The Tracy McGrady Manifesto | Magic Basketball

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Aug 04

The Tracy McGrady manifesto

Photobucket

Reuters/John C. Hillery

A picture is worth a thousand words.

In this case, it’s a photo of failure and unfortunately for Tracy McGrady, it’s perhaps the lasting image of his time with the Orlando Magic. The players sitting next to McGrady, aside from Darrell Armstrong, are none other than Pat Garrity and Shawn Kemp — each embodying the word that defined the McGrady era in Orlando for three seasons until the bottom fell out in 2004. Average, if not worse.

And no Grant Hill.

McGrady will forever be criticized as someone that didn’t lead “his” team past the first round of the playoffs, even though the Magic were always the underdogs and never the favorites in each of their matchups (granted, the first round series against the Charlotte Hornets in 2002 was a toss-up).

This isn’t about the Houston Rockets, mind you. This is about Orlando and this is about McGrady playing in his hometown. This is about a player that did everything humanly possible to make the Magic a competitive squad, despite a supporting cast that was a joke and the lack of help from Hill due to his injuries.

Given McGrady’s situation, it seems like people forget how good he was in his prime. McGrady was a top five player in the league with Orlando, without a doubt, and Magic fans were truly blessed to witness him at his zenith. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but McGrady knew how to put on a show.

How good was McGrady and how bad was his supporting cast?

Let’s start with the bad.

A band of misfits
McGrady didn’t play with a lot of talent during his tenure with the Magic. McGrady’s best teammates were Darrell Armstrong, Drew Gooden, Mike Miller, Bo Outlaw, and not much else. Armstrong was the best of the bunch and a very good point guard, but he was on the decline as soon as McGrady arrived in Orlando.

The Magic packaged Miller in a deadline deal for Gooden and Gordan Giricek, a trade that did pan out at the time. Yet Miller emerged as the Sixth Man of the Year in 2006 with the Memphis Grizzlies and remains one of the most efficient shooters in the NBA.

And one of the moves that stands out like a sore thumb from general manager John Gabriel, that would slowly set in motion the rise and fall of McGrady, was when Outlaw was traded early in the 2001-2002 regular season, along with a first round draft pick, to the Phoenix Suns for Jud Buechler to free up cap space. That pick became Amar’e Stoudemire.

Other issues that arose was the Magic’s inability to make good draft picks, which robbed the roster of young talent that was desperately needed. Prospects like Jeryl Sasser, Steven Hunter, and others became synonymous with the word “bust” in the dictionary. When Orlando did have a rookie of worth, like Matt Harpring, they traded him away. The Magic needed big men, which is why they traded Harpring for Andrew DeClercq, but still.

As for Orlando’s free agent signings, not many of them panned out very well. If it was 1994, the signings of Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant, and others would have meant something significant but they were quick fixes, not long-term solutions. When the Magic did sign someone of worth, like Juwan Howard in the off-season prior to the 2003-2004 regular season, it was too late. The damage was done.
 

2001-2004
 Minutes Played 
 stat. +/- 
Tracy McGrady 11628 +7.41
Darrell Armstrong 7847 +3.30
Pat Garrity 6591 -1.41
Mike Miller 6339 -1.03
Andrew DeClercq 4074 -1.16
Juwan Howard 2877 -3.46
Troy Hudson 2862 -3.55
Bo Outlaw 2694 +4.42
Drew Gooden 2678 -2.08
Monty Williams 2495 -3.25
Gordan Giricek 2396 -2.20
Tyronn Lue 2332 -2.39
Horace Grant 2295 -0.86
Keith Bogans 1787 -2.42
Steven Hunter 1752 -2.41
John Amaechi 1710 -6.78
Jacque Vaughn 1686 -3.15
Shawn Kemp 1633 -2.97
Grant Hill 1488 +0.03
Don Reid 1478 -1.06
Michael Doleac 1398 -5.13
Jeryl Sasser 1061 -2.50
 DeShawn Stevenson  933 -4.05
Rod Strickland 915 -1.78

For PER, WARP, and Win Shares/48: 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004

Excluding Hill, who was sitting on the sidelines during most of McGrady’s tenure with the Magic, this was the supporting cast. It needs to be stated. McGrady’s prime was wasted. It’s hard to fathom how awful McGrady’s supporting cast was.

It absolutely, clearly, and positively speaks to McGrady’s gifted abilities that Orlando was a .500 team. Given the amount of talent on the roster, or a lack thereof, McGrady did the equivalent of turning water into wine. Make no mistake about it, the Magic were trotting out players on the floor that had no business being in NBA rotations. The numbers are hideous to look at, but they show an inconvenient truth. It was McGrady, Armstrong, and little else for four years. A shame.

Also, it was due to Orlando’s incompetence — at the time — that head coach Doc Rivers was fired during the 21-61 debacle in 2004 when the bridge finally came crumbling down. The talent pool was shallow as a result of poor personnel decisions that piled up on top of each other.

Yes, Magic fans criticize McGrady for how he left and what he said. McGrady is not a saint by any means, but he shouldn’t entirely be blamed for wanting to leave a situation that was deteriorating around him rapidly. McGrady’s best years were being washed away by first round flameouts. Given the time and situation, McGrady had almost no choice but to leave and do what was best for his career.

