The perils of counting on Tracy McGrady as a part of the Knicks' present and future were on display at the Garden last night. All you had to see was the glum look on the seven-time All-Star's face as he sat on the bench, unable to play in the second half of the Knicks' 120-109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
McGrady's surgically repaired left knee was just too sore, this time after he played 15:04 in the first half without scoring. The Knicks moved on without him in the second half, just as they might have to move on in the summer if McGrady doesn't prove to be a reasonable enough risk for next season and beyond.
"I didn't have it tonight," McGrady said. "It was pretty tough out there for me, moving around. I just felt like I wasn't going to try to push through it. It was really bad tonight."
The Knicks were coming off a 118-116 overtime win Friday night in Washington, a victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak and made them 1-3 since the trade deadline. McGrady scored 23 points in 25:33 on Friday but sat out the final 19:32 after his knee stiffened.
"It's just stiffness, pain," McGrady said. "Once you get that, there's no need to really stay out there and try to fight through it. I'm just getting back - as everybody already knows."
McGrady admitted he might have pushed it too hard in his first few games. His minutes have steadily declined since he played 32:02 in his Knicks debut on Feb. 20, but this was his first time under 25 minutes.
"Could be," he said when asked if he shouldn't have played so many minutes. "I was excited to get back and I didn't think I was capable of playing 30 minutes and being able to be effective for 30 minutes.
"Maybe I should have taken it easy and started off playing like 20 minutes, but it's nothing I'm jeopardizing going forward. It's nothing to be worried about. I can't hurt anything. I just don't want to have any setbacks."
McGrady missed all three of his shots. Al Harrington started the second half in his place and scored 31 points a night after scoring 37.
The Knicks trailed by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, but Danilo Gallinari, playing with five fouls, hit a three-pointer with 4:04 left to tie the score at 107.
But Memphis scored the next 11 points as the Knicks missed seven shots in a row before David Lee hit a jumper with 25.2 seconds left.
Lee scored 21 points for the Knicks (20-38).
How much will McGrady be able to play? That's as unclear as his - and the Knicks' - future.
"Again, I'm going to have some bad days, I'm going to have some good days," he said. "It's been a brutal schedule, considering I've been out of the game so long. The schedule is definitely not in my favor."