Thoughts on Pistons – Rockets: McGrady’s Debut

2009 December 15
by rahat huq
  • Tracy McGrady entered the game with 7:44 remaining in the 1st quarter.  Viewing the telecast, I didn’t get the sense that there were many boos from the crowd.  It wasn’t exactly a thunderous ovation, but the reaction appeared predominantly to be of applause.  This came as quite a surprise.
  • In his 7+ minutes on the floor, McGrady was matched up almost exclusively against the Pistons’ 6′10, 230 pound rookie forward, Jonas Jerebko.  While I have never seen Jerebko play before, my guess is that this favorable matchup played some role in Rick Adelman’s decision to activate McGrady for tonight.
  • The first thing that stood out was the defensive effort.  I can’t remember the last time I saw Tracy fully extend and contest every shot put up by his opponent.  Naturally, he wanted to make a good impression in his debut.
  • McGrady was not even in the play in any of the Rockets’ numerous fast break sequences in the 1st quarter.  While he tried, he simply couldn’t keep up with his teammates.
  • With 2:45 remaining in the 1st, after a switch, Richard Hamilton was able to lose McGrady through a screen, hitting a jumper in the process.
  • These above two points illustrate why Rick Adelman may have been hesitant to activate McGrady.  While it could simply have been rust and the natural re-adjustment to the pace of the NBA game, it’s possible that Tracy just still isn’t physically at a level acceptable to Rick Adelman.  It may just be that, unbeknownst to those of us viewing from the outside, Tracy may not yet have fully recovered or may have just permanently regressed.
  • It looked incredibly odd watching Tracy McGrady catch the ball and almost immediately look to pass.  For Tracy McGrady, that’s not quite the usage we fans are accustomed to seeing.
  • With 3:19 remaining in the 1st, Tracy was unable to catch the pass off the curl while coming around the pick.  This won’t work.  More on this later.
  • The Rockets’ broadcast of the game was presenting the straightaway ‘3′ hit by McGrady with 1:33 remaining in the 1st as the highlight and most significant play of his return.  It wasn’t.  It had little significance.  I don’t really care that he hit a wide open ‘3′ off the pass from his favorite spot on the court.  This play doesn’t tell us whether McGrady can help this team or fit into this offense.  Statistically, Tracy is not a good 3pt shooter anyway, so this doesn’t really have much predictive value.
  • With 1 minute remaining in the 1st, we saw McGrady catch the ball in the far post on the right elbow against Jerebko.  He turned, and then employed his signature jab step – left, driving towards the middle and getting fouled.
  • As I said earlier, the above play is how I envision McGrady fitting into this offense.  If he is physically capable, I think he can be effective attacking from the high post elbow where he has the option to jab step towards his left.  On the other hand, while it may be that my perception is skewed by the awkwardness of the sight, I just can’t see Tracy helping this team if used in coming off curls as seen at the 3:19 mark.  He is much more effective when he is shooting off of his own dribble.  I actually think he hurts this team if used coming off of screens, because a) he doesn’t cut hard and b) he isn’t a very good shooter.  Most importantly, moving him without the ball takes away his greatest strength and only skill with potential value to this team – his passing.
  • If I had to make an absolute judgment on his performance, I thought he looked pretty bad.  Now obviously, an absolute judgment means nothing as we’re talking about a guy playing in his first NBA game since last February.  It’s only natural that he would look a bit out of sync and winded.  The difficulty is that we don’t know whether his struggles stemmed from something related to his surgery and overall physical decline or if it was simply the rust and re-adjustment to the pace of the NBA game.  We will need to see how things develop for any type of assessment but overall, it was nice to see McGrady finally get back on the court.
  • Final note: Chase Budinger is the real deal.
Bookmark and Share
  • Andy
    The crowd response didn't surprise me. The thing is, most fans of the team are fans of the team; i.e., they want to see the players do well, even if it's guys like Brian Cook. The anti-McGrady pitchfork-wielding mob is a vocal minority, I think.