Former stars for the Magic are infamous for burning bridges when they depart but if there’s one figure that deserves some sympathy, it’s McGrady. For three years, McGrady gave everything he had to make Orlando a competitive team until his body literally gave out. It’s true that McGrady didn’t give a full effort in his fourth and final year with the Magic, and he deserves to be criticized for that but it is what it is.

There will be some that foolishly criticize McGrady for not making his teammates better in Orlando, but that’s a statement wrapped in flawed logic. McGrady did elevate the play of his peers and proved that for four seasons with the Magic, especially in the playoffs, as he consistently played with rosters littered with replacement-level players.

It makes no difference how good you are. You’re as good as your teammates and coaches around you, and that was one of the downfalls of McGrady’s stint with Orlando. The lasting memory of McGrady with the Magic was besmirched because of the inadequate amount of talent that he had around him. Let the record state that McGrady was one of the best players in the league for several years, but was undermined by a supporting cast that had their moments but was not very good to begin with.

A man among boys
Orlando was fortunate to be a .500 team because of McGrady. It speaks to how good McGrady was that the Magic were in the position to win games, culminating in the near-upset of the Detroit Pistons in the 2003 NBA Playoffs as a No. 8 seed.
 

 2003 
 net +/- 
 PER 
 WARP 
 Win Shares/48 
Tim Duncan +14.3 26.9 22.9 .248
Kevin Garnett +22.8 26.4 23.2 .225
Tracy McGrady +11.8 30.3 23.5 .262
 Shaquille O’Neal  +11.7 29.5 17.9 .250

McGrady’s stats in other years: 2001 | 2002 | 2004

It can be argued that McGrady deserved to win the MVP in 2003. Tim Duncan won the award, and rightfully so, because the case can be made for him that he was statistically the best player in the league. However, the same argument can be given for McGrady but the difference between the two players was, you guessed it, their supporting casts.

McGrady put up one of the most dominant seasons ever by a player not named Michael Jordan, yet it wasn’t good enough in the eyes of the voters because they were caught up too much in team accomplishments that were out of McGrady’s control at the time. These are some of the same issues that remain with MVP voting, by the way. McGrady finished fourth in the voting, behind Kobe Bryant, despite the fact that most of his numbers were superior across the board. A minor tragedy, no question.

In his prime, McGrady was unlike anyone had ever seen before. McGrady was silky smooth on the floor and when he played, it was like watching a Mozart symphony taking place every night. McGrady was the composer, the court was his stage, and the audience was there to witness his genius.

McGrady had the complete package you’d want in a franchise player. McGrady was a point forward that could score anywhere on the floor. McGrady’s range was unlimited, it seemed like, and he could put up points at will. However, it was McGrady’s court vision and unselfishness that really set him apart in terms of his playmaking abilities. McGrady’s passing will forever remain as one of the most underrated aspects of his skill-set, even though he didn’t amass higher assist totals because he was too busy scoring all the time. Plus, when McGrady set his mind to it and put in the effort, he was a good wing defender as well, using his frame and wingspan to make life very difficult for players matched up against him.

Not only was McGrady an elite scorer that could score at a high volume, but he could do it without sacrificing efficiency.

Another thing that was really impressive about McGrady, when taking a look back at his statistics, was that his turnover rate was extremely low for the amount of possessions he used up. It’s amazing that McGrady took fantastic care of the basketball like his life depended on it. In a way, it did.

Without McGrady doing everything at the highest level, Orlando would have been lucky to win 20 games with the supporting cast that was being featured.
 

 2001-2004 
 Minutes Played 
 stat. +/- 
Tracy McGrady 11628 +7.41
 Shaquille O’Neal  10345 +7.24
Kevin Garnett 12929 +6.76
Tim Duncan 12211 +6.42

McGrady should be remembered as a legend, yet he won’t be because many of the circumstances surrounding his success on the team level were out of his control. The harshest reality, when looking back at McGrady’s career, was that he was a product of his environment.

Statistically, at his absolute peak in 2003, McGrady rivals anyone — even Jordan. Yet the perception will forever remain that McGrady was a loser with the Magic. That is what people will remember about McGrady in Orlando, and it shouldn’t be that way.

McGrady was a gifted player and should be remembered for what he did do, rather than what he didn’t do with the Magic. That is McGrady’s manifesto.

*all the numbers that are shown were during the regular season

59 comments
Jay
Jay

Great article. Very good points. I'm an Orlando Magic fan. McGrady is THE reason I became a Magic fan. Although I remained one even after he left, he was still one of my favorite players in the NBA. When it comes to the organization taking his talent for granted during his years in Orlando, I completely agree. Compared to the case that other great players had, McGrady had nothing. Oh and at some point, he was even better than Kobe, I'd say. It's just Kobe developed as a player by being teammates with players like Shaq and winning championships, before he won 2 more without Shaq. McGrady didn't have that. Or let's look at players like D-Wade, who developed as a player for a few years before getting a strong big-man like Shaq and winning a championship himself. Anyways, kind of got off topic here. But yeah, bottom line, good points.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Chronz

You touch on a key point.

When McGrady was in the playoffs, the various teams he were on were never the prohibitive favorites to win the series (at best, they were toss-ups).

