How do you define it? One of those moments when something just hits you and you’re like “that’s funny (but not comical) or interesting.” I became cognizant of something that had been developing for a while now that wasn’t new just new to me.
Identifying another connection between the oft-injured Tracy McGrady and a finally healthy yet aged Grant Hill placed a look of puzzlement on my face. Wrinkles found their way onto my forehead because of the irony involving these two players.
McGrady’s announcement (voiced as unprofessional by his coach) through his website prior to the NBA trade deadline that he was having season-ending microfracture surgery on his left knee after competing in 35 games solidified his continued yet unfortunate association to former teammate Hill.
Close to a decade ago, T-Mac and G-Hill were on the same roster in Orlando despite rarely filling up the stat sheet together. While McGrady continuously guided the Magic to the brink of the second round of the playoffs, Hill could only watch due to a left ankle which seemed irreparable. (The seven-time All-Star missed 281 of 328 regular-season games while McGrady was in town.)
After vocalizing the need for some help, guiding his team to the league’s worst record (21-61) and publicly disputing with then-coach Doc Rivers, McGrady got his request, a one-way ticket out of Orlando en route to Houston in 2004 where memorable moments appeared to be on the horizon. Who could dispute such? McGrady had a healthy and talented big man, Yao Ming, to defer to. More importantly the Rockets had a superstar with an attitude to win at any cost even if personal statistics are sacrificed.
At first and as expected, the results were nothing to frown upon with the Rockets in playoff contention while McGrady lit up the scoring columns and missed just four games. But these times were cut short the following season when McGrady played in just 48 games due to a back injury, the sort which forces retirement if not fixed.
Unfortunate? Yes. Not an issue anymore? No.
The 6-8 swingman became a constant on the injured list, missing 10 games in 2006-07 due to back pain then 12 last season because of a bone bruise and tendinitis in the same bothersome knee.
Not only have these health issues hindered McGrady’s availability and offensive output (just barely 16 points a game, well below his career average), but they have become contagious around the locker room. Prior to the trading deadline, the Rockets already had 10 of their players miss a total of 113 games this season.
Without surprise, McGrady, Yao and Ron Artest – Houston’s version of “The Big Three” – have contributed to this mind-boggling statistic and barely been on the floor at the same time.
With McGrady already established as the carrier of this plague, Yao has definitely been the main recipient of such since he has not played in more than 57 games in each of the past three seasons.
Artest has also contracted the “bug” despite this being his first year in a Rockets’ uniform. Not necessarily shocking since the recently well-behaved lockdown defender has always been in and out of the lineup over the course of his career. Even the Rockets’ lone constant on the floor, Shane Battier who never missed more than four games in any of his previous seven seasons – two in Houston -, has succumbed to the conditions that have continuously surrounded him. More than halfway through his eighth NBA season, Battier has played in just six more games than McGrady so far.
Coming into the season, the Rockets, with the addition of Artest, were predicted to give the elite squads (the Lakers, Spurs and Hornets) out West a legitimate run for the conference crown, barring any serious injuries. Yet, as of late, the lack of health is where the Rockets’ issues lie, not with their bench production or old age, lack of experience or poor road record like other teams.
And these problems stem from McGrady, who is like Hill in one facet but different in another. Hill quarantined his illness. McGrady didn’t.