It’s All In The Game: The Truth About Tracy McGrady

 

Tracy McGrady took the long and painful walk to the podium

last year – just as he had done the previous five times he had been to the

playoffs. He knew what he was walking into. His Houston Rockets had just

dropped a heartbreaking Game Seven to the Utah Jazz.

 

He knew he’d be hearing the same damn questions he’d been hearing

since he got into the league. Another playoff appearance, another first round

exit.

 

This was the sixth time in a row, but this time was different.

This time he had home court advantage. This time he was supposed to win. And

this time, he was vulnerable.

 

His tears told his story because he couldn’t find the words.

He was a superstar, but for the sixth time in his stellar career, he was going

home before Duncan, Nowitzki and Nash. Before that it was LeBron and Rasheed.

Although he’d never forgotten the bitter taste of playoff defeat, the media was

going to remind him what it tasted like anyway.

 

In fact, they will continue to remind him until he makes it

to Round Two. [This year, the Rockets drew the Jazz again but trail three games

to one at press time without starters Yao Ming and Rafer Alston, which has

Tracy once again staring right into the face of a first round exit.] But next

time you play Stephen A. Smith and debate McGrady’s failures with your friends,

make sure you know the whole story.

 

Make sure you know his career playoff average is 6.4 points

per game higher than his regular season average (his assist and rebound

averages are both up, too). Make sure you point out the fact that he has never

played a playoff series on a team that had a higher seed than their opponent.

 

Some might argue that his career averages are skewed because

they take into account his first three years in the league, when he was a

teenager not receiving heavy minutes, but if you scratch through the surface

and take a deeper look, you’ll see a trend.

 

In Toronto in 2000, his third year in the league, his sixth

seeded Raptors were eliminated by the Knicks in three games – despite the fact

that 20 year-old Tracy had elevated his game by increasing his points and

rebounds. Maybe Vince Carter’s 6.4 fewer points per game than his regular

season average had something to do with the sweep.

 

The next year in Orlando,

when Tracy was

the first option, he upped his production from 26.8 to 33.8 ppg in the playoffs.

But his team was a seven seed and Darrell Armstrong, his point guard and the

Magic’s second leading scorer, disappeared. If you’re a scorer, and you can’t

count on your point guard, who can you count on?

 

Orlando

never gave him a supporting cast. They tried, but Grant Hill couldn’t get his

ankle right. So he had to rely on second-tier talent like Mike Miller, Drew

Gooden and Gordan Giricek for help.

 

The only time in McGrady’s career his point production has

dipped in the playoffs was in 2003 when Orlando was an eight seed and they couldn’t

get past the top seeded Pistons. How many teams have in the last five years?

And even then, his average dropped less than half a point from 32.1 to 31.7 ppg.

 

I don’t think 31.7 ppg is necessarily choking. In fact,

McGrady is Orlando’s

all time playoff scoring leader, at 32.0 ppg. Shaq may have built that house,

but Tracy McGrady has the master bedroom.

 

In 2004, Tracy left Orlando for opportunity,

and he thought he had found it in Houston.

The Rockets made the playoffs as the five seed that year which saw him post

25.7 ppg, 5.7 dimes a game, and 6.2 boards every night. They lost in seven games

to Dallas. Tracy’s

fault? 30.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, and 7.4 rpg for the series suggest otherwise.

 

Last year, against the Jazz, his playoff averages were up in

all three of those categories from his regular season stats. Again. (This year,

through 4 games, his points are up 1.7, assists are up 1.9, and rebounds are up

3.4) In fact, Tracy is Houston’s all time playoff scoring leader as well, at

28.0 ppg.

 

So what does Tracy

have to do to earn your respect? Win a playoff series by himself? Win a

championship? All great players are judged by rings, but every great player

that has a ring didn’t do it alone. Magic had Kareem. Bird had McHale. Michael

had Scottie. And Duncan

has Parker and Ginobili.

 

Tracy is 28 years old. He has time, and as his numbers

prove, he comes to play on the games biggest stage. It’s too bad his teammates

don’t.

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