Chronz
Chronz

hoopsfan :

@eltharion_doa
When T-Mac left Orlando at 25, there is no way that I thought his years of playing at a high level were over. He didn’t have significant surgery until a couple years ago. There might have been other reasons he didn’t continue to play at as high a level after he left here. For one thing, he wasn’t necessarily the main focus of the offense in Houston as he was in Orlando.
I don’t argue with the writer’s contentions that McGrady needed more help when he played in Orlando, that plenty of mistakes were made acquiring personnel, or that he isn’t given all the credit he deserves for the time he played here. He was a blast to watch. The draft selections were unforgivable. It was infuriating! But to ignore the fact that Grant Hill was eating up a huge part of the salary cap — and that was the reason they had to bring in former high level players who were “past their primes” on minimum free-agent contracts to make up for the loss of Hill…. And those guys weren’t able to provide as much help as McGrady needed, that is like the elephant in the room. It’s not like Orlando could have gone out and signed a top-level young talent with a midlevel exception. The fact that they had to trade Mike Miller to try to get a decent big man to play next to McGrady was extremely disappointing and exacerbated the problem with the poor draft picks because he was the only guy they had besides T-Mac who anyone wanted in a trade. Can’t say that I was sorry to see either that basketball personnel office or Weisbrod go.
talents.  hoopsfan

Its a myth that the offense in Houston didnt rely on Tmac as much, this is partly a result of pace and the idea that having another high usage player on the team would lower yours. But if you compare the make up of both supporting cast (Orl-Hou), there isnt a single difference in roles. Just the shot attempts are dispersed differently, the Rockets were essentially a 2-man team for the longest, by the time they had the talent alongside them to legitimately compete Tmac was done as a superstar.

I really dont see how they get past clearly superior teams. 2005 was his best chance and that was against a stacked Dallas squad that didnt even need Dirk to play well to win, due to the Rockets missing their top 2 PF from their rotation that year (One due to injury, the other was traded midway through the season).

Brian Sanipe
Brian Sanipe

A product of his environment? So you're saying he had absolutely no control of it? Are you kidding me?

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Brian Sanipe

No, sir.

McGrady had little to no control of the situation when he was with the Magic.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@hoopsfan

I never said that McGrady didn't have plenty left in the tank when he left Orlando. Statistically, McGrady still produced an All-Star caliber level -- for three years -- when he was with the Rockets. However, his production was at is highest when he was the Magic. That's a fact.

That's the lone point I was trying to make.

hoopsfan
hoopsfan

@Eddy Rivera

Hey, you're not going to get me to defend John Gabriel's moves as GM at that point in franchise history (or at any other time during his stint other than the work he did to clear the room for two max deals and to get two guys signed (Though many will debate the wisdom of signing Hill, and I can understand their point of view, I don't think there were a lot of "experts" questioning that move at the time). I already told you that I thought the draft picks were unforgivable.

And I do not argue with you that McGrady doesn't get enough credit now for the time that he did play here. Though at the time he was mentioned in MVP talk, won two scoring titles, made a few All-Star Games, was among the All NBA team members, and won a Most Improved Player Award. And he deserved all that. He also benefited at that time from the fact that he could showcase all his skills as much as he wanted because he unquestionably was the best player on the team. His work didn't go unnoticed.

However, I'm not buying the contention that McGrady was done after he played four seasons in Orlando because his teammates were so bad. The guy scored 62 points in one game just a few days before he sat/or was sat down (depending upon the version of the story you believe) for the rest of his last season in Orlando. There are so many other factors that could have contributed to what happened to his career after he left: The way he was used after he left Orlando, the fact that he was playing with some other guys who also could score (like Yao) and didn't feel the need to score as much, how he rehabbed when he did have injuries, how much he worked out when he wasn't playing games and in the offseason, the gifts/limitations of his own body, whatever was going on in his personal life at the time -- and a whole host of other factors. Not to mention that plenty of guys played on bad teams and had to carry the load and weren't done by the time they were 25 -- even if they came straight out of high school. (And I would be very surprised if we have seen the peak of LeBron James, though he did spend 7 seasons in Cleveland and will turn 27 in December.)

We'll just have to agree to disagree on that contention, I guess. I think he still had plenty left in the tank when he left Orlando, and I was surprised he didn't find more success. I'm not a hater. I truly appreciate T-Mac. I still think he could help a team.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Jonathan

I watch a lot of basketball too, so I can sympathize. I felt the link I provided was self-explanatory, but I can understand some people being confused.

Jonathan
Jonathan

@Eddy Rivera
My fault for jumping the gun on the stats matter, especially since I've never been a stats person. But I am still a very knowledgeable, avid basketball fan and so I'm assuming there are others out there like me who could use a parenthetical statement directing us where to look at in regards to stats so we don't misunderstand. Or maybe I'm just in the ignorant minority category. Hah.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Jonathan

You can disagree, but my statement is empirically sound. Even if you dismiss PER, there are other linear metrics that rated McGrady better than Bryant in 2003. I never make statements unless I use data to support my claims.

Nevertheless, I respect your opinion.

Jonathan
Jonathan

@Jonathan
PS. I'm not a Kobe-worshipper.

Tracy is actually one of my all-time favorite players. And I desperately wanted him on the Lakers...attitude problems, banged-up problems and all.

Jonathan
Jonathan

@Eddy Rivera
Sorry, I'm not a Hollinger PER kind of guy. My eyes just immediately jumped at the per game. And that's it. I'm assuming some other people's eyes did as well. Maybe if you clarified what you did right now in parentheses up there, it would eliminate confusion.