    I disagree about McGrady being a poor shooter off curls. One of the most frustrating things about him to me is that he's always struck me as a very effective mid-range shooter but he almost never uses that part of his game, preferring to shoot 3's so often. It makes him look like a much worse shooter than he really is.
  • Mike
    Chase Budinger is the man. Good insight but I'm holding my opinions to myself until I see McGrady play more. I'm truly amazed to see how far the Rockets have developed, especially Aaron Brooks.
  • Tariq
    It was his first day back, obviously he's going to be slow... the speed of the game does not equal the speed of practice. Time will tell.
  • rahat_huq
    Andy: Seeing that, that was my reaction as well, that the anti-McGrady mob is a very, very vocal minority.

    Mike: Agreed on Tracy. This initial assessment really means nothing as we have no idea where he is. Will need to stay tuned as he gets his game legs.
  • rahat_huq
    Tariq: Agreed that he would be slow re-adjusting to the pace of the game. It's a huge difference from practice. But I'm not sure we can definitively conclude just yet that it was strictly due to re-adjustment - will have to see how he looks over these next few games. I am just happy he is back out on the court.
  • Arturo
    I will have to admit, that after his poor showing last season after coming back from an injury, but not fully recovered, that I became anti-T-mac. Being a team fan, I believe it was due to the fact that then he was a detriment to the team in that current state of rehab and shouldn't have been on the floor at all. The Rockets forced the issue for too long IMO. But those feelings have gradually decreased since summer, and feelings of anticipation for a completely healthy return have replaced them. Yeah, I still expect him to take the ill-advised shots he used to. But the current run-and-gun system favors that strategy. The current system also doesn't tolerate freezing of the ball like he was wont to do while Yao was on the floor in the half court sets. That being said, I think he will thrive in Adelman's system. The couple times he received the ball last night, his actions were quick and deliberate. No standing around, no constant feeding in and out of the post to a big man.

    One thing I noticed last night that I haven't seen noted yet, was an apparent apprehensiveness from the Detroit defense for those 8 minutes. The Rockets are known this year for always having 5 hard-nosed guys on the floor at all times. The opposition doesn't prepare to double-team anyone in particular, just play them one-on-one and try to prepare for the Rockets' favorite plays. Once T-mac gets on the floor, they get a little worried because they want to double him, but they know that the other 4 guys out there are too dangerous to leave. In the 8 minutes he was on the floor, the Rockets outscored Detroit 18-8, and T-mac was only accountable for 3 of those points, but I believe simply his presence just totally opened up the floor for everyone else. As soon as he left the floor, the offense began to faulter a little, trying to recover the great rhythym they had while he was out there. They eventually found it again, but imagine being able to confund defenses as such for 30+ minutes per game. It might be just the thing to put us back in contention, what do you guys think?
  • rahat_huq
    Arturo - Thanks for the thoughtful response. I have to disagree in that I don't see any necessary correlation between his presence last night and the Rockets' spurt. That could have just as easily been Ariza. There didn't seem to be much extra attention being paid to Tracy, from my vantage point. Where I agree with you is that I do think he can be effective in this offense. The best example of this, as I have said in the past, was the Game 5 win against Utah a few years ago, where Tracy operated from the high post. Playing him here presents him with options and opens up his pet moves. I don't think it's necessarily necessary that all 5 guys be in motion at all times. Tracy can be used as the center of the "storm", if you will, similar to how Yao is used in the low post. Thanks for reading.
  • Thorax
    just watch the progress, you'll eat your words on what you will see when Tmac goes double-double per game.
  • Jeremy Wilson
    Hey guys, love the blog, Statistical analysis great....but what about the INTANGIBLES.....mental toughness, intensity, heart....these things cant be seen on paper, but it would appear to me these are the reasons we look so good statistically. I wanted to see T MAC outta here this summer, but I think this team has profoundly affected McGrady, the same way they have affected the city and changed the opinions of pretty much every expert I have read (P.S. Richard Justice of the Chronicle doesn't count, I dont consider him an expert..haha). The intangibles are what makes average players great, and great teams champions. Tracy McGrady is never going to average 26 points again, but he will be a better player....Its so funny what winning does to people, the anti T-Mac mob, will dissolve. And after that, the same people who were demanding his trade....will be wearing #3 to work....haha...but really, I hate flip flop fans......Prediction: McGrady takes the pressure off Ariza, with both of them in the game, opening up the floor, AB and Lowry on the handle, and C Hayes, L Scola and C Landry down low. Ariza becomes more like the player he was last year, except better. Ten man rotation, all of whom can score in double figures....#3 seed going into the playoffs...then we will see
  • rahat_huq
    Thorax: Eat my words? I'm merely describing what I think I see. I don't pretend to know for sure what will happen. He could play well or he could flop. I wish him the best for everyone's sake.

