Mike D'Antoni blew out a sigh as he answered concerning inquiries from the media about Tracy McGrady's status. My peers were asking the wrong person because, quite frankly, D'Antoni knows about as much as we do.
This is all McGrady here. He plays when he wants and sits when he feels that he should. The Knicks know they mostly have him as a rental at this point. There is no legit playoff race to worry about, so no pressure to have him on the court aside from general curiosity in someone who may or may not be part of their plan going forward this summer.
But Tracy isn't concerned with any of that right now. This is about him using this opportunity in New York to slowly work himself back to the game at his pace. When he feels good, it'll be obvious, as we saw in the first half in Washington and against Oklahoma City. When he doesn't, we'll know that, too, as we saw Saturday against Memphis, when T-Mac kept that left knee packed in ice and let D'Antoni know he wasn't available for the second half.
Let's repeat it one more time for anyone who missed the message the first hundred times: the Knicks didn't make this trade with Houston mainly for McGrady. They did it all for the nookie - almost $10 million more in cap space savings. McGrady just made it a lot more interesting than a typical salary dump because he was a star making a comeback. The Knicks were quite fine with providing him an environment in which he could do that on his terms.
"In the long run, it'll wear you down," D'Antoni said of managing the situation. "But we're just trying to get him back as soon as we can and go from there."
And this is exactly what Rick Adelman didn't want to deal with in Houston. Last season Adelman never knew what to expect from his best player, whether he would practice (which was rare) or even be available to play in a game. Sometimes McGrady would tell him right before pregame, when the gameplan was already in place. Then McGrady went ahead and had the mircofracture surgery, without informing the team, which infuriated many within the Rockets organization.
Then this season he announced when he planned to come back. For Adelman, that was the last straw. He had a team overachieving without its star and wasn't about to yield control of it.
Enter the Knicks, who were just fine with giving McGrady carte blanche in exchange for cap relief. With the playoffs well out of range, it wasn't much of a risk.
For everyone clamoring for Allen Iverson in November (and, yes, we here promoted the Iverson idea), the situation is very similar. He has been in and out of the 76ers lineup for various reasons and has done little to help them in the W-L column. And that's what you had to be ready to accept.
McGrady will probably play Monday in Cleveland. He may even have a good first half. But, Fixers, don't put your faith in him. Really, he doesn't want you to. Not right now, anyway. T-Mac admits it'll be a while before he feels like himself out on the court, so he doesn't have much faith in himself right now, either.
What you expect is he is working, doing all the right things off the court, to get himself to a point where, before this season ends, we see glimpses of the old Tracy McGrady rather than glimpses of an old Tracy McGrady. The Knicks may not be playing for anything this season, but he is: a new contract.
Will it be here in New York? I think you have to consider everything. And you also have to consider everything about him.