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The McGrady Hunch

The Knicks interest in Tracy McGrady is obvious from the salary cap relief standpoint, especially because of the $9.5 million in savings that came out of the three-team trade before the deadline.

But what McGrady also brings to the Knicks is that these last 29 games are now worth something. It's been a long day and I'm pretty tired, but I'm not anywhere near the state of delerium that would lead me to even try to suggest McGrady, with one microfracture-repaired knee and a potbelly physique, leads a ridiculous charge to a playoff berth. This gang is 7 1/2 games out, Fixers. Be sure to mix well that dose of reality in the Kool-Aid today. And hate me for being right.

But it's not a total loss. No this will be interesting, to say the least. McGrady is a megawatt talent who, in the few times Rick Adelman let him off the bench in December, proved he could still put up strong numbers. His shooting touch is still there, as is the natural ability to create offense, either for himself or others.

The Knicks want to see just how much he has left and if it may be worth a little piece of their precious cap space this summer as they rebuild this roster.

"All the options are open now," Donnie Walsh said in regards to McGrady being an option for next season.

Maybe if there were a few more games left, maybe if the deficit wasn't already so steep, maybe if there weren't five back-to-backs left and maybe if 17 of the last 29 games weren't on the road, there might be a chance.

Maybe if the Knicks weren't somehow even smaller after these trades, weren't so obviously weaker defensively (if that was possible).

But, again, it'll be very interesting. Why?

For one, after the offense was downshifted to allow Chris Duhon to play at his gear, get ready for the return of Seven Seconds or Less. If not for any other reason but because the Knicks will need to run and score as much as they possible can to overcome the fact that they can't/won't defend. Perhaps Mike D'Antoni needs to put a "Foul Jar" in the locker room and after each game, whoever played over 20 minutes and didn't get at least four fouls must put $1,000 in the jar. Then tell the players the money goes toward a post-season party for the beat writers. We'd be making it rain if guys kept letting opponents get to the rim like the Bulls did in that third quarter on Wednesday night.

Back on point: McGrady. He'll probably begin as a two guard, which will allow Wilson Chandler to move to the four spot, where he's more comfortable (and better suited). You could see flashy playmaker Sergio Rodriguez, whom the Knicks were thrilled to get in the deal, supplant Duhon as the starting point guard. El Chacho (or, if you prefer the more American moniker, S-Rod) can use these 29 games as a showcase for himself, as well, in D'Antoni's system. The Knicks are going to need a point guard this summer.

But the main thing to see is if McGrady can be the go-to guy, the LeBron, the Wade, the Carmelo, the Dirk . . . the Kobe, the Knicks have so sorely lacked all season and for the better part of the past decade. Does he still have this in him?

Trainer Tim Grover, who has worked with McGrady since his Rockets exile in late December, says the microfracture issue -- his surgery was a year ago -- should not be a factor. But we've seen with players who come out of microfracture surgery that explosion is usually the biggest loss. Running and moving isn't as much of a problem, but the explosion the player was so used to -- and what was so much a part of their game -- just never returns. McGrady had great explosion, as Shawn Bradley once found out, but can he get it back again at the age of 30?

"It normally does [impact explosion]," Grover said of microfracture, "but I think we were able to combat that quite a bit. Give it about 10 days and you'll be able to see how explosive he really is."

Grover's only concern with McGrady in these 29 games has to do with his basketball timing. "From a conditioning standpoint, he's going to be fine," Grover said. "Get a couple of practices under his belt. Health-wise, he's 100 percent. But, listen, you can only run a person on a treadmill so much. You can only have him go through drills and have him do different things, but when you're out there playing five-on-five against guys 250 pounds and up and taking contact, that's something I just can't simulate this time of year."

Grover says McGrady has worked out "five times a week" since December and when he wasn't at Grover's ATTACK Athletics facility in Chicago, "I sent one of my trainers with him" when McGrady was home in Houston.

So it'll be interesting, for sure. Each game, down to No. 82, will be a look at a once-superstar player trying to regain his level and prove to the rest of the NBA that he still belongs among the game's elite and, of course, he is worth another multiyear contract.

It'll be interesting to see when a team has to guard a 6-8 shooter who can handle the ball at the top of a pick-and-roll how they then defend a 6-9 player who can cut, catch and finish with either hand. And how they defend that without leaving one of the NBA's best three-point shooters on the perimeter and also keeping an eye on that kid with the pogostick legs crashing back door from the weak side.

It'll be interesting to see how the supporting cast looks with a leading man.

 

New York Sports