Tracy McGrady sat there on a stool at the MSG Training Center during his first official day as a Knick saying everything on the checklist that would immediately appeal to his new set of desperate fans.
And most of it was believable. He'd love to re-sign here, even as a wingman to a superstar such as LeBron James (like that would ever work). He's not looking for max money at this point in his career, so he wouldn't impact the precious salary cap space. He thinks players would be crazy not to consider New York as a top destination choice.
And then he mentioned playoffs. As if.
I wrote this at the time of the trade and I'll say it again: if this trade took place in early January, then that kind of talk was legitimate. But it was made with 29 games to go and the team down seven games in the playoff race and the key piece, McGrady, over a year removed from playing real minutes in an NBA game. Do the math.
Sure he had an impressive first half (19 of his 26 points) in his debut against the Thunder last Saturday, but that's to be expected. Remember that Jonathan Bender looked really good in his debut, as well. Then the conditioning thing kicked in. No one, and I mean no one, can be away from the game for any length of time and doesn't deal withsome adjustment period, especially when you step in mid-season without a training camp. Michael Jordan had moments late in the 1994-95 season -- recall the double-nickels game, if you must -- but by the playoffs his legs just weren't there in the playoffs, especially against Nick Anderson and the Orlando Magic.
It's time to let go of this season. It's time to stop being outraged about players being benched. Chris Duhon is the latest to take a seat. Well, shouldn't he? You want to see all you can out of Sergio Rodriguez and it's also time Toney Douglas got into a regular rotation spot and got comfortable enough to show what he can do at both ends of the floor. Who knows, he may end up a good compliment for McGrady (or even LeBron) in the backcourt because of his ability to be a scorer and to defend opposing point guards.
[Speaking of defense, here's a thought: why not have Douglas pressure the ball three-quarter court? Just be a hound. Get the ball out of the point guard's hands and disrupt the other team's offense. Something. ANYthing.]
As for T-Mac, it is what we said it would be. The Knicks acquired him mainly to clear up some more cap space to ensure they'll have plenty of room to rebuild this team in the summer. If he can give them any pop, any buzz, in the meantime, that's just gravy. But know that wasn't the real intention here.
And McGrady came here because he knew he could ease into the game, get his legs under him and experiment to see exactly where he is physically going into free agency. Like he said after the game in Boston, it's going to be a few weeks before he really feels comfortable on the court.
It's safe to say he'll regain some of his explosion, but what you have to watch for is the other part: landing and planting. Microfracture issues, according to someone I spoke to about these things, isn't as much about pushing off as it is the impact of landing. If it causes too much pain, the athlete tends to not explode as much to protect himself on the way down. It's a subconscious thing.
So come to grips with the fact that we're at that point now where the Knicks have become a petrie dish. McGrady, Rodriguez, Douglas and most definitely Danilo Gallinari. I could go a-whole-nother blog on Gallo. But I'll spare you all for now.
Plus, I've got a plane to catch. Or, considering the weather, a dog sled....
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* - We did a story for today's Newsday about the Knicks need to get bigger, which was something we also addressed in the previous blog. Since many of you have asked about Zydrunas Ilguaskas, who is about to be bought out by the Wizards, let me put it this way: I think there is a greater chance that LeBron James will be a Knick this summer than Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be one this season.