GREENBURGH, N.Y. - It didn't take long for Tracy McGrady to join the 2010-11 bandwagon around here. The seven-time All-Star, whom the Knicks acquired before Thursday's NBA trade deadline in a blockbuster deal, already has started talking about the possibility of playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire at the Garden after this summer.
"I'm going to tell you guys like this: I'm a guy, I've made a lot of money over my career," said McGrady, who this season is the league's highest-paid player at $23 million. "I can retire right now and I can be fine financially and my kids can be fine. Money is not an issue. So if these guys were to bring in a LeBron or D-Wade along with a Chris Bosh or a Stoudemire, I'd be a damn fool to not want to stay here. I'm just telling you right now I would definitely embrace the opportunity to be here. Money is not an issue."
Nor is it for the Knicks, who, as a result of McGrady's trade, will have more than $30 million in salary-cap space this summer to target at least one - and possibly two - of the aforementioned marquee stars.
McGrady still considers himself among that group and says he is physically ready to return to an All-Star level.
"This is not the same Tracy from last season, when I was hobbling on one leg," he said. "That's not going to be me. I'm a lot more explosive, a lot more confident in my leg, and I'm pretty close to being 100 percent."
McGrady played 35 games in 2008-09 and only six this season (all in December) before being exiled by the Rockets. He is averaging 21.9 points per game in his career but hasn't averaged more than 20 points in a season since 2007-08.
McGrady, who will wear No. 3, said he is ready to make his Knicks debut Saturday night against the Thunder at the Garden. "Might as well [play]. We've only got 29 [games] to go," coach Mike D'Antoni said.
McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez and Bill Walker (who came in the Nate Robinson trade with the Celtics) were at the MSG Training Center Friday. Eddie House and J.R. Giddens, who also were part of the Robinson trade, had not yet arrived. The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - were working out a buyout agreement with forward Brian Cardinal, who was acquired from Minnesota for Darko Milicic on Wednesday.
The addition of McGrady, flashy point guard Rodriguez and House, who played for D'Antoni with the Suns, will result in the return of D'Antoni's up-tempo offense. "We're going to speed it up again," he said, trying not to smile too much.
No one tried to suggest that any of this means the Knicks (19-34) can be serious playoff contenders this season. But McGrady didn't dismiss it.
"We're seven games out, not that far . . . Run off five in a row or six in a row, we're right there," he said.
It's clear, however, that his presence here is more about 2010-11, for him and for the Knicks. As had been widely reported, McGrady told his agent that if he wound up in Sacramento or Chicago, he would have asked for a buyout so he could sign with the Knicks.
"I mean, you're talking about big city, big stage, bright lights; this is New York," McGrady said. "Every player should want to play here.''