Tracy McGrady is one of the most unique talents to ever play in the NBA. 6’8, 210, freakish wingspan and leaping ability. T-Mac in his prime could handle the rock, block shots, make the correct pass or bury the jumper. He was a top 5 player in the NBA through the early 2000’s. But per this article by Chris Tomasson on hoopshype.com, Jeff Van Gundy (McGrady’s former coach in Houston) and current Rockets GM Daryl Morey think McGrady could have been better had he improved his practice habits. Here are some details:
McGrady’s contention is he worked hard individually, if not in practice, to become a star and someone who still could land in the Hall of Fame. But Van Gundy and Morey were critical of his overall work ethic.
“Tracy McGrady was 1,000 hours of practice,’’ Van Gundy, now an NBA analyst for ABC and ESPN, said sarcastically at the conference. “He should be a Hall of Fame player. His talent was other-worldly. He was given a great leg up in the race against other players. He’s as close as I’ve ever seen to someone with a perfect body and a good mind… I just wish I could have changed his practice habits and his mentality.’’’
Said Morey, “McGrady was the most gifted player I’ve ever had on the roster. I do think (his talent) got in the way of Tracy’s development. Much of the game was so, so easy… When it’s that easy to dominate at that young age (that McGrady did), because of your physical tools, his wing span was freakish, his size was enormous, his IQ. But my sense was that all of that did get in the way of Tracy reaching his highest heights.’’
Here is McGrady’stake on his efforts in practice, when interviewed by HoopsHype.com:
“That could be it,’’ McGrady said. “I just think I could cruise through practice and still be effective. Some guys have to really go (all) out to really have an impact on practice. My ability was just I had God-given talent to where I could just cruise through practice and still be an effective practice player… I was inconsistent. Some days, I have really good (practice) days where I just go hard and a lot of days where like, ‘Uh,’ and I just go through the motions. But I work hard. But I’m just not the best practice player.’’
“I got by and I still was head and shoulders what I played with, and I think that’s what they were saying,’’ McGrady said when asked about comments by the two. “Like, if I would have went the extra mile of practicing hard, who knows what I could have been? But that part I don’t really buy into. But I think the way I work out individually, to get ready, to prepare myself for the season (has been acceptable).
“I really don’t see how, maybe I’m wrong on this. I don’t just see how going hard in practice is going to take my talent to another level. I just don’t see that… As far as the team jelling and practicing like that, yeah that’s how you make your team better. I’m saying me personally, I just didn’t see how me practicing hard was going to take my talent to another level. I always felt like working on my individual skills was taking my talent to another level… Now when I say I wasn’t a great practice player, it’s not like I sat out of practice. I was participating. I always participated.’’
I can understand the views of both sides in this. Part of a coaches job is to fully prepare his team to compete every night and that preparation is generally developed in practice. When your star player (McGrady in this case) is coasting through a practice that lack of effort can rub off on some of his teammates. His ‘participation’ alone isn’t enough. In contrast, I can see McGrady’s point of not really feeling the need to give his full effort in practice as he says worked extremely hard to hone his skills on his own.
Interesting thing is, McGrady’s veteran status allows him to get away with comments like this but for a player trying to restablish himself as a valuable part of team the comments may be a bit ill-advised. T-Mac will be a free agent (see our views on that here); although in the hoopshype interview McGrady mentions a possible return to the Pistons (sounded like strictly a PC answer to me).
Despite the comments regarding his practice habits or lack thereof I believe McGrady’s basketball IQ and ability to play multiple positions (he has started everywhere from point guard to power forward this season for the Pistons) will offer him an opportunity to help a contender next season. If he can remain healthy and stay away from negative publicity (like the much publicized riff with coach Kuester) McGrady should have no shortage of suitors come July 1st.