    Jeremy: The intangibles are why they are here. This team wouldn't be 14-10 without the best chemistry and toughness in the league. As far as McGrady, I have said for some time now that I think his presence will absolutely help Ariza. The problem will be getting them both on the court considering a certain rookie looks to be the real deal.
  • Jeremy Wilson
    Rahat....word! Air Bud is the man.......that alley oop was awesome! I was speaking to a friend of mine and we both thought it kind of funny that some of the experts at espn...cough cough....Jalen Rose....had us pegged to miss the playoffs....but our entire bench could start for some of the teams in the NBA! Miss the playoffs..really? And what are your thoughts on Jermaine Taylor, people say hes the real deal too? I think the Morey machine has created a problem...Morey to Alexander " What are we gonna do with all this talent?" and your thoughts on C Budinger are right on, but he is a rookie, not that that matters to Adelman. I could only assume that 1. a HEALTHY "Im buying into this system" 7 time all star and 2. Im only 24 and one of the best defenders in the league....and oh!, I happen to know how to score as well, will start over a rookie who will have a very bright future in the NBA, and if not he could easily be cast in POWDER 2! But Ariza and McGrady will be starting together after the all star the latest..
  • Vic De Zen
    Love Budinger. Not too impressed with McGrady, but you have to hand it to him just for being able to get on the floor this early.
  • thirdcoastborn
    Yes McGradys style of play may mess up the chemistry but we still need him.Like the first Laker game this year we needed him to take that last shot of the game,or draw a double team.The good teams slow our offense down,turning it to half court, this is where we need him also.Landry is emerging as a force inside but if Tracy can get back to form and not keep the ball in his hands then he just adds to the team making them more versatile.
  • rahat_huq
    Jeremy: No idea yet on Taylor, so I don't want to say. It seems he can't go left though from what I have seen. The thing that impresses me most about Bud is just how "smooth" the guy is. You don't ever see him getting his body trapped in awkward positions the way Ariza routinely does. You can immediately tell that this is a guy who has been handling a basketball for quite some time.

    Vic: Agreed. I will be patient with him. It is a work in progress. Just glad the club gave him his chance.
  • brandon
    ok this guy that wrote this probably just started watching basketball yesterday, this article means sh!t.
  • Arturo
    Rahat- With the possible re-emergence of T-mac, the acquisition of Ariza, Bud, and Taylor, where does Shane Battier ultimately fit in this equation in your opinion? I would love to see a player evaluation with statistics, plus/minuses and all on Shane. There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the top 5 defenders in the league, if not THE best. His offense is also one of the most technically sound, speaking in terms of position and off-the-ball movement. But I've noticed lately that his shot seems to be falling flat more often than not, he's not as fast fighting through screens, and elite players seem able to take him off the dribble more easily than before. There are alot of intangibles that he brings, but they seem harder to notice lately. What kind of effect does having two defensive powerhouses(Shane and Chuck) who are offensive liabilites on the floor to start every game have?
  • Arturo
    Brandon- The kids' board is over on Fox, go run along now and play, the grown-ups have to talk.
  • rahat_huq
    Arturo - Ironic that you mention Battier because I consider that "the topic I don't want to touch." Reason being, I don't at all understand what I'm watching. He obviously has impact, but we're not quite sure what is taking place that is affecting the team's output with his presence. So while it's easy to say "trade Shane because of Bud", I just can't go there yet. As far as his defense, I think its natural that he would slip this year. Much of what he does is predicated upon the ability to funnel his defender towards the help. With Yao out of the middle, it changes things.
  • Arturo
    rahat- I can understand your hesitance on the topic. I too wouldn't be quick to slough him off, if for no other reason but because he will be such an outstanding mentor to the young guys, probably none better. Also it seems that at the end of close games when we need a basket, that's when he starts draining 'em.
  • rahat_huq

