See Ya, Tracy? Why a Not-So-Fast Impasse Could Keep T-Mac in Houston

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2009

HOUSTON - APRIL 24:  Guard Tracy McGrady #1 of the Houston Rockets during play against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 24, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Houston Chronicle reported Monday that the Rockets and Tracy McGrady agreed Tuesday to seek a trade for the disgruntled guard.

So, that's it folks. He's gone, packing his bags as I write this.

Wrong. Not so fast.

Since no one has authored the necessary in-depth look at why trading McGrady could prove more difficult than Ruben Studdard winning the 400-meter dash at the next Olympics, I will do the honors.

This needs to be written and read. The reality of the situation may kill the euphoria felt by those who wanted McGrady shipped out two years ago.

Forget happy thoughts and entertainment value. This is about the truth, which hurts more than most want to admit.

A line in Jonathan Feigen's story (I linked to it above) summarizes the situation.

"Rockets general manager Daryl Morey agreed Monday to try to trade McGrady during talks with McGrady’s representatives."

The key word here is try . As in, folks at NASA tried to make a square peg fit into a round hole. As in, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini tried acting.

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That Morey will try does not mean he will succeed. The Rockets tried to trade the mercurial guard months ago to no avail.

The aggresiveness of trade talks then does not matter now. McGrady has been on the market for months. This news changes little.

Playoff Success Sans McGrady Made Divorce Imminent

The McGrady era in Houston ended after 10 p.m. April 30, 2009. Then, a buzzer sounded and the team celebrated its first playoff series win since the Bill Clinton administration.

It seemed like fans at Toyota Center had not sung "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye" to a playoff opponent since Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo, and Dale Frashuer wrote and recorded the tune in 1969.

The former All-Star's future in Houston died then, not Tuesday. I wrote this the next day.

"Everyone in the Rockets organization owes him a thank you card. They know now what they can be without him.

McGrady's career-threatening surgery makes divorce papers inevitable.

The Rockets should ask two questions.

Does anybody have a pen, and where do we sign?"

When I said divorce, though, I did not mean a trade was in the works, or that the team would release him. The same logic applies now.

If he gets the boot this week, unlikely as that may be, I will race down U.S. Highway 59 in my Toyota Rav 4 just after the announcement to help McGrady pack up his house.

I wanted him gone two years ago. I have made that abundantly clear.

Former GM Carroll Dawson saw in McGrady what everyone else did—one of the greatest talents to ever wear a basketball uniform. Leslie Alexander might still see those qualities, even if McGrady's career performance has made him one of the all-time disappointments.

I love Dawson and cheered when the team hung a banner bearing his name in the Toyota Center rafters, but giving an injury-prone underachiever an extension that now makes him the NBA's highest paid player was stupidity and blindness at its worst.

Former Chronicle columnist-turned NBA.com writer Fran Blinebury always offered the best response when fans called him a "T-Mac hater."

"Name another player with his abilities who blew a 3-1 series lead, a 2-0 lead without homecourt advantage, and a 2-0 lead with it."

However, there is a difference between not having a future in an organization and a plane ticket out of town.

McGrady Situation Comparable to Utah Jazz, Carlos Boozer Impasse

Remember this story? You know, the one where Boozer said the Jazz had agreed to seek out a trade for him.

When Boozer said this summer he did not expect to play in Salt Lake City in October, the blogosphere erupted with trade scenarios and "see ya, Carlos" odes to his pending departure.

News flash: Boozer still plays for the Jazz, after months of people assuming GM Kevin O'Connor needed to deal him to keep the universe in proper balance.

A divorce is still imminent between those two parties. The Jazz ownership and front office will likely take the luxury tax hit his $12.7 million contract will force at the end of the year and then let him walk.

Boozer has averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds for a Utah squad no worse than it was two years ago. His additional year in Salt Lake City will not upset the cosmos.

He no longer fits into O'Connor's long-term plans because the Jazz drafted a forward who plays harder and does a close imitation of Boozer for a cheaper price.

Even with Paul Millsap's frontloaded contract, he will cost significantly less over the long haul than Boozer would.

Coach Jerry Sloan must also think Millsap can be more durable than Boozer, who missed hundreds of games in his Utah tenure.

The 'D' word. Sound familiar, Rockets fans?

Hear this, dear readers, and accept it. Morey is not required by law to trade McGrady. A story that says the two sides are looking for a trade does not mean one is forthcoming.

What happened in Utah should happen here. Boozer stayed because O'Connor heard what other teams were willing to offer for the forward and hung up the phone.

He laughed until his peers understood the message: "We don't want your garbage."

The Jazz did not send Boozer to Miami because Pat Riley refused to part with Michael Beasley. Aside from Dwyane Wade, Beasley was the only trade chip worth a minute-long conversation.

To make the salaries match, Riley would have needed to throw in additional players. An injury-prone, defenseles forward was not worth that risk, even when his contract expired in the vaunted summer of 2010.

Let me throw out some names, Rockets fans. Jared Jefferies, Eddy Curry, Michael Redd, Samuel Dalembert.

Do any of those names stir up your endorphins? Morey could acquire any of those cap-killing, non-studs with one phone call.

He won't do that because he likes his job. MIT does not enroll idiots.

I keep reading on this site and elsewhere that McGrady's expiring deal will net the Rockets a special young player who can help them for years.

What player? Name him.

Morey has not traded McGrady yet because teams looking to slash payroll will only offer up the above garbage.

