It was the summer of 2004 and I was in Houston for the MLB All-Star Game. The city was excited for the Mid-Summer Classic but that was not the only talk of the town. There was almost as much discussion about the Rockets' recent trade of Steve Francis AKA The Franchise for the incredibly athletic superstar, Tracy McGrady.
McGrady averaged 28 ppg the year before in Orlando and was just two years off of a 32 ppg year. Most people considered him to be the best scorer in the NBA. The hype in Houston was that putting T-Mac alongside Yao Ming would give them a championship competitor.
As the Detroit Pistons sign McGrady this offseason, they get a shell of what he once was.
McGrady is a two-time scoring champion. He is a seven time All-Star, he has been All-NBA First Team twice, as well as the league's Most Improved Player. It is an impressive resume.
The Raptors drafted Tracy ninth overall in 1997. He had no college experience and was one year removed from a senior year where he was named the High School Player of the Year by USA Today. This was after Garnett and Kobe, but before LeBron, and he was the only player in the '97 Draft to come straight out of high school. At the time, high school players needed unbelievable athleticism to even be considered draftable.
In his rookie season with Toronto, McGrady came off the bench most of the season and averaged seven points per game with 4.2 boards. It stayed that way for a few seasons. However, there was no doubt that he could someday be a star with the sort of talent he possessed.
The '00-01 season was his first in Orlando and he must have felt a warm welcome because he absolutely exploded there. He went from 15.4 points to 26.8 in one season. He was awarded the Most Improved Player in the NBA. Despite four amazing years in Orlando, T-Mac never made it as far into the playoffs as his ability suggested he should. It should be remembered however that his supporting cast in Orlando make Shaq, Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams look like the Dream Team.
Unfortunately, for the fans of the Houston Rockets, he never was able to bring them much more than he brought to the Magic. His talent and athleticism have always been undeniable, but his will to win, determination, and ability to help a team have been questioned.
Now he is 31 years old and has suffered back spasms, knee injuries, and shoulder injuries. The athleticism that was once undeniable has deteriorated as fast as the numbers on his stat sheet. In the 24 games he played for the Knicks last year, McGrady averaged only 9.4 points per game. That is less than half of his career average.
The question now is what does he bring to the Detroit Pistons?
The truth is, well, he doesn't bring a whole lot. He is known for being one of those infamous guys who needs the ball in his hands to help the team. That is the problem, can T-Mac find a way to make an impact as a role player for the Pistons? A team that won only 27 games last season could probably use something closer to the McGrady of old.
When asked about the possibility of the Chicago Bulls signing Tracy McGrady, Derrick Rose said he thought T-Mac would improve the team, and that he was one Derrick's favorite players growing up. A few days later, Rose backed off of the comments, saying he was alright with the team the Bulls had.
Maybe Derrick had a chance to look at his former idol's stat line last season, a year where he was paid over $23 million. Besides his 9.4 ppg, he had 3.9 assists (his lowest since his days in Toronto) and 3.7 boards (the lowest of his career).
I hope that T-Mac finds a way to adjust his game to a more mature level. I hope he finds some glory with the Pistons towards the end of his career. It would be great to see such an unbelievable athlete recover and overcome the restraint of old age, but it seems unlikely, at best.
We all remember what happened in Memphis last season when the Grizzlies signed an aging Allen Iverson, let's just hope for the best here.
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