Apr 17, 2013, 7:09 PM EST
SAN ANTONIO — Tracy McGrady is a shockingly young man. He will not turn 34 until May. He’s younger than, among others, Adrian Beltre, Tom Brady, Bradley Cooper and Kate Hudson. He’s too young to be President (not that this seems an especially viable career option) and he’s younger than all but one of the Backstreet Boys.
Still, everything about Tracy McGrady screams oldness. I think this is probably because he was drafted by Toronto right out of high school, so we have known him for a long, long time. His started in the NBA in 1997 – that year he was teammates with Tim Kempton, who was once teammates with Cedric Maxwell, who was once teammates with John Havlicek who was once teammates with Bob Cousy. When you can be connected to Bob Cousy through only three teammates, you have been around a while.
Also, athletes – and particularly brilliant young athletes like McGrady – age differently from the rest. There was a time when Tracy McGrady seemed limitless. He could absolutely fly – who could forget the time he dunked over 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley (“He just sucked the gravity right out of the building!”). He was an unstoppable scorer, twice leading the league in points-per-game (since 2000, his 32.1 points per game in 2002-03 is third behind Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson in 2005-06). T-Mac was a breathtaking player who could do ridiculous superhero things.
Now, well, he can’t. He knows that. He’s still amazing when you compare him to, say, the best basketball player you know. But he’s not THAT player, not even close to THAT player – he’s aged, he’s been hurt, he’s grown tired, he hasn’t been an NBA regular in a long while. This season, he played his basketball in China. When asked how the basketball is played there, he breathed the deep sigh of a man who has seen pretty much everything. “Physical, man,” he said. “Physical.”
McGrady was at the San Antonio Spurs shoot-around Wednesday, working out for the first time for his new team. Nobody – not coach Gregg Popovich, not the Spurs players, not even McGrady himself – has any expectations about this relationship. He’s a wildcard. He might work his way into a certain role — maybe as an emergency point guard. He might play in certain situations like when the Spurs need an energy burst. He might not play at all. The Spurs signed him because Stephen Jackson was cut and they figured, hey, why not? Maybe the Spurs remember when he scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to lead the Yao Ming Rockets to a shocking win over San Antonio in 2004.
“I don’t know if they remember that … I do know my Asian fans remember that,” McGrady says. “Every year, they have like a day to remember it.” Everybody laughs, but McGrady doesn’t. “I’m serious. They do.”
Wednesday, McGrady goes through a basic workout – lots of weaving, a few shots off screens, some basic education on the Spurs Way. There’s no way to catch him up on nearly everything the Spurs do, not this late in the season, but there’s also no reason for that. McGrady knows how to play basketball. He is a seven-time All-Star, and this is his eighth pro team if you include the Qingdao Eagles in China. Whatever the Spurs need from him, sure, he will find his way.
What is striking is how much the workout takes out of him. He admits that he got back from China two months ago, and he spent the bulk of those two months playing with his kids and sitting on the couch. All around him, Spurs players run around and barely sweat. But after a few sprints, McGrady breathes heavy. After a few more, his shot begins to fall off the front rim. He talks to the basketball (“C’mon girl, get in there!”).
If there is a knock on McGrady’s great career, it is that his teams never once won a playoff series. It is a sensitive point with him (“I can’t do it myself,” he says softly). He know that here in San Antonio, at the end, after he thought his NBA days were over, he gets a chance to be part of one of the best teams in the league. He gets to play with Hall of Famers and a Hall of Fame coach. Sure, he would like to taste victory, even as a role player, even if he never gets off the bench.
So, he’s pumped up about it. He works through the rust and the pain. The Spurs coaches put him in a baseline drill … basically, he is to set a screen, then sprint full speed to the corner, catch the ball and drain a three-point shot. The drill will go on until he makes three three-pointers.
And so, McGrady takes a step, a skip, runs into the drill. He sets the screen, sprints to the right corner, catches, fires, swishes the shot.
“Great shot,” the assistant coach yells. “Go!”
And Tracy McGrady runs out again, sets another screen and sprints full speed to the other corner, catches the ball and shoots the three. This one too, swishes.
Before the coach can say another word, he’s in motion again, back to the screen spot, a pause, and then all out to the corner, he catches, he jumps, and he fades away from the basket as he lets it go. This one swishes as well. Three shots, three swishes, just like old times.
“Terrific Tracy,” the coach yells. “Great job. Go shoot some free throws.”
Tracy McGrady smiles a little bit. He still can put the ball in the basket. Then he bends over, grabs his shorts, inhales and exhales and holds on for dear life.