No intent to bash here. Just simply disagree with the statement that T-Mac being voted after Kobe is a travesty. Especially since that was the season Kobe had, I believe, like 9 straight 40+ games or something (first since Jordan to do something like that). But at least you called it a 'minor' one. So no big deal here.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Jonathan

Too bad you're looking at the wrong numbers. McGrady's PER, TS%, eFG%, AST%, TOV%, ORtg, Win Shares, and Win Shares/48 were better than Bryant's. I didn't even compare their net plus/minus or WARP, but McGrady was superior than Bryant in those metrics as well. So yes, it is a fact that "most of his stats were superior across the board" ... if you looked closer at the statistics and understood what you were looking at, then you wouldn't be making the statement you just made. I knew this would happen.

Why would I post a link disproving my statement? Think about that.

Jonathan
Jonathan

that basketball stat reference comparing kobe and mcgrady's 2002-03 stats...Kobe has the better stats across the board. Even the stats that mcgrady is better in, it's not even by a lot. I don't see how Kobe being voted ahead of him was a minor tragedy at all..30 7 6?

It is not a fact that "most of his stats were superior across the board." And the link you put up, ironically, disproves your statement.

Other than that, great article. McGrady deserves a better close to his legacy in my opinion.

Amwayfaithful
Amwayfaithful

Just getting around to this, but great work.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@hoopsfan

Regardless of Hill's contract, that doesn't excuse the Magic for completely being inept in surrounding McGrady with better talent. Yeah, it made things more difficult for Gabriel but he still goofed on a lot of moves.

To address the question of a player's peak, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus touched on this topic a while back:

http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=896

The answer? 25 to 27, but it varies depending on the player.

It has little to do with age, and more so with MINUTES PLAYED. For example, people may think LeBron has plenty of years left in his career to play at an elite level but at 25, given the amount of playing time he's amassed in seven years in the NBA, he's reached his prime already.

It may seem odd to think that James has already peaked but you have to remember that he entered the league straight out of school, so he's got a lot of mileage. That's why it's fascinating to see former high school players, like Garnett, declining in their late-20's.

The same thing will happen with Howard.

I don't see why it's surprising that McGrady declined in his mid-20's. McGrady entered the NBA when he was 18! And given how much wear and tear his body was going through when he was with the Magic, he was essentially damaged goods when he was traded to the Rockets.

hoopsfan
hoopsfan

@eltharion_doa

From my perspective, the "prime of your career" generally has been identified as a certain age group -- the age when athletes in your sport generally are expected by experts to have reached their physical and mental peak combined.

If you define the prime of someone's career as when they played their best, you basically are saying it is the same thing as their peak years.

It generally was accepted for quite some time that the prime of an NBA player's career was from ages 28-32. By that time, they still were expected to be physically able to play at a very high level and to also have learned about the mental part of the game well and to handle the pressure that comes with being a pro athlete.

People say all the time that an athlete "is entering the prime of his career." If you consider that the time that the athlete played his best, or peaked, you wouldn't know that until his career was over.

When T-Mac left Orlando at 25, there is no way that I thought his years of playing at a high level were over. He didn't have significant surgery until a couple years ago. There might have been other reasons he didn't continue to play at as high a level after he left here. For one thing, he wasn't necessarily the main focus of the offense in Houston as he was in Orlando.

I don't argue with the writer's contentions that McGrady needed more help when he played in Orlando, that plenty of mistakes were made acquiring personnel, or that he isn't given all the credit he deserves for the time he played here. He was a blast to watch. The draft selections were unforgivable. It was infuriating! But to ignore the fact that Grant Hill was eating up a huge part of the salary cap -- and that was the reason they had to bring in former high level players who were "past their primes" on minimum free-agent contracts to make up for the loss of Hill.... And those guys weren't able to provide as much help as McGrady needed, that is like the elephant in the room. It's not like Orlando could have gone out and signed a top-level young talent with a midlevel exception. The fact that they had to trade Mike Miller to try to get a decent big man to play next to McGrady was extremely disappointing and exacerbated the problem with the poor draft picks because he was the only guy they had besides T-Mac who anyone wanted in a trade. Can't say that I was sorry to see either that basketball personnel office or Weisbrod go.

But you have to figure that McGrady played somewhat of a role in his overall NBA legacy. He was tremendous when he played in Orlando and deserves all the credit in the world (maybe with some help from Doc for not trying to rein him in). But I don't think he was done when he left. He might not have had title-level talent in Houston. But combined with his skills, a lot of experts expected the Rockets to compete for a title. Tracy had enough talent that he should have been able to get out of the first round there - especially with Jeff Van Gundy as his coach. He would have made it past Detroit while he was in Orlando that one season if Steven Hunter hadn't made three boned-headed plays in a row in the final 90 seconds of the game when the Magic could have wrapped up the series. (I thought Darrell Armstrong was going to kill Hunter, and I had never seen him act like that.)

You can't find a bigger T-Mac fan than me. I watched all his games in Orlando, a lot of them in Toronto, and at least parts of all the ones I could see on League Pass after he went to the Rockets. I think he did all he could have been expected to do in Orlando (though I wish he had not thrown in the towel for much of his last season because he didn't like Weisbrod). But I expected more out of him in his post-Magic days. And I think he has to carry some of the baggage for that. Former NBA greats have said that, too, and they are fully aware of the physical toll that the game takes on guys' bodies and of T-Mac's talents.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@Chronz
I said he usually was not playing the opposing team's best perimeter player (at least during his Orlando tenure) until it was clutch time. I remember him making Glenn Robinson look like a D-League player in 2001 against the Bucks. That was the playoffs, which is almost entirely clutch time.