    Arturo: But I’ve noticed lately that his shot seems to be falling flat more often than not, he’s not as fast fighting through screens, and elite players seem able to take him off the dribble more easily than before.

    Here's my stance, Arturo. I have been one of the most vocal critics of Shane Battier over the past few years. Believe me. And it's for those very reasons you cited. In terms of tangibility, at times, he's noticeably sucked. The concern is that, despite that, he still managed to impact the team positively (as seen by the +/- figures). So how can I now discount him for what was before irrelevant to his impact on the team? So I think the Battier issue is a very interesting one. Our eyes are telling us he needs to be moved, he has trade value, Chase is ready to explode, etc etc etc....but how much does removing the brains of the body hurt the patient?
  • brandon
    lol at artuto calling me a kid , your asking a retard who doesnt know what hes talking about for an opinion.
    i was just suprised by this comments by rahat. He thinks he know something about basketball which he clearly doesnt.
  • Jeremy Wilson
    Hey Brandon, your insight is nothing short of spectacular. Your in-game analysis, statistical analysis, and overall opinion is game breaking....have you been offered a spot on the ESPN crew yet? YOUR VIEWS ARE GROUNDBREAKING AND INNOVATIVE!

    FYI: This is a blog.....AKA: BLOG AUTHORS OPINION!

    I LOVE MY ROCKETS, but what opinion was off?

    1. T_MAC didnt play great.......he missed 2 free throws and played 7 min....also author said time will tell, cant judge off one game.
    2. C. Budinger is the EFFIN MAN!
    3. I think that alot of what was said was FACTUAL not OPINIONATED, but when we get on here and ask the author a question....I dont think we care if he is the best basketball expert, if he was AMAZING, he would probably be posting his views on He' s a ROCKET fan, and we like to talk about our team...keep it going RED94......oh yea, and BRANDON....what was your blog address? I will be sure and go check it out!
  • Jeremy Wilson

    and Brandon we KNOW your a kid, all your grammar mistakes and the fact that you ACTUALLY used the word "retard"...pretty much sums it up for me...haha....but keep blogging, you are a source of laughter for me.........and probably everyone else who hears you speak....merry christmas!
  • nick
    he looked pretty bad??? are you crazy?? he was in great shape and took the ball to the basket in his limited minutes. and tracy mcgrady isnt a very good shooter?? it must be easy to be a sports writer these days -___-
  • nick
    rahat huq......lmfao. you dont belong writing about sports bro.
  • Jeremy Wilson
    The overall opinion of EVERY expert writer that I have read at espn, the chronicle, and a few less reputable sources all say McGrady didnt play great.....if he was, he would start....Some people really think Morey and Adleman are trying to keep him off the court....hmm "so we have guy who could help us win, but we dont need him"..really? When T Mac is ready he will play, start, and light it up son. I am PRO TMAC, but I was super dissappointed when he missed the two gimmies...and the basket. Why? because in two months that will be an AND 1!
    but for now......he looked average, and thats okay, I dont think its a negative to be on an NBA court what, 9 months after micro fracture surgery? I get myself excited just typing this..haha

