Tracy McGrady: Five Reasons He Won't Return to Stardom
A few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Tracy McGrady, a seven-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion, struggling to find a team.
However, that is exactly what occurred during the summer of 2010. After a few injury-plagued campaigns, the T-Mac of today has become something much different than the T-Mac of the past.
Over his 13-year NBA career, McGrady has battled a number of serious problems with his back, his left shoulder, and his left knee. Most severe of these have been his knee issues, which have limited him to only 65 games over the past two years.
Additionally, those two NBA seasons also saw McGrady's production drastically suffer, as he averaged only 12.2 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting (compared to a career average of 21.5 points on 43.5 percent shooting).
Nevertheless, on August 10, 2010, McGrady's long and anxious offseason came to an end, as he finally agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons on a one-year contract for $1.3 million.
At that price, it was a low-risk move for the Pistons, for the worst case scenario would see McGrady getting injured or sitting the bench all season—while only being paid at about the veteran's minimum.
However, no one knows exactly what McGrady can still bring to the table, and he could potentially surprise some people.
McGrady expects to do just that, stating that he's in such better shape, compared to last season, that "it's like night and day, really."
But all of that remains to be seen, and given the current situation, his tenure with the Pistons does not look too promising.
So here are the five reasons McGrady won't return to stardom.
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The first and most obvious reason Tracy McGrady won't return to stardom is his long history of injuries.
As was previously mentioned, his most serious issues have been with his back, left shoulder, and left knee.
These problems, coupled with various other minor health concerns, have resulted in McGrady never playing a full season in the NBA. In fact, he has only played in 70 games once during the past five years.
And there's no reason to believe that this year will be any different, considering T-Mac has yet to regain his form since microfracture knee surgery—the same surgery that ruined the careers of NBA stars like Anfernee Hardaway, Allan Houston, Chris Webber, and Jamal Mashburn—which took place over a year and a half ago.
Furthermore, in his most recent stint with the New York Knicks, he only managed to play about 26 minutes a game, needing lots of time on the bench in order to rest his knee.
But even if McGrady were to somehow get past his knee injury, he certainly wouldn't be the same high-flying scorer as he was before the surgery occurred.
And he could still miss time due to other injuries.
So therefore, if McGrady misses substantial amounts of time due to injury, and, when he finally is on the court his play is held back by his past injuries, there is no way that he could return to stardom.
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Tracy McGrady has a lot of miles on him for a 31-year-old.
Because he came out of high school to enter the NBA draft, he has played much more basketball than most NBA athletes his age.
In the 13 seasons since he was made the ninth overall pick in 1997, McGrady has logged 28,135 regular season minutes, good for 154th in NBA history and 24th among active players—not too bad for an injury-prone 31-year-old.
But with his increasing age and NBA-mileage, T-Mac will continue to see his health wear down and deteriorate, further complicating his injury woes.
But in addition to this, his aging may signal a decline in productivity in and of itself. As Basketball Prospectus points out, NBA players tend to peak between the ages of 24 through 27, and they begin to drop off significantly by 30.
So, as a more-worn-down-than-average 31-year-old, McGrady's best days are clearly behind him, thereby making it difficult to believe that he could return to stardom.
Playing Time in Detroit
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Tracy McGrady's signing with the Detroit Pistons certainly raised a lot of eyebrows around the league, primarily because it doesn't appear that they any have room in their rotation for another wing player.
With Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, and second-round pick Terrico White all vying for time at shooting guard, and Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva (occasionally), and DaJuan Summers manning the three, the Pistons seem to have a logjam at both of McGrady's positions.
Sure, there have been rumors that Joe Dumars, Detroit's President of Basketball Operations, has been seeking to trade some of these players, but until that actually happens, McGrady will have to compete to earn his playing time. Therefore, he likely won't get the kind of time he would need to try to put up superstar numbers.
Furthermore, with Detroit being more committed to some of its younger, longer-tenured, and more expensive players, it seems that T-Mac will be making the same move that Allen Iverson made during his time with the Pistons: one to the bench.
And he could end up staying there if he suffers any injuries or if his level of play begins to slip.
So how does one make their return to stardom from the bench? It's quite simple—they don't.
A Lack of Motivation
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The late, great coach John Wooden once stated, "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."
The Detroit Pistons finished with a 27-55 record during the 2009-10 NBA season, good for sixth worst in the league.
Besides McGrady, their only significant offseason additions were second rounder Terrico White and the No. 7 overall pick, Greg Monroe.
Consequently, this season, things don't look much brighter in Auburn Hills.
As a result of this gloomy prospect, McGrady might lack the winning motivation needed to succeed, and instead slip into accepting and fitting in with the team's mediocrity.
Furthermore, motivation appears to also be a personal issue since, with regard to his signing, he declared, "It's not about proving doubters wrong," going on to offer, "I don't have to prove anything to anyone but myself."
Furthermore, McGrady discussed that he wasn't worried about or motivated by making any more money in his NBA career.
Therefore, one is left to wonder what motivates T-Mac, other than a desire to see if he can still play, and because he says, "It makes for a great story."
And there's no way that playing to find out if he's still got it can provide enough motivation for McGrady to return to stardom.
Where He Left Off
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In McGrady's last semi-healthy season, 2007-08, he played well, although his numbers were down from the previous few years.
Nevertheless, he led the Houston Rockets to a playoff berth. However, as usual with McGrady, they were eliminated in the first round—as McGrady has never played on the winning side of a playoff series.
Then in 2008-09, McGrady's knee began acting up. He missed a bunch of games and he was severely limited on the court.
In a famous example of what not to do, T-Mac then communicated to the media, rather than to the Rockets organization, that he would be having microfracture surgery and missing the rest of the season and some of the next.
Needless to say, the Rockets' brass as well as Houston fans, were livid. They had lost, arguably, their best player, just as they were gearing up for another run at the postseason.
Now might be the time to call upon "The Patrick Ewing Theory," made famous by Bill Simmons.
In short, this theory states that sometimes a player may put up good numbers, but not really help their team win.
McGrady may have been an example of this, for without him, the Rockets advanced to the second round of the playoffs—something he's never done and something they hadn't achieved since 1997.
Consequently, at least according to this semi-plausible theory, McGrady was overrated anyway, so he can't really re-earn his alleged stardom, since he was never really successful, and therefore, he wasn't truly a star.
So What Will McGrady Do in 2011?
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Despite all of this talk about how Tracy McGrady won't return to stardom, don't get me wrong, he won't be a star, but he can definitely still be a solid NBA player.
T-Mac showed flashes of brilliance at times with New York last year, albeit still seriously hampered by knee issues.
If McGrady can stay healthy, earn a solid spot in the Pistons' rotation, keep himself motivated, and perhaps most importantly, if his knee is truly healed and he's in playing shape, a 15 point, four rebound, and five assist season isn't out of the question.
And who knows, with his impressive resume and highly recognizable name, he could perhaps even be voted by the fans to another All-Star team—as Iverson was as a 76er in 2010.
But then again, everything could also go wrong, and he could be out of the league by season's end.
So with all of these questions and possibilities regarding how McGrady will be able to perform, another intriguing storyline has now been added to the 2010-11 NBA season. So, best of luck T-Mac, we'll be tuning in to see what you can do.