So the inevitable parting that so many have predicted seems to have happened, and the Rockets are seeking to trade seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady at his request. With his $23 million salary, that won’t be easy.
With his departure immanent, it’s a good time to sum up his Rockets career, and to clear away a few myths and misconceptions:
- The Rockets acquisition of McGrady was not a mistake. Remember, the Rockets traded Steve Francis to get McGrady. I don’t think anyone would argue that they got the short end of that deal.
- McGrady was, at least at the beginning of his Rockets career, a true superstar, and could still play like it upon occasion. Remember when he dropped 13 points on the Spurs in 35 seconds?
- McGrady was not team poison, ala Allen Iverson or Stephen Marbury. He didn’t, as far as I can remember, rip his teammates or coaches. He was not the classic NBA malcontent.
- However, he was a grumbler. His last few years as a Rocket, he was no longer playing like a superstar but still expected to play superstar minutes and get superstar touches.
- He was not a consistent defender. He could, upon occasion, play lock-down defense against some of the leagues greatest stars, and he would say the right things and make an effort to learn the defensive schemes, but he never internalized the need to make defense as big a priority as offense the way the league’s truly great players (Michael Jordan, anyone?) learned to.
- He unwisely came back before he was ready from injuries, hurting the Rockets as well as himself.
- He had trouble fitting himself into coach Rick Adelman’s schemes. Given the surprising success Adelman has had molding this no-star collection of role-players into a focused, blue-collar, no-ego, winning team, that made him not only a distraction, but expendable.
Like Ron Artest, McGrady is a solid player but a flawed individual who did the Rockets more good than harm over the tenure of his career, but ultimately had to be let go for the betterment of the team. Perhaps Rockets wunderkind GM Daryl Morey can trade McGrady for a collection of undervalued spare parts that can be used to push for a championship, but his $23 million cap number makes that a hard sell. Maybe he can sell him to a championship contender in need of another scorer. (I’m sure Morey has already offered McGrady up to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a straight-up swap for LeBron James. Oh how they laughed.)
So raise a glass to the departing shade of TMac. If you and Mao had ever both been healthy for an entire season together, Houston might have another championship banner or two…
(Don’t worry; I’ll be returning to my regular book geeking (with an incredibly long post) in a day or so.)