It’s easy to think that Monday’s game could’ve been played in any year from 2000 to 2004, the time of McGrady’s four-season tenure with the Magic.
On Monday, though, McGrady was a member of the Detroit Pistons. His career arc is on the downward side, some say extremely close to the end, but he mustered enough to give fans in Orlando one more show, scoring 20 points in his team’s 103-96 victory.
McGrady has been a shell of his former self in Detroit. He’s appeared in every single game Detroit has played, which in recent years is something T-Mac has been unable to do. However, he is averaging only seven points per game, well below his career average of 20.8, which also went down a bit since he left Orlando (in four seasons with the Magic he averaged 28.1 points per game).
His 20-point performance Tuesday was only his third 20-point game of the season and it was only the 13th time he’s scored at least 10 points (he has almost as many games where he’s scored zero points, which he’s done seven times).
In Orlando, he was a star. He rose to the ranks as one of the best players in the NBA at the time. He could score at will, either with a long jump shot—sometimes fading back off of one leg—or driving to the basket and unleashing a dunk that would get the fans out of their seats.
With age, especially with a player who played as many minutes as McGrady did, players tend to lose some of the bounce in their step. But the aging of McGrady’s career was also hampered by a myriad of back and knee injuries.
He may have been robbed of some of his prime, but there is a long list of athletes that can say the same. What McGrady did do was go through all the grueling rehab, hear the criticisms come in bunches and just continue to play basketball.
He isn’t an All-Star anymore, but he still brings some value to the team he’s on, both on the court and off it. He’s rewarded the Pistons this month for taking a chance on him. His minutes have increased, as has his points per game average, rebounds per game and assists per game totals.
And he saves his best for his former teams. One of his other 20-point games came when he dropped 22 against Toronto January 14.
He’s played better recently, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be an MVP-candidate anytime soon. Still, it was enjoyable to see McGrady playing in Orlando, showing one last glimmer of the player he used to be.
Even if it was for the other team this time.