard it from the media. He has also stated that the Lakers have not contacted him yet and, knowing Mitch Kupchak, if they haven't done so yet, they probably aren't looking at him at all.
The fact is, McGrady's career may turn out much like Grant Hill's, who is still playing at a high level even at age 37. Both have had injury-marred carreers, meaning that both have had less mileage on their bodies than others at their age. Neither has won a ring. One key difference though is that Grant Hill is a consummate gentleman, McGrady is considered aloof and self absorbed.
However, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant whom is good friends with Tracy, as well as Phil Jackson who has always been able to motivate players that other coaches could not. Furthermore, the Lakers give McGrady the best chance to win a ring. He also faces less pressure than he would be facing on other teams as he would be backing up Ron Artest and/or Kobe.
Looking beyond T-Mac, the biggest hole the Lakers may need to plug is at backup center, especially given the shaky injury situation with Andrew Bynum's knees since his coming into the league.
The Lakers have several big-bodies that they can play at center in Gasol, Odom or Derrick Caracter, but each of those players are more natural fits at power forward. However, there simply isn't much quality available at the position, NBA drifters and underachievers are all the available free agents out there. All except one, Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaq is a very unlikely pickup for the Lakers, for a variety of reasons, however it is a possibility that can't be completely discounted given the need the Lakers have at backup center. It is very unlikely that he goes back to Miami given the bitter breakup he ended his time there with, especially with Pat Riley.
At one practice Alonzo Mourning had to physically break up a confrontation between Shaq and Riley, there is no way that Pat risks poisoning the team he's building by bringing in a 38-year-old backup center. Shaq would like to win another ring as he has stated, to pass Tim Duncan, and really enjoyed his time in L.A.
If you look at the recently completed Lakers Las Vegas Summer League roster, you see a couple of interesting names. D.J. Strawberry showed stretches of good play and some gritty defense that the Lakers could use at the point guard position. He also happens to be a long guard, at 6'5'', an asset that Phil Jackson loves in his guards.
Gerald Green also showed some nice moments, he made the play of the summer with his rim-rocking slam dunk over the Kings Omri Casspi , but the fact is he needs to work on his jump shooting to make the NBA. If Gerald Green had the dedication to work hard on his jumper, there is no reason why he can't make it in the league. But no matter how athletic a player you are, you can't stay in the NBA as a guard without a jump shot.
Every other player in the summer league without a contract is essentially a free agent, however teams mostly play the players they own the rights to, it is hard for some to get more than a few minutes here and there and make enough of an impression. A couple of these include Ryan Thompson (Celtics/Kings from Rider) brother to the King's Jason Thompson, and Sherron Collins (Bobcats from Kansas) who was undrafted due to a hand injury.
All of this may be mute if the Lakers interest in re-signing Shannon Brown is true, which is likely the case as Shannon has shown moments of improved play and played a big role with the second team during the playoffs.
Personally, I'd love to see the Lakers reach out to Tracy McGrady. I think they could use his jump shooting and penetration on the second team. A motivated, healthy McGrady is clearly the best free agent left unsigned. His volatile history though may keep only lesser teams from considering him.
One thing is for sure, with the exciting T-Mac in a Laker jersey, the stands at the Staples Center would be full until final tick of the clock, no one would want to miss a moment of him being on the court. Either Shannon Brown, or maybe McGrady, the Lakers won't make a bad signing with either one.
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