Point is, T-Mac was held back from completely exerting himself on D because he was needed so much on offense. Previous comments here about "T-Mac should've just focused on being a defender and not shoot so much" are laughable. Dude was the youngest scoring champ since the merger at the time, and put up over 32 points/gm on a terrible team with no other viable offensive option. He focuses on defense instead of offense, and that team averages 80 points a game for the year.

Chronz
Chronz

bullshooter :

There’s another way of looking at this. Those years allowed us to see what McGrady was truly capable of. The real testament to how good Tmac was came from his time in Houston when he was playing with good players and they didn’t go anywhere.

Compare Tmac in Orlando to Jordan in the late 80′s when he was playing with stiffs and youngsters. Jordan put up even more astronomical numbers. The difference is that as Jordan’s teammates got better, Jordan changed his game to win and advance in the playoffs. Did Tmac do that in Houston? Putting up big numbers doesn’t make a player great, just proficient.

My opinion is that the fact that Tmac hasn’t been able to get out of the first round of the playoffs, when a team has had a chance to gameplan against him says more about the poor state of regular season defense and Tmac’s ability to exploit it than anything else. When Tmac actually had to make a play to win a series, he invariably came up short. Yes, Tmac is a talented player, but I wouldn’t call him one of the greatest or lose much sleep over what was “wasted” in Orlando.

Before reading and refuting Id like to know what you are basing your statistical claims on.

Chronz
Chronz

@Arrogant Black Bastard
The same Tayshaun Prince who made AI, Kobe, ETC.. look like they had no will and relied far too much on inefficient plays. The rest of your post pretty much falls apart with that foundation to which you prove Tmac lacked the competive fire to "fulfill his potential" Something that is so played out anyways, do you know how many greats you can say this about. Larry Bird, Grant Hill, Shaq, Wilt. What matter is the players they became (great ones) and what robbed them from continuing it. In Tmacs case it was his genetics. You claim he lacked the proper work ethic but Ive seen enough evidence to provide the contrary. Im not just talking about a decent work ethic but someone whos done whatever hes can to play with a pre-existing condition (curvature of the spine). There is alot of uncertainty behind Tmacs decision making when it comes to trainers and techniques (really the rumors the internet provides is unlimited), but the one thing you can take out of these allegations is the he wasnt without effort. However misguided the advice given to him hes not the lazy slob you make him out to be. And no, loving to sleep does not make on lazy. What you do with your awake hours define that.

Chronz
Chronz

Billy (slickw143) :

T-Mac wasn’t a defender like Duncan or Jordan, hell no. However, he was no slouch either when he was engaged, which I suppose is the issue a lot of people have with him. He stil led the Magic in steals and blocks among players who played at least half the games in that 2002-2003 season, even without full effort. Honestly, Doc probably advised T-Mac to save himself for the offensive end, seeing as how T-Mac usually avoided playing D on the opposing team’s best perimeter guy until the end if it was a close game. He blocked Kobe’s fade-away once, I remember that.
Either way, one can discredit T-Mac for some things, especially his attitude and possibly even his inability to take care of his body (although back issues are something that just suck for anyone who’s had them). But to discredit T-Mac’s 2002-2003 season is just ridiculous. Jacque Vaugh and Shawn Kemp each played over 20 minutes a game. 20 minutes!!!  Billy (slickw143)

A common misconception that Tmac never played D. He was constantly praised by GM's, scouts, as a versatile defender. No scratch that, the 2nd most versatile defender. A 1-4 kind of guy who come playoff time would always clamp down.

Your wrong in your assumption that he never played the opposing team star, Tmac would guard him no matter the position, from Baron Davis to KG (Looking back its probably what broke his back). Sure it wasnt an every day kind of thing, particularly in his final year there but to this day I probably have those games where he clamped down on Vince, Pierce, Ray. And his defensive contribution during the playoffs are well documented. I still remember what he did to Glenn Robinson, or Dirk. He didnt fare as well against Baron, but compared to the alternative (Posting up DA every possession), Mac did a great job. One game he contained him all night only to have him score the game winner on him and have it be all anyone talks about the next night.

Chronz
Chronz

@Pookeyguru
With all due respect, when there are statistical inaccuracies in someones post I tend to think less of their subjective opinion. Kobe a better rebounder? This tells me 2 things, 1 that you look at per game averages to assess a players ability. 2 that you lag behind the times.

Look up the amount of AVAILABLE rebounds they corral aka their REBOUND RATE/%. They were practically identical, now I would be willing to say Kobe might be a tad better just because he was so aggressive that year and living here in LA I saw more of him than Tmac but to point it out as a distinguishing factor is laughable. Tmac was clearly better and your assumptions on his potential irrelevant.

One final thing, the way he lost to Dallas? Are you kidding me, please tell me what you know about the situation and their similarities, ID LOVE to hear this one.

Chronz
Chronz

@beboxblax
How can you hold such praise for Hill but not for Tmac, when practically everything Hill was doing, Tmac was doing even better at a younger age? Is it because Tmac's injuries didnt rob him of playing time even though they were just as debilitating to his overall potential for greatness? I mean what did you see in Hill when he was on a middling Pistons team that you didnt see in Tmac?