    and just to clarify, Rahat I didnt see where you said T Mac isnt a good shooter? But T Mac has one of the prettiest shots in the game...and he IS a great shooter....reminds of Ray Allens shot, sometimes it looks like its gonna tear the net.
  • rahat_huq
    Jeremy - I think McGrady has easily one of the best looking releases in basketball. But based on the numbers in recent years, his accuracy has greatly fallen. I really want to see him be given the opportunity to create in these next few games, because that is where his value lies. We don't have anyone on this team who can drive and dish anywhere near as good as a healthy McGrady. That's really the explosive dynamic he can add to this team.
  • Buzzy
    Hmmm, too me TMAC seemed to be pouting for the first 5 mins on the floor, he seemed to be angry about something, maybe it was how late he was told he would be playing or something else. He seemed to just look uninterested in that time and just slowly wandering/going through the motions. That has to change (I'm sure it will), I'm trying not to be too critical but I don;t really agree with what you said on Defence - though his match was favourable as he did have a 6'10 rookie who's game is spot up shooting, otherwise he may not of played at all or got burnt on each play! The last 2 mins he seemed to pick it up and want to be out there as well as try on D... But other then that he hardly seemed like he wanted the ball, the only reason he got 3 rebounds was because they fell to him.

    Bud light is the real deal- I can't wait until he improves defensively, that's the whole reason he doesn't get big minutes ( Rip dropped a bunch on him)

    Battier is simply untradeable right now, he's not only out team captain and guidance but is simply the smartest defensive player in the NBA, most people don't recognise (let alone his help D) this but this alone makes him warrant keeping him here for the life of his contract! His value in what we would get back would be nothing compared, and Morey is too smart to let that happen. People just get carried away with scoring but it's not the be all end all as Defence wins Titles
  • Stephen
    A couple of yrs ago when McGrady was almost healthy he was very good curling off high screen,catching and shooting,often ripping off 3-4 baskets in a row,then faking and going back-door for the lob(which wasn't too successful).

    I believe we will eventually see Tracy,Chase and Ariza/Budinger all on the court together as a "small" lineup. Against teams using a tweener at the 4 Battier,Ariza and McGrady should be able to play the 4. Dallas w/Dirk,LA w/Lamar,and any GS line-up :) etc.
  • rahat_huq
    Buzzy - I disagree with you on T-Mac pouting. I felt like he was giving 110%. He just couldn't physically keep up. Agreed on Budinger.

    Stephen - That would be interesting to watch. This roster has a lot of options in terms of versatility.
  • brandon
    awwwwwwwwww,, did i hurt your feelings , lmao ,I wish this goes through your head but i really doubt that it will, i am simply saying that rahat huq's knowledge of basketball is pretty low by all the comments he's made. Please jeremy do yourself a favor and don't comment again. lmao. And rahat just like nick said, you don't belong writing anything about sports.
  • George
    Tracy just doesn't have the physical ability to play in the league right now. Perhaps it is just a conditioning thing, perhaps its a long term he can't move fast thing. Obviously he'll still have talent, maybe he can play a small 4. But at least as of right now, he has absolutely no lateral movement, he has no hops, and he's not big enough to guard 4s.

    I was troubled by Morey/Adelman's refusal to play him. But it's painfully apparent they were right.
  • raheel
    Kudos to you Rahat on your achievement. I read your blog for the first time today after being linked by a co-worker and really enjoyed it.

    Brandon, the authors of this blog probably succeed you by years and wisdom hence the reason your juvenile outbursts haven't been dignified with their replies. I don't know why you're here fanning flames-You can offer your potent insight in simple sentences on your myspace douchebag. in short, fuck off.. it's a pain to scroll with your dumbass all over the place.
  • rahat_huq
    George - I'm not sure I can agree with this assessment just yet. Just way too early. It's still too difficult to differentiate between physical regression and what may just be 'rust'.

    Raheel - Thanks for the kind words.
blog comments powered by Disqus