In the not-too-distant past, Tracy McGrady was considered the Dwyane Wade of the current era. NBA fans would flock to their TV sets to see T-Mac perform. Enthralled as they were by his freakish athleticism and dominant scoring prowess, the fans ensured that Tracy McGrady was a perennial NBA All-Star Starter.
His dominance in Orlando and his early tenure with the Rockets marked Tracy McGrady as one of the premier superstars in the league. His pairing with the juggernaut, Yao Ming, was supposed to lead the Rockets into a new era of dominance not seen since "Hakeem the Dream" hung up his sneakers.
Up until the start of the 2008-2009 season, Tracy McGrady had made use of much of the potential recognized in him since his Toronto Raptor days. He had carved his niche as a prominent and dangerous scoring threat and was recognized as one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in the NBA when he utilized his versatility.
Then, Tracy McGrady underwent one of the fastest falls from grace via injury since Penny Hardaway disappeared form the face of the earth. Although there were hints of major problems, seeing as Tracy McGrady has missed major time in the past, nobody thought T-Mac's game and confidence would leave him at such an exponentially high rate.
Though the eventual parting was long winded and the journey long and painful, Tracy McGrady was eventually shunned from the Rockets due to his rapid decline in performance and understandably poor attitude.
Making a pit stop in New York, where Tracy McGrady put up meager numbers not seen since his inexperienced Raptor days, it was clear that Tracy McGrady was destined to finish his career as a wandering journeyman.
Expected to be a mentoring veteran in Detroit, Tracy McGrady has done just that and so much more during his current tenure with the Pistons. Although it is not a complete return to form, Tracy McGrady has shown maturity and growth in his game despite the clear fact that most of his athleticism and speed have left him.
Keep in mind, if one were to rate his performance purely on the performance of the Pistons (who I believe are a very unbalanced and poorly constructed team) and his season averages, Tracy McGrady would appear to truly be nothing more than a bench-warming veteran.
However, as I explained via various methods in my article, Paul Pierce: The League Can't Handle The Truth, measuring statistics is a very unreliable method of judging the impact a player has on his team.
While averaging career lows in every statistical category except turnovers, Tracy McGrady has also made a minimal impact in terms of playing the same role he used to play.
Tracy McGrady is no longer a dominant scorer. He can no longer take over games at a whim and he must be sufficiently open to hit a jump shot. He has a harder time creating his own opportunities and cannot finish against contact as effectively anymore.
Despite these glaring and unavoidable deficiencies, Tracy McGrady has thrived and performed efficiently in a new role. Playing as the back-up point guard or primary distributor of the second unit, Tracy McGrady has been able to utilize areas of his game that do not need as much of his dwindling athleticism.
Tracy McGrady has always been an effective passer with a high basketball IQ. However, his passing was not showcased or highlighted as much in the past due to the spotlight being focused on his proficiency scoring the basketball.
However, court vision and basketball IQ are not areas of basketball that abandon ball players with age like athleticism does. Thus, T-Mac has been able to provide leadership and stability in the second unit by distributing and sharing the basketball via crisp passing on the perimeter, into the post, and by utilizing the fundamental drive-and-kick.
In terms of scoring the basketball, Tracy McGrady has shown the ability to knock down open jump shots and finish at the rim by moving off the ball and utilizing screens. He has a knack for weaving through the tight spaces on the court opened to him through court spacing to enable him to get into position for an open shot.
As handicapped as he athletically, Tracy McGrady retains enough strength and speed to finish hard at the rim or pull up for a jay when he can garner sufficient space for himself.
Even statistically, Tracy McGrady has shown vast improvements in recent games. In fact, in the past 10 games, Tracy McGrady has averaged 12 points, five assists and four rebounds while playing roughly 30 minutes a game.
Though not flashy numbers, they are certainly adequate averages for a player who has been through so much adversity in terms of injuries and accepting a new, lesser role on a young, developing team.
Barring another serious injury, it is same to assume that the Mac is definitely back, and ready to contribute.