Chronz
Chronz

Tmacs exit from Orlando is full of misconceptions (bust included), the albatross now known as Grant Hill prevented management from ever fielding a great team, we know that. What happened afterwards was something that any star would have done (and in some way or another has done since the 60's) Tmac threatened to opt-out if management (newly signed Wiesbrod) didnt surround him with capable talent, citing that hes given the franchise 3 years to build a team. The hockey guy (GM) responded by questioning Tmacs heart and abilities. The relationship soured from then on. Mac had grown tired of the franchise not valuing his input on who he would get to play with and wanted the pick traded. The new guy was having nothing of it and just put a price tag on him and shipped him to one of his desired locations. 4 teams were offering packages that Orlando would accept (PHX/SAS/IND/HOU). Now keep in mind at the time both the Pacers and Spurs were contending and winning 60+ games. Phoenix and Houston were middle of the pack teams but offered 2 NBA proven talented bigman prospects, but still a team he could make his own (a stark contrast to Bron choosing to join Wade-Bosh in MIA).

So the 2 sides agreed on a deal and the bickering continued. Tmac vowed for revenge and the new GM quit within the year, before even seeing the trade pan out, while neither side won Tmac atleast got back into a competitive environment before the injuries mounted. Hockey guy should have approached the situation differently, any competent GM would have. Just because you have a disgruntled superstar (Which he was at the time) it doesnt mean you trade him. Only an inexperienced beginner would have, his quitting (especially so early) exonerates Mac in some way.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Pookeyguru

Phoenix sent that pick to Orlando in the Penny Hardaway trade. Then the Magic sent it back to the Suns in the Bo Outlaw trade. You're right. It was Phoenix's pick, but it was under the possession of Orlando at the time.

Mike
Mike

Fantastic article. Sums up his career nicely.

beboxblax
beboxblax

Ah, I really dont care much for TMac. But if Grant Hill wasnt hurt, they would have dominated. I loved Hill when he was healthy and a beast on the Pistons. A couple ankle injuries and he was reduced from future all time great to a role player.

What if.... thats all we can say now. oh well back to Grant Hill YouTube videos!

Pookeyguru
Pookeyguru

Couple things. Kobe had some worse numbers than Tmac, but Tmac didn't quite have better numbers across the board. There were reasons for each, but Kobe was a better rebounder than Tmac those years. It doesn't matter. At the time, Tmac was a better player than Paul Pierce. It's just that Tmac didn't continue on that route.

The pick that Orlando gave up to Phoenix was not the pick that Phx used to select Amare Stoudemire. That was Phoenix's pick. http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2002.html (That's all my point here. Unless I'm missing something here. But Phoenix had the 9th worst record in the NBA and how they ended up with the 9th pick in the 2002 draft.)

Anyway, I agree Tmac's "prime" in Orlando was wasted. I was willing to overlook some of the issue's I had with his time there when he went to Houston. But when Houston essentially bowed out of the playoffs in 2005 the same way Orlando did in 2003, I was done with Tmac.

I've always thought he wasted too much time trying to be a scorer. He wasn't consistent or efficient enough to do so. Or smart enough, but that's a different matter too. I always thought his greatest impact would have been on the defensive end had he completely committed to that end. Of course, he didn't.

Excellent article Eddy. Appreciated the time & effort you put into it.

Tom
Tom

Anyone else find it weird that Garrity has a Pistons towel draped across his knees on the Magic bench?

EP
EP

Oh, and remember, some said that he wouldn't last 3 or 4 years in the league. He was great at one point, unfortunately his body gave out, but he lasted over a decade, and was damn good for most of those years.

EP
EP

Great read, Like Dre P said, you actually watched him and didn't go off what other people have written/said about him. Don't get me wrong, he may have made some bad choices, but it's a damn shame that he didn't/doesn't get the respect that he deserves.

albs
albs

its nice to have commentaries like this, seeing mcgrady in the positive, all the other commentaries i read where almost all about hating and bashing mcgrady, i couldnt really under why the hate... we are only human.. and they are judging like they were all better themselves..why compare him to the great kobe and jordan and all those other players, why not just appreciate his game.. right now, wish he can sign to a good team and recover from his injury and regain playing form, its sad when such a great and passionate athlete, will end his career like these....

he is a humble and great player, compare to the other great players.. maybe u are bashing a decent person,

many people like empathy, i have been a failure most of my life, and i know how sometimes how hard it is to meet expectations, even if how badly u want it..taking care of ur body just go so much, its hard even to prevent a body from having fever...

only consolation is at least mcgrady got be rich... that something most of those haters couldnt take...his paycheck...

a championship ring is only symbols...it aint everything... i just wanna see him play...

Dre P
Dre P

Very good article, it seems like you actually watched him play during his time in Orlando (unlike most people who right articles/blogs about T-Mac). It amazes me how people perceive him to be a ballhog because the stats he put up, when in fact his assist numbeds speak to the contrary. I recall plenty of times watching him play and wishing he stop passing so much, as he was trying to get teammates involved. He is very unselfish and one of the most gifted passers i've ever seen. I just wish his critics would actually watch him play and take the entire scope of his circumstances into consideration when judging his legacy (especially in the playoffs).

