Remember “T-Mac?” These days, that’s almost like asking, Remember “Penny” Hardaway (and “Little Penny”)? The two players, Tracy McGrady and Anfernee Hardaway, experienced similar journeys in the NBA as lanky swingmen who could do just a little bit of everything, but whose careers were essentially over by age 30 due to knee injuries.
Hardaway ultimately played for four teams in parts of 15 seasons, yet never started more than 60 games in a season or scored more than 16 points a game after his 29th birthday. Of course, it was also during that time period after he turned 29, that Penny earned about $78 million of his $120 million in career earnings. To-date, McGrady has played for four teams and, has not appeared in more than 60 games or averaged more than 16 points a game since his 29th birthday. Of course, that’s only been two seasons. But in those two seasons, the now 31-year-old McGrady, has made almost $44 million. Both medical technology and NBA front offices have evolved quite a bit in the ten or so years since Hardaway’s injury issues. Microfracture surgery has allowed players to have knees reconstructed and eventually get back to full strength. And, NBA teams are no longer willing to give guys with significant injury history like this enormous contracts. In 2010, McGrady will suit up for the Detroit Pistons – for just $1.35 million (or less than 6% of what he made last year) on a one-year contract. It’s essentially a no-lose situation for the Pistons and a great opportunity for McGrady to prove to us whether he’s more like Hardaway at the end of his career or if he can be “T-Mac” again. Tracy McGrady joined Shep and Sharp on WDFN in Detroit to discuss why he decided to sign with the Pistons, how much he has left at age 31, what he brings to the team, whether he still has drive in him or not and how far he thinks the Pistons can go in the Eastern Conference.
On why he decided to sign with the Detroit Pistons:
“I just felt like this is the perfect opportunity for me for one year. Hopefully, everything goes well and we’ll see what happens after this year. I think with the team that was injury plagued last season and I’m coming off of two years of dealing with my knee injury, we’re going to have a lot of hungry guys this year… I just wanted to come here and contribute with this team and show everybody that I’m back healthy.”
On how much he thinks he has left at age 31:
“People read too much into it (age). It’s not like God or somebody came down and took my talent away and I can’t play basketball no more. I was dealing with surgery. I had microfracture surgery. Everybody that had that surgery, it was going to take a year and a half, two years to recover from that. Dealing with that for two years, everybody thinks I can’t play basketball no more. We’ll just have to see come this season. I’ve bust my butt the last two seasons and the off-season for this exact moment. I’m excited about the opportunity and I can’t wait.”
On if the drive is still there for him:
“It’s tough to play 82 games balls out. It’s tough to do that. When I say that, yeah I get criticized. Basketball players know there’s a lot of truth to that. I know it’s not the right thing to say. I don’t care what people think of it. It’s the truth if you play basketball. I love the game. If I didn’t love the game, with all the things I’ve accomplished in the game so far in my career and all the money I’ve made, I would have gave it up. Trying to fight back after two years, I would have just called it quits. I love it. I still feel that I can be a very effective player. My body feels good so it’s all about just going out there and doing it.”
On what he brings to the Pistons:
“One is my ability to make my teammates better. That’s first and foremost. That’s what I’m all about. We have a got a lot of guys on this team that can score the ball. With the guys that we have, I think my play-making ability can make the game a lot easier for them. Being a versatile player, it’s all about making these guys better and adding more depth from what we already have… I’m ready for it. This is my 14th season. I’ve been through a lot. Right now, it’s all about making my teammates better and having fun again enjoying this game. It’s a game. This is something that I love to do. It’s all about bringing that back. Whatever it takes to make these guys better, I’m willing to do it.”
And on how good the team can be:
“If they don’t have the injuries they had last year, this is a playoff team. It’s no doubt about that. If you look at the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, it’s pretty weak. A .500 ballclub can make the seven seed in the Eastern Conference. Being healthy for an entire season, we can be fighting for the post-season.”