Almost 10 years ago, then-Orlando Magic superstar Tracy McGrady heard the story of Iran Brown, a 13-year-old who had been the victim of a sniper attack in Maryland. Upon learning that he was Brown's favorite NBA player, Tracy reached out to the fan with gifts and the Magic eventually paid to bring the boy and his family to Orlando to watch the team play on Christmas Day. I can recall a segment on ESPN documenting a meeting between the two during a shootaround, in which McGrady told Brown that he would try to score 50 points for him. That day, after missing three games and still recuperating from a strained back, he would go on to score 46 in a win.
When you think of "T-Mac" in his prime, he was as gifted and talented as anyone in the league and appeared to be able to do whatever he wanted on the court. A seven-time All-Star, two scoring titles, and two All-NBA team selections are all a part of a testament to his capabilities at his peak. Today, the 33-year-old is only a shell of what he used to be and has struggled to carve out a comfortable role since his days with the Rockets, having played for three teams in less than two years after being dealt from Houston.
After a tumultuous 2010-11 season with the Pistons, McGrady willingly chose to sign with the Atlanta Hawks for the veteran's minimum, but would later become frustrated with coach Larry Drew in February over a lack of playing time. While the two were eventually able to settle their differences, it would seem likely that the 14-year-veteran will try to seek another team that can give him a consistent role in their rotation if the opportunity presented itself.
This season, Tracy averaged 5.3 PPG, 2.9 APG, and shot 43.7% from the field in 16.1 MPG. In this year's playoffs, he averaged 4.2 PPG and 15.2 MPG. Those minute-per-game averages don't look too far-fetched, although McGrady had been unhappy with sporadic fluctuations in his playing time during the season. A microcosm of his inconsistent minutes are glaringly apparent in March, where he would play just two minutes against the Thunder after playing 26 the night before against the Bucks; 16 minutes against the Pistons and none against the Kings two days later; 9 minutes against the Wizards after playing 25 minutes against the Clippers two nights before. Coach Drew was able to quell some of McGrady's qualms about playing time by the start of the playoffs, and in an interview before their first-round opener against the Celtics, McGrady appeared to be happy:
"I’m excited about being a valuable part of this ball club. Yeah, I’m not that guy averaged 28, 29 points in the playoffs. But I’m still a valuable piece that comes off this bench. Considering it’s my first year ever coming off the bench, it’s a very uncomfortable role that I just wasn’t familiar with and didn’t really know how to approach it mentally. When you are playing inconsistent minutes . . . I’m not just built that way. That’s why I think over the last couple weeks I’ve been more comfortable is because my minutes have been consistent. That’s what it was all about. All I wanted was to have consistent minutes is to get me comfortable on the basketball games."
Although the days of playing above the rim and 50-point outbursts are long gone, I feel that McGrady can still be a decent contributor as a reserve player. His height at 6'8'' and ability to bring the ball up as a point guard in some instances can present matchup problems for other teams' second units. Also, being that he earned his reputation in the league as a scorer, I don't view him as a player who would shy away from being aggressive offensively in spot minutes. If he decides to leave Atlanta, McGrady could be a very interesting low-risk option for contending teams looking to add depth for the veteran's minimum.