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

T-Mac wasn't a defender like Duncan or Jordan, hell no. However, he was no slouch either when he was engaged, which I suppose is the issue a lot of people have with him. He stil led the Magic in steals and blocks among players who played at least half the games in that 2002-2003 season, even without full effort. Honestly, Doc probably advised T-Mac to save himself for the offensive end, seeing as how T-Mac usually avoided playing D on the opposing team's best perimeter guy until the end if it was a close game. He blocked Kobe's fade-away once, I remember that.

Either way, one can discredit T-Mac for some things, especially his attitude and possibly even his inability to take care of his body (although back issues are something that just suck for anyone who's had them). But to discredit T-Mac's 2002-2003 season is just ridiculous. Jacque Vaugh and Shawn Kemp each played over 20 minutes a game. 20 minutes!!!

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Mike

I agree. PER isn't perfect by any means, as it is an offensively-biased metric that doesn't capture defense very well. That's why I use other statistics, like net plus/minus, statistical plus/minus, WARP, and Win Shares/48 to better encapsulate how good or bad a player is. I didn't have adjusted plus/minus numbers available to me, but I would have used those if I had the data readily available to me. The point is, all these metrics used in conjunction with each other do an effective job of lessening their inherent biases and painting a clearer picture of a player's skill level in an objective manner.

I also concede that Bryant, Duncan, and Jordan were better defenders than McGrady. That's correct.

Mike
Mike

McGrady was undoubtedly great at his peak and it sucks he had a poor supporting cast. But I do have a problem with using PER to make the case he was better than Kobe and Duncan, and was comparable to prime Jordan. PER largely measures offensive proficiency. All three were better defenders. Defense means a whole lot more in the playoffs than it does in the regular season.

I have mixed feelings about the PER movement in general. It's a useful stat within parameters. But it ignores a large part of the game.

eltharion_doa
eltharion_doa

eltharion_doa :

@bullshooter
Only in 07/08 did the Rockets finally put some decent pieces around their big two, and that season they ran into an exceptionally deep Utah side, whilst Yao.   eltharion_doa

That's supposed to finish "Yao missed the playoffs, and Alston went down after four games."

eltharion_doa
eltharion_doa

@bullshooter

What good players were these he played with in Houston?

The 06/07 Rockets, where Yao and he both averaged over 20 PER and the combined three other starters barely clearly 30 total? (Luther Head played over 20 minutes a game that year in the playoffs and posted 4.4 PER. How can you win a series when the 7th guy in the rotation is playing like the worst player in the entire league?)

Maybe you think 04/05 was McGrady's year - with David Wesley playing 40 mpg in the playoffs and posting 7.8 PER. What a player! Or maybe it was Jon Barry that was supposed to give McGrady the edge. Bob Sura? Ryan Bowen (who? 18mpg in the playoffs!) Apart from Yao and T-Mac, that entire roster apart from Mike James and a slowing Mutombo were utter bums. Compare that to the Mavs team who beat them, and their entire top 6 all posted above 16 PER in the playoffs.

The Rockets were *awful* when McGrady was there. They had absolutely nothing after Yao and him. Only in 07/08 did the Rockets finally put some decent pieces around their big two, and that season they ran into an exceptionally deep Utah side, whilst Yao. Put it in perspective - Bobby Jackson played the 4th most minutes, and posted a 5.5 PER.

I don't care how good you are, you aren't winning anything in the NBA playoffs with completely useless players getting high rotation minutes.

eltharion_doa
eltharion_doa

@hoopsfan

It depends on the player. Most players peak in their late 20s, when they've gained NBA experience but their bodies haven't deteriorated too much. Some players peak later, some peak earlier.

McGrady, like Penny Hardaway, peaked early because his body quit on him.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@REGGIE
Except for the fact that he thinks Otis drafted Dwight. Weisbrod did. So double fail right there.

It's hard to have "revisionist" history when Rivera presented numbers and facts here, with some subjective observation sprinkled in. It cannot be argued that T-Mac was a dominant player here and made the team relevant when it had no business making the playoffs.

Danini
Danini

Maybe that's why guys should stop taking the "max" deals. Two guys get max contracts, one goes down for years and the team has very little flexibility to get better players to surround the one that plays. I don't have sympathy for those players that want it all, and when the team can't make moves to bring in the help, they want to leave.

I know McGrady played hard for Orlando, despite what some might think, maybe at first when Grant couldn't play he was glad to showcase his talents to the world. After a few years it got old to him and it became very tough to win games.

Doc Rivers wanted Gabe to not resign Darrell Armstrong and that was what caused the collapse of the team when we won only 21 games. He said that if T-Mac is to be the leader of the team it won't happen if Armstrong is still with the team, so Gabriel didn't bring him back that summer. Some people are born leaders, some people it takes them longer to learn how to lead and some feel like they can lead by example. I am not certain that T-Mac was one of those born leaders, he did what he had to do to get wins for the team, but he didn't have that fire to push the others.

All in all he was great in Orlando and, by the way, I find it hard to believe that anyone gives 100% effort every single day they turn up for work, so, people should ease off on, "He quit on the team" or "He didn't play hard enough his last year with Orlando", he's only human.

hoopsfan
hoopsfan

Excuse me...not a trade exception, an injury exception.

hoopsfan
hoopsfan

When exactly does your prime start in the NBA? At one point, it was considered 28-32. Tracy McGrady was 25 when he left Orlando. He was 21 and turned 25 when he was in Orlando. I can't disagree that he didn't have much help. But Grant Hill's injury and $93.7 million contract did not help Orlando put anyone around McGrady, and the Magic couldn't get any trade exceptions. They tried one year, and the league denied the request because it said Hill was healthy enough to play at some point.

