I find myself in a strange position once again. I know I probably shouldn't bring up mundane details after OaL's rather nice eulogy for McGrady The Rocket, and Tom's fine piece of writing suggesting a healthy mental outlook. But... But... Well, you know I'd have to write something about this eventually. I tried to resist, I promise. So, I'm in an odd position as I don't dislike McGrady as much as the "haters" and I don't find as much to admire in him as his supporters. I'm on the record as saying I find the evidence I have seen to be more suggestive of malice on the part of McGrady in certain cases than otherwise. I also believe his ego remains in 2002-3 while his body is in 2010 and I find that childish and unattractive, at best. Understanding does not compel approval. You are free to disagree, and many have.
For whatever reason, and despite his obvious talent and high career peak, I don't find McGrady as tragic or grand a figure, or story, as those mentioned in OaL's "Requiem for a TMac". We get to pick our favorites in this - for every Jeff Bagwell, there is a Karl Malone, who I will never like, but who is viewed (at least in Utah) as a figure of epic sporting tragedy. I of course, find Malone's supposed failures a fine and instructive example of cosmic justice rather than the process of pure randomness. Is that fair? Probably not. Is it wrong? Who's to say?
I think that following sports is slightly hollow if we regard every champion as simply a sort of lottery winner (how could Jordan really be THAT lucky?), and every non-champion as a worthy, but unfortunate, contender. It may be rational, and perhaps even correct, but I would suggest it doesn't answer certain core, and perhaps irrational, desires of sport.
Back To McGrady - I also honestly hoped that the Rockets and McGrady could reach a productive sort of detente this season. I wished that they might discover an accord that was mutually, and maximally beneficial to both sides. I honestly thought their interests were closely aligned. Once again it appears that McGrady's actions have dispelled that belief. (I'm not going to keep writing - 'of course we don't and can't know everything' just assume this dislaimer everywhere.) Despite earning income like a major enterprise, McGrady is an individual, and perhaps a less rational actor. Leaving aside the idea its probably best just to say "these things happen" and walk away because, well, yes they do for whatever reason, and with whatever culpability you may or may not choose to assign - what exactly has McGrady gained from this most recent incident?
I would say, at best, nothing. At worst, he remains a Rocket, away from the team, and his contract expires at season's end with him playing all of 47 minutes, despite being capable of playing more. I view this as a very real possibility after this latest incident. I don't believe that scenario was on the table before the Christmas Incident, and I think (for whatever it is worth) that it is now. McGrady's stated aim is to be a player, to get minutes, to prove he's not done, to resume his career and try to regain his former glory. Do we agree on this? If we do, I think we either have to say that he's not acting to further that interest, or that his possible underlying motives and stated aim are inconsistent. How does NOT playing assigned minutes, and demanding a trade help him do that? Did he think Houston wasn't shopping him already? Did he think putting an "All Inventory Must Go!" sign above his head would INCREASE the probability that Houston would get a deal that would work for them? Wouldn't it tend to get Houston ridiculous firesale offers, or trades that made the team worse for a long time (AKA Any Knicks Deal)?
I honestly think that McGrady has, whatever his reasons, greatly increased the chance that he will remain a Rocket and, if his current course continues, not play. There could be a great reconciliation right around the corner, but I would guess that the Rockets would rather keep McGrady, and wait for his contract to simply expire, than take a bad deal. By requesting a trade, and absenting himself from the team, I think McGrady lowered, rather than improved, his chance of getting what he's said he wanted.