Tracy’s one-two punch with Yao Ming in Houston lasted a bit longer. McGrady was an upgrade from Steve Francis, and Yao and Mac’s styles looked to compliment each other similar to the way Shaq and Kobe’s did during the Lakers three peat years. This Houston team set out to dominate for the first time since “The Dream” shook and left the building. Then injuries yet again seriously reduced the amount of time this partnership had to develop together.
Following this, younger players began to develop, rounding out Houston into a better team. Then with the addition of guys like Trevor Ariza, it seemed these Rockets didn’t need as much Mac as before to propel them further. This league is fast paced — slow down and you’ll be taken over. This is just the harsh business of modern sports today, plain and simple. If players are not always around, then they can quickly be forgotten. This is what happens when you only play an injury-ravaged 35 games last season, despite averaging a more than solid 15.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. Even all that Tracy wanted to do was get down to business last season, his year ended up being nearly all suit and tie.
The last time Mac suited up in red and white was December 23rd 2009 and the last time he went up against big competition was when he was torched for 11 points in 7 and a half minutes by Carmelo Anthony. That baton wasn’t about to be passed back anytime soon. Tracy had to look somewhere else to get a run and with Yao sitting next to him on the pine, time had been called on their potential dynasty. Still, even if the time of death was somewhere in the fall of ’09, the partnership really clicked when the pair actually logged minutes together. Even though what resulted in mass popularity during the basketball revolution in China didn’t translate and find championship gold, this one-two punch was like no other and has created a lasting legacy that stretches from Texas to Asia.
So the only thing that then changed hands was McGrady. At the trade deadline Tracy was part of a three-team, nine-player blockbuster deal that sent him to New York. Once again, just like old times, everyone was watching. The Knicks needed a star of McGrady’s stature to liberate themselves and McGrady needed some redemption too. The problem though with Tracy’s history of injuries was whether that ‘star power’ was still in the tank or in the rearview. Questions were being asked of what he could still do. There was no doubt in those sleepy eyes of McGrady during his Knick debut against Oklahoma City, however. Despite his injuries, he took the ball to the rack hard, several times over. He also swooped in for a classic, sweet reverse layup that never gets old — ain’t that right George Gervin? His jumper looked good and so did his confidence as he flexed his muscles and rubbed his fingers in celebration. He even hit a crunch time shot with 1:34 to go in the fourth period. It didn’t ice the game because the Knicks ended up getting frozen with a loss, but Tracy still looked good in the clutch. Despite playing on the losing team, Tracy won over a couple of naysayers on his way to 23 points, four rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes of burn.
After that he averaged respectable numbers for the Knicks, but as the season played out so did Tracy making way for Stoudemire and the soon-to-be Carmelo Anthony revolution. McGrady then went to Michigan to play for the Detroit Pistons and in a season mixed with boo’s and cheers he had some real highlights, showing flashes of his old self while putting 22 on his former Raptors dinosaurs up in Toronto. His year end averages of 8.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds were nice across the board, but just like in New York, his season with Detroit would be a one and done.
Now the future remains uncertain for Tracy McGrady, but what shouldn’t is his talent, skill-level and drive. We may not see Tracy in the NBA next year, but that will only be the lockout’s fault. T-Mac could take his talents abroad and even if the NBA does come to terms with another season, surely this free agent will remain unrestricted from playing in the L. Any team should really think about putting on this off guard. That picture of him in a Lakers jersey could result in him being one of the best backups in the league, to the best in the association. Just imagine Kobe and Tracy running the backcourt together. It would be like the Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone year again (this time though, en-route to a championship). Just exciting, video-game basketball.
Like EA, however, Tracy has to remain in the game. This number one player is worthy of a Jerry West sewn jersey, because plain and simple, injury or playoff disappointment, he’s one of the best swingmen we’ve seen lace them up. Let’s hope his sneakers squeak on the hardwood again, because like any versatile player of his nature, there’s more to him than meets the eye or the critics reply. This man loves the game no matter what anybody says, and that’s stronger than any hate or judgement that comes his way. It’s time everyone woke up. It ain’t over and he ain’t done.