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Legacy of Pistons' Tracy McGrady

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Rikki Grooms continues her Legacy Friday series with new Piston Tracy McGrady. The series started two weeks ago with Grant Hill and will continue every other Friday through the entire 2010-11 season.

On his last leg, literally, Tracy McGrady has signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. McGrady’s career has been one of falling short and failing to achieve; now in Detroit, he will try to rejuvenate a career that many thought could have lead him to championships and eventually to the Hall of Fame. McGrady hasn’t played much basketball lately, 65 games in the last two seasons, but we all remember the player he use to be. Unfortunately, the high-flying scoring machine is no more. Averaging just 8.2 ppg last season in 20+ games with the Knicks, all signs pointed to the end of McGrady’s career after suffering multiple injuries (back, knee, and elbow) during the later stages of his career. McGrady was once a defender’s nightmare, averaging 22 ppg, 6 rpg, and 5 apg over his career, but those days are rapidly shrinking in the rearview mirror.

After being drafted by the Toronto Raptors fresh out of high school in 1997 from Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina, McGrady went on to earn plenty of NBA accolades but none of the ones that count to many fans and analysts like MVP’s or NBA Championships. McGrady was once the NBA’s youngest scoring champion and would win the award once more during healthier times. With seven All-Star appearances and seven All-NBA selections to his name, it is still hard to forget that he has yet to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Playing for the Pistons at this point make it unlikely he’ll ever do so.

McGrady was on his was way to a successful NBA career with the Orlando Magic after being traded there in 2000, and he quickly became the team’s main option once Grant Hill was sidelined with injuries. McGrady showed he could lead a team and score tons of points…until the playoffs rolled around when he couldn’t lead his team out of the first round, leaving only questions about his ability to truly lead a team. After several personally (read: scored a lot of points) successful seasons in Orlando, he was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2004.

McGrady had his greatest chance to emerge as a legitimate superstar as he teamed up with Yao Ming and averaged 26 ppg, 6 rpg, and 6 apg in their first season together. Unfortunately, the two couldn’t remain healthy enough to push the Rockets past the first round of the post-season. The first chance to do so for McGrady and the Rockets came during McGrady’s first season with the team, where he averaged an awesome 31 ppg, 7 apg, and 7 rpg, but again he failed to lead his team past the first round of the playoffs as the Rockets fell to the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets finally did advance past the first round in 2009, but McGrady was on the team’s injured reserve list, further fueling the fire that TMac was somehow inherently unable to push a team over the top (where “the top” has one of the loosest and most liberal of definitions for any superstar ever) come playoffs.

Injuries have drained the athleticism and promise of greatness from the career of Tracy McGrady, leaving him a shell of his former self. Signing with the Pistons, McGrady is given another chance at being able to contribute. The big question surrounding his return revolves around how well he has recovered from microfracture surgery in February of 2009, a surgery that few (Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire being the most note-worthy) have come back from and had a successful career after. He has lost his once explosive first step and overall quickness and has shown from his short time with the Knicks that he is unable to take the pounding that goes along with playing substantial minutes in the NBA. The crowded perimeter the Pistons currently possess may be a good fit for both parties. McGrady won’t be expected to carry the load as he has most of his career. He will be able to slowly transition back into the game and hopefully begin his second career, just as his former Magic teammate Hill has with the Suns. Only time will tell if his body will hold up to give him a chance to regain some of his past glory.


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