Saturday, August 6, 2011
THE WAKE UP SHOW
He won't rest, until he's back with the best.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
It aint hard to tell when the shine from a star player in the NBA starts to tarnish. Their jerseys go from filling everyone’s wardrobes to lining discount rails. Their names go out from rappers mouths to the keystrokes of a negative blog. Tracy McGrady is an example of a guy who's gone from being talked about in households and barbershops to becoming a mere afterthought. Jay-Z's no longer talking about "banging like T-Mac" instead he's "paying Dwyane Wade". T-Mac’s end of season trade from Houston to New York in 2010 saw him playing in the Mecca of basketball. In his contract year in the Big Apple however he found it difficult breaking through to the team’s core? Following that last season saw a brief pit stop in the motor city of Detroit. Still now despite, tweets with him in a super-imposed Laker jersey Mac is an agent looking for a team. Tracy’s free, but for how long?
Tracy's career to this point has been a mix of defining moment highlights and great expectations turned into some disappointments, playoff or otherwise. This however isn't something that is his fault. He has suffered the type of niggling injuries that can be career ending or devastating to a star player’s legacy. There are players that stay strong and consistent through their careers like Reggie Miller and then there are the guys like Penny Hardaway, which (to no fault of their own) could have been so much more if they lasted longer. Still like Iverson before him and (believe you me) many more after him McGrady is still a top man able to fit into the fabric of any team. So why aren't people spending their money and picking him up like he's gone out of fashion. He's so synonymous with big-time basketball that it's almost like he's a brand name.
Tracy was right there with guys like Kobe and Vince Carter as an heir apparent to Jordan’s throne. Nowadays however the baton of star status has been passed to the likes of Lebron, Wade and Melo. It doesn't seem long at all since Tracy’s was shining in the limelight but it’s been many years since he's been a perennial player in this league. Tracy’s 'commercial' success had him on many billboards and television screens. His swagger was Mick Jagger when he was featured in an 'Adidas' advert showing how dominant he was and asking us "How do you want it", like 2Pac, all eyes where on him. A vast array of offensive firepower was on display to the soundtrack of Baby and The Clipse. Fast forward to today and fans are left thinking 'What happened to that boy'? T-Mac isn't as high profile as he was or featuring in as many commercials as he once did.
We've gotten out of our seats when we've seen Tracy dish the ball off the glass to himself for a dunk but we've also looked in disbelief as he blocked his own lay up against Milwaukee some years back. We've been amazed as he dropped 13 points in 33 seconds against San Antonio, but we've also felt the pain of yet another first round playoff loss, as we witnessed the speechless 2007 press conference where McGrady's choked up tears said it all. Although these tears may have garnered more laughter then sympathy was this really the emotions of a cry-baby or a player truly driven to do more? Remember true players don't give up.
Tracy's journey to the top began up north with his cousin Vince Carter in Toronto. If people couldn't see the rise of these two guys in Canada then they certainly saw what they were both capable of in the electrifying year 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. The future stars of basketball never looked more exciting. This partnership (although rooted in kin) wasn't destined to last however and Tracy was off to much hotter climates in Florida. Sure Vince and Tracy could have been the next big thing like Kobe but they still formed one of the best, more exciting duo's of the decades, even if it wasn't for the ages. Just like Vince as well Tracy is still top-flight even if those who hate and critic continually try to ground him. These boys aren't lost, they've just found a more worthwhile second career.
At Orlando the initial hype of McGrady teaming up with Grant Hill was immense. People were talking dominance and rings. Unfortunately though Hill was another elite player who's career would be dominated by more time on the chilling list then the court. Still this Tracy/Vince mark two did show some promise from it's hyped potential and now just like Hill, T-Mac has the opportunity to form an incredible second career as a former star turned big contributor. This veteran has bags of tricks, skills and experiences of the highs and lows of NBA life plus he's still only 32, he's got plenty of time to left to pull something else out his hat.
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 in 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.
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 and 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 if all Tracy wanted to do was get down to business last season his year ended up being all suit and tie.
Tracy Houston problems continued this season with his knee, disputes over when he'd return and lower averages across the board (3.2 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists per contest). 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 in 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 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 himself. The problem though with Tracy’s history of injuries is whether that ‘star power’ was still in the tank or in the rear-view. Questions are being asked of what he could still do. There was no doubt in those sleepy eyes of McGrady during his Knick debut against Oklahoma however. He was all Kanye West, 'Graduation', track 3. 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, aint 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 4th. It didn't ice the game because the Knicks got froze out, but Tracy still looked good in the clutch. So despite playing on the losing team Tracy won over a couple of naysayers on his way to 23 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 32 minutes of burn.
Since then 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 Pistons and in a season mixed with boo's and cheers he has some real highlights, like showing flashes of his old self while putting 22 on his former Raptor dinosaurs up in Toronto. His year end averages of 8.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds where 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 lockouts 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 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 hard-wood again because like any versatile player of his nature, there's more to him then meets the eye or 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 aint over and he aint done.