On Tracy McGrady, the Hall of Famer 

  • I still get sad when I see the name Tracy McGrady.  I get sad when commemorative videos of his career default to the 13 in 33.  While that event no doubt was a remarkable spectacle, McGrady’s career was, and should have been, so much more.  If maybe not the punctuation of a title (the way discussion of Olajuwon is always followed by mention of the mid 90’s championships he won), at the least, McGrady’s career should have reflected a half-decade era of excellence, like Steve Nash’s run with the Suns.  Instead, just a fleeting half-minute, in an otherwise meaningless game that just happened to be on TNT.  I could possibly write a book on McGrady.  I’ve said previously that, in my opinion, nothing could ever exceed the excitement regarding his arrival to Houston.  He wasn’t hope and potential as was a then-23 year old James Harden when acquired for Kevin Martin; and he wasn’t on the downside carrying red flags as was Dwight Howard.  He was, at worst, the second best player in the entire league, in the heart of his prime, joining another top 10 player. 
  • The point is even further underscored now in light of last season’s divorce between the Rockets’ most recent superstar pairing, but the remarkable aspect of the Yao-McGrady marriage was that they actually got along.  McGrady picked Houston because of Yao, and while Howard did the same due to Harden, Yao was actually deferential.  Their games meshed and McGrady was content to feed Yao for most of the game until his own time came in the fourth.  The ‘what could have been’ does not just extend to health but also ‘what could have been’ had Daryl Morey been general manager at the time, littering the roster with the type of help he’s found every year for James Harden.
  • I tweeted the other night that quite a few promising young big men have sprouted up out of the ashes of late, in what seems to be sort of a mini-renaissance.  And I thought to myself watching Nurkic, the way I did watching Jokic: while Dwight Howard still provides value on the boards, and while Clint Capela has his weaknesses, it would be truly depressing right now to be committed long term to Howard at a max salary when his overall production is at best on par with some of these rookie-scale big men. 
  • I’m still in New York, without my laptop, and thus, no ‘week in review’ or ‘week ahead’ this weekend.  But here’s a preview and a recap for those who can’t live without those features: I’m so over the regular season, and I’ve been over the regular season for over a week. 

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Random thoughts for April 1

I didn’t watch the game last night.  The wife and I landed in New York at 12:30 last night and after baggage claim, getting in to Manhattan, and then grabbing a quick bite, it was 3:00 AM by the time we finally called it a night.  She was up again at 7:00 for a work conference, while I just got up like an hour or so ago.  I’m downstairs drinking coffee, typing this on my phone – so if you’re reading this, thank you, because I hate typing posts on my phone.  I watched League Pass’s condensed version of last night’s game after waking up, which consisted of a roughly ten minute compilation.  From what I gather, the Rockets sort of had the lead for a lot of the game, the Warriors came back, turned it on, and then won.  James Harden shot poorly and some weird confrontation ensued between he and Draymond Green, after the former allegedly pinched the latter…?  Anyways.
First, let’s pump the brakes on jumping ship on the Rockets.  Golden State-rejuvenated Portland-Golden State is like, a really tough three game stretch, that could only be tougher if it was Golden State-Golden State-Golden State.  Ryan Anderson is also really important and James Harden is clearly injured.  

Which brings us to my main point.  Please stop the insanity and sit James Harden.  This really isn’t worth it right now.  60 wins has been off the table for some time now, and I highly doubt the simplistic mode of thinking that would lead someone to favor Westbrook’s MVP campaign over Harden/Kawhi would lend towards an elastic reaction to a few missed games down the stretch for Harden.  To put it another way, anyone who was going to vote for Westbrook was going to do it anyway.  

He needs to get that wrist right.  I saw some stuff on Twitter the other day about “they’re also factoring in the effects of him not playing on the wrist.”  Now, I’m not a doctor but let’s back up here.  While I get that perhaps playing isn’t making the wrist any worse, I grew up with the understanding that an injury required downtime for healing.  Like I thought that was an axiom.  Maybe I’m overreacting, but I hope this isn’t one of those things where ten years down the line we’re all like “hey remember in 2017 when the Rockets lost in the first round after tearing up the regular season because James Harden didn’t rest his injured wrist in chasing the MVP award?” the way I still bring up twenty years down the line how Carroll Dawson went into the postseason in 1997 with Matt Maloney as his only point guard.  (I’m not over it).  The Rockets as a team will be fine as long as they are healthy.  These last three games aren’t some sort of existential indictment on their philosophy the way I’ve seen it suggested in some places.  They’re going to be okay.  But that wrist needs rest.  

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Cuttino and Steve in this offense

I can’t think of anything to write about right now and I have a pocket of time before dinner, so this will be a post about the darkest era in the lifetime of my Rockets fandom.  Someone told me Cuttino Mobley, who was at the game the other night, said he and Steve Francis would have each averaged 30 points in this year’s Rockets offense.  Mobley would have fared well for sure – he was a good spot-up shooter and cleaned out a lot of the nonsense from his game upon the hiring of Jeff Van Gundy.  I’m not sure about Francis.  He could only shoot 3’s off of his own dribble.  You could see him in a Lou Williams role off the bench, perhaps, but definitely not in the starting lineup with Harden.  Actually yeah, I think he’d do well leading the second unit with Williams.

Reminiscing upon the Francis era beckons even greater appreciation for James Harden just because of how completely different the two players were despite their aesthetic similarities.  I can guarantee you Mobley made his comments not grasping the distinctions, thinking he and Francis could fit right in as the lead dogs in a D’Antoni system.  Even though Harden, like Francis, pounds all of the air out of the ball, and is tops in the league in isolations, he’s such a brilliant decision maker that the outcome is still one of the best offenses ever, and was still one of the best offenses in the league even pre-D’Antoni.  Francis, conversely, was probably one of the dumbest NBA players of his generation, and the poster-boy for the now extinct species of score-first point guard.  One of my most lasting memories of Francis was after, or during halftime of, a blowout loss against the Mavericks when he taunted that Dallas could only defend he and Mobley with a zone because they couldn’t guard them straight up.  Well Steve, the scoreboard is what matters.

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