BigMike21
BigMike21

@Busted!

I'm calling you out buddy. You did NOT praise Otis Smith on draft night. He did not draft Dwight and Jameer. Hockey boy did.

Arrogant Black Bastard
Arrogant Black Bastard

Tracy McGrady had tons of talent. He did not have tons of heart. I caught the games that were played in Auburn Hills during that 2003 playoff series. Tracy had the most talent on the floor. But Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter had more than the state of Florida and the Toronto Raptors in common. Neither player liked to go to the hole enough.

Tracy had a great jumper. But as the series went on, my Pistons figured out how to defend that better, especially once a desperate Rick Carlisle finally started giving minutes to Tayshaun Prince, who really played McGrady well.

But McGrady still had an advantage going to the hole, and he didn't want to do it. Me, I'm glad, cause it helped my team win the series. But smart Magic fans had to know they were being cheated by their own star player.

Tracy had a ton of talent. He didn't maximize it like he could have. He's never been into conditioning and rehab like he should have been. McGrady didn't start off fragile or oft injured. He became that way by not respecting his body and taking care of it. Nobody plays in every game, not even A.C. Green, John Stockton, or Karl Malone. But the guys who miss chunks of seasons usually are the guys who don't take care of their bodies and don't respect their bodies. To me, that translates into them not really respecting the game. It's not the 70s or the 80s. Guys that don't take their training, lifting, diet seriously are guys that are asking to flame out suddenly. There's a reason why the picture on this manifesto shows Tracy sitting next to a slower, heavier Shawn Kemp, and that's not all John Gabriel's fault.

Tracy McGrady was a sunshine player, not because he was a Floridian, but because he liked to grin and talk when the going was easy. I remember him talking junk in 2002 about "Going to Charlotte, to the Hive, to play the Little Bees." while he was being interviewed for TNT and just knew he was going to win the series. He talked the same kind of smack in 2003 against the Pistons.

It's easy to talk. It's harder to prove. It's easy to fling in jumpers. It's harder to go to the hole. The regular season is easier than the first round of the playoffs. Tracy had enough talent to impress while the games were easy in December and January. But when it became gut check time, real winning time, come the months of May and June, Tracy was more like Mr. April.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@bullshooter
First of all, T-Mac's health started to fail him, really beginning his final season in Orlando. Jordan never had that problem, thankfully. Secondly, T-Mac's first really good teammate, Yao, also has had well-documented issues with his health. T-Mac was never, ever in a position where he was on a team that really should've won their first round series. The closest he came was on that series when the Magic were up 2-0 on the top-seeded Detroit team that never should've let the Magic win a single game, or when the Rockets had rang off 23 straight victories a few years ago (a lot of them without Yao). That Rockets team gave Utah a hell of a fight, but without Yao, and then without Alston who got hurt in that series, they could not keep up.

The West was stacked every year T-Mac was there, and the combination of health problems of both he and Yao just continued to derail his career and "legacy". T-Mac's numbers went up in the playoffs usually compared to the regular season, so it's not like he was some A-Rod-like choker. Right now he's not doing himself any favors, but to conveniently forget actual facts, not opinions, in regards to T-Mac's prime is just flat-out ridiculous.

And to the Chick_Hearn guy... Darrell Armstrong is the only name on there that did much next to T-Mac, and as stated, he was already on his decline by the time they played together. Miller and Outlaw were both traded during his tenure there, and neither one of them were more than role players starting on terrible teams. Check the actual complete rosters, and tell me how many teams do anything with trash like that.

bullshooter
bullshooter

There's another way of looking at this. Those years allowed us to see what McGrady was truly capable of. The real testament to how good Tmac was came from his time in Houston when he was playing with good players and they didn't go anywhere.

Compare Tmac in Orlando to Jordan in the late 80's when he was playing with stiffs and youngsters. Jordan put up even more astronomical numbers. The difference is that as Jordan's teammates got better, Jordan changed his game to win and advance in the playoffs. Did Tmac do that in Houston? Putting up big numbers doesn't make a player great, just proficient.

My opinion is that the fact that Tmac hasn't been able to get out of the first round of the playoffs, when a team has had a chance to gameplan against him says more about the poor state of regular season defense and Tmac's ability to exploit it than anything else. When Tmac actually had to make a play to win a series, he invariably came up short. Yes, Tmac is a talented player, but I wouldn't call him one of the greatest or lose much sleep over what was "wasted" in Orlando.

funny80sguy
funny80sguy

@Bordss
Man, I would have loved to have seen McGrady stay in Toronto with Vince. That would have been crazy during those 4 years.

Chick_Hearnboy
Chick_Hearnboy

I don't understand why purported-NBA superstars are entitled to some awesome supporting cast? To suggest he was "wasted" playing next to Bo Outlaw, Darrell Armstrong, Mike Miller and Drew Gooden just doesn't wash with me. Those aren't D-League scrubs we're talking about, they were and are competent NBA players that generally aren't in the league for no other reason than their skill level.

Fact is, McGrady will be judged accordingly. A second-tier superstar that was never the all-world mega talent some claimed he was or should have been. A Dominique Wilkins that broke down way too early.