McGrady To The Bulls: A Story That Could Have a Happy Ending

Larry TuckerContributor IJuly 27, 2010

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20:  Tracy McGrady #3 of the New York Knicks with the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2010 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Bust out Benny the Bull!  Tracy McGrady may be on his way to the Chicago Bulls.  The fans are at the airport.  Jerry Reinsdorf is making himself available for a late pitch.  Wait.  No.  All of that was ten years ago, when the Bull's originally targeted the 6-8 free agent to help rebuild the franchise.  He eventually chose to go elsewhere, leaving the Bulls to splurge on the great Ron Mercer.   

This time the courting of the formal all-star has been comparably muted.  In fact, many fans and media outlets have gone on the record as being against the potential signing.  Detractors point to the damaged body, an aversion to playing defense, and a staggering 8.2 points per game average as reasons to pass. 

Not all people in Chicago are skeptical.  McGrady is clearly past his prime.  But that doesn't mean that he has passed the stage of his life where he can be useful to an NBA team.  Derrick Rose recently told ESPN "He's good," Rose said. "He's a player. If he just gives us half of what he's got, we'll be all right."

Is Rose right?  Does McGrady improve the Bulls?  The answer is that he might.  McGrady wasn't good last year.  If he goes on to average 8.2 ppg next year, it won't be the difference between the Bulls moving past the first round of the playoffs.   However, he's not taking the place of an established player.  At worst, he's rounding out the bench. 

8.2 points per game is the worst case scenario.  The best case scenario is much more enticing, and is the reason it makes sense to make a run at him.  It's not impossible to imagine that McGrady makes significant strides next year. 

McGrady underwent dreaded microfracture surgery on February 24, 2009.  Microfracture surgery is being done more and more, but it's still a serious surgery that includes drilling holes in bone so that blood will rise to the surface to stimulate the regeneration of cushion in the joint.  It's not pretty.  While players that have undergone microfracture have returned to NBA teams in a year, the rule of thumb is that it takes players two years to fully recover.   McGrady won't be at that point in his recovery until the middle of this coming years season.  This means that it's possible that McGrady will see a bounce in the athleticism  that his game has always depended on. 

McGrady 2010 is not comparable to McGrady 2000.  That player was athletic, versatile and a dominate scorer.  That version of McGrady was also expensive.  This version is cheap, has some upside, and is replaceable if it falls apart.  McGrady himself needs to realize this in order for the Bulls management to take the plunge.  It seems the persona of being the leading scorer in the NBA lives longer than the ability to leap over tall people.  If McGrady realizes  his potential place in the Bull's pecking order is as a secondary character this time around, maybe the Bulls will finally get their man.