Dec 10, 2013, 3:14 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while glued to a toilet seat at Home Depot. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Note to Rudy Gay: Get this guy the ball. Not like you did with Jonas Valanciunas — actually get Cousins the rock. Cousins…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Not sure I have ever seen this before. Early in the Clippers eventual easy win over the Sixers Chris Paul puts up a shot and because DeAndre Jordan‘s man had rotated over to help on the drive it left Tony Wroten — all 6’5″, 205 five of him — trying to keep Jordan off the…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Al Harrington, who at 33 has been battling knee issues since last season when he has an infection in there, issues that have kept him out since Nov. 12, is now going to be out a while longer. Harrington had knee surgery again on Monday and will be out at least a month, the Wizards…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:24 PM EST
Tyreke Evans drove to attack Kevin Durant off the dribble Friday night — Evans had been very aggressive all game, largely carrying the reserves in the first half — he went up for the shot and when he can down he sprained his ankle. That sprain is going to keep him out a week, maybe…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:20 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back with the Lakers and frankly that’s just good for the NBA — it’s a star driven league and it needs its elite players on the court. That said Kobe looked rusty and his teammates clearly were not used to playing with him in the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday. Kay…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:39 PM EST
The Milwaukee Bucks were already without Larry Sanders, who needed surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand after a bar fight, and now this. Zaza Pachulia will be out at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot, coach Larry Drew announced Monday. It is the calcaneus bone, what most of us…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:01 PM EST
As we told you earlier was likely to happen, Stephen Jackson has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers. For one, Doc Rivers confirmed it to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Second, Jackson himself posted this on Instagram. The Clippers need some depth on the wing because J.J. Redick is out with…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST
“I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.” —Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, talking about the eight months he was forced out of action due to his ruptured Achilese. Bryant, as his his nature, had to work hard to get back on the court 240 days after…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:53 PM EST
The general rule of thumb is 20 games into the season you can start to really trust the stats and the trends — in which case it’s good to be a Portland Trail Blazers fan. They move into the top slot with their recent wins over Indiana and OKC. 1. Trail Blazers (17-4, Last Week…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:08 PM EST
Knicks fans could use a little good news, so we’re here to help out. Tyson Chandler’s return from a broken leg should be here in the next few weeks. Chandler returned to practice on Monday, in a limited role, then told reporters he thought he would be back before New Year’s Day, as tweeted by…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Minnesota’s Corey Brewer, you’re the next contestant on “pay some money to NBA Charities for flopping!” The league announced Monday that Brewer has been fined $5,000 for his second flopping offense of the season. His first came against the Knicks earlier in the year, this new one was against the Heat on Saturday, when he…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
Memphis extended the contract of Quincy Pondexter this summer thinking they had secured a solid outside shooter they desperately needed at a fair price. Now they may have lost him for the season. An MRI Monday revealed a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, the team announced. That’s a small bone near the…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
Dwight Howard turned 28 on Sunday. (Maybe that’s why Kobe decided to not play Friday and wait until Sunday… nah.) Howard celebrated by dropping 20 points and grabbing 22 rebounds on his old Orlando Magic team (you knew he’d be up for that game) then the team went out bowling with his Rockets’ teammates —…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:07 PM EST
In case you can’t get enough Kobe Bryant comeback we are here to help. Nike released a Kobe Bryant comeback commercial on the day of his return to the Lakers lineup, which you can see above. In case you didn’t know and it wasn’t already obvious, Nike is a Kobe sponsor and he has his…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:55 PM EST
Tuesday night the Nets could get Paul Pierce and Deron Williams back on the court. Which would be a nice first step toward turning Brooklyn’s tire fire of a season around. Both Pierce and Williams went through practice on Monday, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. We knew Williams was close to returning, however Pierce…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:01 PM EST
This was easily my favorite highlight of Sunday night. In the fourth quarter of the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday, Nick Young got the ball in a transition attempt before the defense set, Young got the ball in the right corner, attacked along the baseline and as he got close to the basket Jonas…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:19 AM EST
Getting Rudy Gay in a trade from Toronto was not a sign the Kings want to make a run at the playoffs right now in the West — they are one of just two teams in a deep conference with no real shot at the postseason (Utah is the other). No, this was about future…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:59 AM EST
There were rough patches — the 2-for-9 shooting, the eight turnovers — but there were also moments in Kobe Bryant‘s return to action Sunday night against Toronto where you said “that’s the Kobe I remember.” There was his first play, a bullet pass to Robert Sacre for an assist. Later there was the jab step…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
The Knicks suffered their worst loss of the season on Sunday, losing by 41 points to a Celtics team that shouldn’t beat anybody by that much. And they did so wearing their alternate orange uniforms. Whether the 12 noon tip time or the orange color scheme is messing with the Knicks on these weekend games…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
J.J. Redick is out with a broken hand. Matt Barnes is out following surgery to repair a retinal tear in his left eye. Reggie Bullock is out with a sprained ankle. All this has left the Los Angeles Clippers short bodies on the wing, so they may bring in veteran Stephen Jackson to fill the…
- Monday night NBA Grades: DeMarcus Cousins was in beast mode 0
- PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant is back, doesn’t have much time to get it right 3
- It’s official, Clippers agree to terms with Stephen Jackson 3
- PBT NBA Power Rankings: At the quarter pole Portland takes the lead 17
- Paul Pierce practiced Monday, could return vs. Celtics Tuesday 2
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (65)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (52)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (47)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (43)
- Durant tells “60 Minutes Sports” he’s still tired of being No. 2 (35)