GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As they make their one final recruiting trip as a team, the Knicks believe that all they can do to persuade LeBron James is to put on their very best face. At least as of Sunday, that face included a smile from Tracy McGrady.
"Ready to go," McGrady said about the game in Cleveland Monday night. In his case, that probably means about 20 minutes of playing time. At least that is the projection of coach Mike D'Antoni after McGrady sat out the entire second half of a 120-109 loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday night.
McGrady said after doing off-court conditioning that he felt "fatigue" in his surgically repaired left knee Saturday and didn't want to "overcompensate." He was confident he will have more to give Monday night.
McGrady insists that he has more than his salary slot to offer a team that is desperate for the pending free-agent superstar whom the Knicks will try to both impress and contain.
"King James!" he said when the topic was raised Sunday. Asked if he buys into the concept that his team must do something to make itself palatable to James, McGrady added: "No. Nobody knows what LeBron James is going to do but LeBron James. We have no control over that. The Knicks did what they had to do to try to make this franchise better, and that's to open cap space to bring some players in and turn this franchise around."
Right from the start, tonight's game has the makings of a productive venture for James. Wilson Chandler, arguably the Knicks' top defender and the player who would have guarded James, will miss the game because of personal reasons, a team spokesman said. He is expected back Tuesday.
The Cavaliers do have their own problems. Center Shaquille O'Neal will have surgery Monday to repair his injured right thumb. O'Neal was hurt during a win at Boston on Thursday. The team has not provided any timeline for his return.
But the Cavaliers are deeper than when the Knicks last saw them, what with the trade for Antawn Jamison - "a really good basketball player, All-Star level, and a really good guy who is concerned only about winning," D'Antoni said.
That figures to make it tougher to stop James. "You guard LeBron with the team; it's hard to guard him by yourself," D'Antoni said, adding that Danilo Gallinari will have the first crack at the assignment. "It's a good test for him."
Every day is a test for McGrady's knee and patience. He said he has no problem staying upbeat: "I worked too hard, man. You guys have no idea what I went through the last year and a half. It has been a really tough road for me. The only way I can go is positive thinking."
But on Saturday night his knee just said no. "Watching the game from the bench and seeing things out there,'' he said, "I still can give my advice."