I guess I’m still debating whether or not Tracy McGrady’s recent performances changes everything.
Everything, of course, being the outlook on the rest of his career. As much as I hate to say it, Detroit was supposed to be where McGrady’s dream of a triumphant return to NBA-caliber basketball went to die. T-Mac’s one-year deal with the Pistons made little sense when it happened. For the first month of play, there was almost nothing to latch onto. He was a middling third-stringer. It wasn’t sad; it wasn’t anything at all. It seemed as though we were witnessing the end of a spectacular run. Of a magician whose magic outlasted its crumbling vessel.
Of course, T-Mac at his absolute peak was the decade’s most frightening offensive maelstrom. No distance was too far to launch from, no angle was too obscure. To say that basketball came easy to McGrady would be an insult to his talents. The game itself flowed through McGrady’s fingertips. Gilbert Arenas’ flaring imagination held true to Adidas’ vision, but only McGrady’s preternatural gift could convince us that impossible is nothing.
But as his body began to break down in both Orlando and Houston, T-Mac’s prowess as a distributor became a higher priority. His body wouldn’t allow him to be a scoring phenom forever. As his shooting percentages plummeted, and those rangy 20-footers began to clang the rim, his brilliance as a passer began to unveil itself. At 6’8″, he has the distinct advantage of a bird’s eye view at the top of the key, with the offensive dynamism to keep defenses guessing and the vision to create a play on the fly. Over the course of his career, his assist percentages overshadow that of other generation-defining wings like Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter, while at his height producing numbers comparable to LeBron James and Grant Hill at the apex of his career.
But almost all of the glory has since been lost. Obscurity was soon to call McGrady’s washed up career home. That is, until McGrady was given a chance to switch up his act.
McGrady became the Pistons’ de-facto starting point guard during Rodney Stuckey’s bout with a stomach virus, and it should be noted that he is clearly their best option at the position. McGrady’s sense of tempo has established a foundation for the Pistons’ offense, which has particularly benefited the frontline. The Pistons play the second slowest pace in the league, though McGrady is no stranger to down-tempo orchestration—he played for Jeff Van Gundy’s Rockets, an annual fixture at the bottom of pace charts. NBA offense is all about establishing pace and comfort, and McGrady’s invaluable experience has solidified an offense so often in disarray.
With Stuckey back from his illness, the Pistons are left with a serious quandary in how they approach the season going forward. McGrady has played like team’s best point guard, but it could potentially damage the team’s long-term future for a fairly meaningless season. However, no matter what direction Detroit takes in the future, for the first time in a long time, Tracy McGrady’s future has a light at the end of a tunnel. He has salvaged the body that has, for so many years, failed him, and rearranged his strengths and weaknesses into a new rendition of T-Mac. No longer the omnipotent scorer, but ever the savvy creator.
What could’ve been a tragic funeral has become a surprise revival. Still, Tracy McGrady has managed to reimagine his career and his path towards a graceful finish. Still, there are plenty of questions left as McGrady’s career winds down—how much does he have left? Can Detroit really be his new home? What is his standing as a winner? Still, his play has made us consider something in T-Mac we haven’t bothered to in a long, long time: maybe impossible is nothing.