There is no special player coming to Houston in exchange for a $23 million deal that ends next summer.

Keep reading if you still fail to understand why.

What the Rockets Want

The front office is seeking a trade because McGrady's style of play clashes with that of the up-tempo, share-the-ball outfit Rick Adelman now coaches.

With Yao Ming out for the season, the team adopted a run-first approach to assuage the loss of a go-to weapon. Yao provided a late-game, halfcourt option for the Rockets.

His teammates could dump him the ball in a pinch and count on him to manufacture points in the pivot or make the right pass.

The previous week of play shows how much the team misses its offense security blanket. The Rockets had won seven of nine against Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic and seven of 10 against LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

Yao played a massive role in those victories. With him sidelined, the Magic and Cavaliers took turns drubbing the Rockets, who faced each East titan on the second night of a back-to-back.

It was clear after six, seven-minute cameos that McGrady was not a do-it-all savior.

Adelman foolishly agreed to let T-Mac guard Carmelo Anthony in a game at Denver. 'Melo started the contest 1-of-6. In the few minutes McGrady spent on him, Anthony heated up en route to 38 points and a Nuggets victory.

Morey said this summer he would look for one of two things in a McGrady deal:

1) Expiring contracts that added up to the guard's salary, the highest in the NBA.

Or

2) A youngster with star potential who would fit long-term plans.

Morey said he did not want either of these headaches in a deal:

1) A stopgap player whose salary would eat up cap space beyond next summer.

And

2) Garbage.

All of the players I suspect are available to the Rockets fall into one of those two no-no categories.

What McGrady Wants

This one requires little explanation on my part. McGrady's contract expires next summer, and he would like another deal when this one ends.

To convince a sucker GM to overpay for him, he needs to play more than seven minutes in the first quarter.

He appears unlikely to get that in Houston anytime soon.

Eliminate These Teams as Potential Trade Partners

Without floating any trade ideas, you can rule out these franchises as McGrady suitors—because the Rockets do not want to help them, or because they do not want to help the Rockets.

Nevermind that none of these front offices have the goods to make a deal work.

The Rockets beat the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the playoffs. Cross them off the list.

The San Antonio Spurs continue to catch grief for donating Luis Scola to Morey. R.C. Burford and Gregg Popovich will not help out a rival twice.

No one in the Western Conference wants to aid the L.A. Lakers after what the Memphis Grizzlies did. The Rockets hope to someday reach the Lakers level. Forget the Lake Show.

Also forget about any other contenders. That includes Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Denver, and Atlanta.

The McGrady ship already sailed in Toronto and sunk. Cross the Raptors off the list.

That means forget Chris Bosh, too—at least until next summer.

Why the New York Knicks Want McGrady

Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies, two of the available players referenced above, are the  two of the five on the Knicks payroll with contracts that extend beyond next summer.

Donnie Walsh would pee his pants if Morey was dumb enough to take on those duds.

Using ESPN's trade machine , I determined that a swap of Curry + Jefferies + Chris Duhon would work financially.

Um, yuck.

The only New York player the Rockets should want long term is also the lone untouchable Knick.

There's no way Walsh trades Danilo Gallinari a year and a half after drafting him sixth overall. Mike D'Antoni still thinks his "Italian Stallion" can be a star. I also see star quality.

The other Knicks with two-year deals are Jordan Hill, Gallinari, Toney Douglas, and Wilson Chandler.

Of those ballers, Chandler would be the easiest to pry in a multi-player deal.

Does Morey want him? I don't.

Including Hill in a deal this soon would qualify as the ultimate admission of failure by Walsh, who has been roasted and burnt to a crisp for passing on Brandon Jennings.

Several stories from the four-letter network suggested Walsh has accepted that Curry is not tradable.

No one wants to pay a fat stiff (who has not played meaningful minutes since 2008) $10.5 million. The second remaining year on his deal is a non-guaranteed player option.

Other possibilities exist. The Knicks could package Al Harrington and Larry Hughes for McGrady, and the salaries would match.

That move, however, would make zero sense for Walsh. Harrington, a crunch-time bonehead for sure, has helped the Knicks approach respectability.

Such a deal would not change the team's salary cap fortunes. Walsh only wants to make a trade that will increase the Knicks' cap space next summer, not one that keeps it the same.

He could only justify the move if he and D'Antoni thought McGrady could get the team farther than Harrington and Hughes could.

Everyone reading this article should know by now that zero teams are interested in McGrady's basketball ability.

They want to cut salary and sell a few more tickets. The Grizzlies can tell you all about the latter.

Morey should be fired the minute he considers any of the above scenarios.

He's too smart to play this game, and everyone reading this should be, too.

So, What Now?

I do not doubt that McGrady will never be a featured star on the Rockets again. I do doubt, however, that Morey will pull off a "suitable deal."

A trade involves two teams, and as I evidenced above, both sides will want things not available to them.

If Morey insists on not buying out McGrady's deal, which would make him a free agent, few options remain.

It is unlikely the team will waive McGrady. The Rockets will not let him go without getting something of value in return.

Adelman could bench McGrady for the rest of the season and tell him to stay away from the team, or the coach could reassess his position and try to find a role for the guard within the retooled offense.

There he goes with darn word again. Try .

The Rockets agreed to part ways with McGrady sometime Tuesday. As fans will soon discover, though, the only common thread between an agreement and action is the letter "A."

McGrady is still on the roster and on the payroll. Don't be shocked if he's still there in April.