As I glanced through my Twitter feed, I stopped to take a deep breath and re-read a sentence I thought couldn't even make sense if I imagined it, the San Antonio Spurs had signed Tracy McGrady. About as baffled as the moment I came to grips with the WWF being fake, I quickly went to verify with a legitimate source, and somehow it was true. Yet it almost made as much sense as it didn't and I found myself excited while at the same time skeptical to flood my timeline with overzealous joy.
Stephen Jacksons departure seems to have dealt with off court issues more than anything (Popovich didn't like his mixtape), but there's something to be said for a guy who has been to the post-season and won a championship with your team. Experience and leadership can't be taught. Jack was respected despite being a loose cannon at times, he possessed a lot of intangibles that come along with a lengthy NBA career, most importantly his toughness, and was a solid spot-up shooter, something the Spurs relish on. So while CaptainJack works on his next critically acclaimed rap album, the Spurs push forward toward another title run with their new addition.
Amazing to think that Tracy McGrady is actually younger than Stephen Jackson, entering the the NBA straight out of high school. Signing T-Mac for the Spurs could be the x-factor they had been looking for, or it could mean little to nothing. A playoff rotation only goes so far into the bench and with a core group like the one in San Antonio, headed by a stuck in his ways coach, McGrady could be a low usage player.
Injuries have plagued the Spurs (what else is new), and heading into the playoffs the long-term health of Manu Ginobili is still up in the air, as it seemingly is every year entering the post-season. Jackson was the primary backup for Kawhi Leonard and the annual Matt Bonner playoff disappearance tour is imminent, thus the Spurs had a forward spot to fill. Ginobili's health could mean a lot to the minutes Tracy sees, and Coach Popovich has made it clear that Leonard will be playing more minutes comeplayoffs.
As far as McGrady is concerned,there are pros and cons to his dwindling career. Tracy isn't as tough or quite the locker-room leader Jackson was but his name does carry weight around the league (once on the cover of NBA Live!). T-Mac was arguably the best scorer in the league a few years ago, and along with the 13 points in 35 seconds game he had against the Spurs (a game I still have PTSD over) to clinch a victory for his then team, the Houston Rockets, Tracy was a big shot player. His "takeover a game" days are likely behind him but that does not mean he's a slouch. His short stint in China is hard to assess correctly given the level of competition so I'll ignore that for the most part, but his 7 rebounds, 5 assist,and nearly 2 steals a game average is a welcome sight outside of the scoring. Its also worth noting how unbelievably popular McGrady is among the Chinese fans (thank you Yao Ming). Last season with the Atlanta Hawks in 52 games Tracy averaged career lows in multiple categories while only logging about 16 minutes a game. His 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists averages don't jump off the page, but he was relatively efficient in his short time. The year prior he was a solid role player in Detroit averaging 8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and nearly a steal a game in his 23.4 minutes. Tracy has been fighting injuries for a good part of his career so he has lost a step, but his size and play-making ability is still NBA level. On the defensive side, Tracy has never been known as a stopper but over his career he has averaged a respectable 1.2 steals and nearly a block a game.
McGrady is well known for his inability to get his teams out of the first round (No thank you Yao Ming) and has a lot to prove in the playoffs, if given the opportunity. The now father of four has grown up a lot since he last dominated the league and is a good guy off the court. At this point in his humbled career, it seems Tracy better understands his worth. The real concern is how quickly and effectively he can learn the Spurs cerebral system, but if any team can take a player nobody gave a chance to and make something of them, that team is the Spurs.
McGrady as a replacement for Jackson probably isn't a big enough difference to effect the Spurs in the long run, but offensively, if T-Mac can deliver in the minutes hes given, it's an upgrade. If someone ever writes a Tracy McGrady book, this could be the most interesting chapter, if all goes well. Maybe the Spurs will pick up Allen Iverson next year if they find themselves in a similar situation. Who doesn't love a good comeback.
For now, as far as how effective Tracy will be as a Spur these playoffs, he put it best, "I guess that's the unknown."