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 hed be hearing the same damn questions hed been hearing
since he got into the league. Another playoff appearance, another first round
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 couldnt 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 hed 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 McGradys 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, youll 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 Carters 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
Magics second leading scorer, disappeared. If youre a scorer, and you cant
count on your point guard, who can you count on?
never gave him a supporting cast. They tried, but Grant Hill couldnt 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 McGradys career his point production has
dipped in the playoffs was in 2003 when Orlando was an eight seed and they couldnt
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 dont think 31.7 ppg is necessarily choking. In fact,
McGrady is Orlandos
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. Tracys
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 Houstons all time playoff scoring leader as well, at
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 didnt 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. Its too bad his teammates