NBA teams and fans go through a lot of heartbreak when it comes to their favorite players. Players retire, players get traded, and players take their talents to South Beach. But I'm not sure anything breaks the hearts of everyone around the NBA as much as injuries do. Why is this the worst, you ask? Because not only are the teams, owners, and fans discouraged and hurt by the loss of their players, but the player that gets the injury is bombarded by the fact their body may never work the same way again, and even if it does, it may take so much time to heal, that the media has made you out to be completely useless.
It happens to the best of players. Jermaine O'neal went through it, Yao Ming went through it, Michael Redd is going through it...but in my opinion no one is having a harder time getting up from getting knocked down than Tracy McGrady.
The general outlook of T-Mac is that he is only a shell of his former self. What most people tend to forget is that his former self was kicking out 22 points a game just two short years ago, and on a team with a dominant scorer in Yao Ming. For the last two years McGrady has gone through catastrophic knee surgery. He went through this before in 2006, and the next year was still pumping out 25 points a game. So yes, it has happened again, only this time, not only was his body hurt, but also his confidence when the Houston organization decided to move on without him by signing Trevor Ariza.
I'm not saying that wasn't the right thing to do, considering you've got to do what's best for the team, but the way it was handled, combined with the fact that McGrady knew he wasn't back to 100% set up for a media nightmare surrounding the guy. I mean, can you really blame him for wanting to push himself to help his team after missing so much time? Look at the damage Jameer Nelson did to the Magic when he came back from his shoulder injury in 2009? The general outlook was that they should have just left him out, and let Alston continue to do work.
So T-Mac gets shipped off to the Kings, doesn't want to play second banana to a rookie, and so he is sent to the Knicks in a multi-player trade. In his 24 games of not even being close to 100% healed, McGrady still managed to score nine points a game in a new system, under a new coach, and in a new city. But then again, we can't really forget the few games out of those 24 where T-Mac would explode and still scored 26+ points.
The season ended and then nobody wanted the 31 year old former star. McGrady got to the point where he was even willing to take veteran minimum to be signed by a team needing his scoring threat. Granted, his knees are obviously not what they used to be, but by no means has McGrady ever been a horrible defender.I wouldn't exactly call him locker room cancer, either.
So here you are, a former two-time scoring champion, coming off a serious injury, being shipped from team to team, slandered by the media, and willing to take veteran minimum to help a team win...and the only team willing to pick you up is the Detroit Pistons, who already have a well-known logjam at the two and three spots. So this year, T-Mac is going to be fighting for minutes, along with trying to prove that he is still a superstar, in a new city, and for a non-playoff contender.
So what's the difference between this year and last year? Tracy McGrady knows how his body works, and he says he 100% now. He says he feels better than he has in two years. He gets a full training camp, and a full summer to get his shot back, work the kinks out of his knees, and show everyone that he's only 31.
So granted, if he's coming off the bench, he's probably not going to be giving the Pistons 30 points a game...but if he gets the minutes, the respect, and the appreciation that he got just two short years ago...something tells me a lot of contending teams are going to regret not paying minimum salary for the seven-time All Star.