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Tmacology – Like Kremlinology, but without the furry hats, vodka and ominous knocking at the door at 3 am... Part 1

First read this:

Got that?

Now read this:

It’s a real "He Said/He Said" situation here. We are free to choose what we believe. The Chronicle piece is very much an "All is well. Nothing to see here. Go on home, folks. Nothing to see. Move along" Official Party Line sort of thing. Nothing the least bit disturbing there.

As far as the Wojnarowski Yahoo piece, well, at long last, the national media has the sort of story it likes about Houston. No more boring items about team basketball, deep rosters and non-star guys putting up efficient, if not huge numbers, as the seemingly interchangeable Rockets grind down another D. It makes a welcome respite from tedious advanced stats or Morey worship.

Tmac is back! (Now?) And there is yelling! (No, there isn’t!) There were some locker room dramatics! (Nothing dramatic happened.) There is also a real possibility that Tmac is directly feeding his position to the media! (Who knows?) A hurt guy suits up on his own, rather than management’s proposed date for return, despite not having final medical clearance. (He just wants to play!) He then badgers his coach into a confrontation before game time. (It was just a friendly chat.) Now that, my friends, that’s a STORY. (Or it isn’t.)

(It might even explain the somewhat distracted play Houston evinced at The Target Center. Or it might not. Who’s that grainy figure in the back, wearing a furry hat? He looks familiar.)

If you look deeper, (as the Adrian Wojnarowski Yahoo story, in fact does), there glimmers something beyond the full dose of shouting and histrionics, which may not have occured. There might be interesting financial ramifications. Financial implications that have surely not escaped an MIT MBA like Daryl Morey, or a hugely successful bond trader like Leslie Alexander.

The dueling articles give this an even more Cold War feel. Is the Chronicle Pravda? Is Yahoo the New York Times? Is any of this a fair supposition? Like the Kremlinologists of the Cold War, I am constructing a little cosmos out of a few reported tales, some data, shadows and supposition.

It hinges on the construct so crucial to modern basketball: insurance. A "person with knowledge of NBA insurance policies" stated to the Chronicle that insurance has paid on McGrady’s injury since last year. If that is true, then this is a non story. The Yahoo piece suggests otherwise.

In general, if you think McGrady is a man unjustly maligned for physical breakdowns over which he has zero control, best stop reading now. If the Chronicle’s reassuring piece strikes you as true, stop now. If you think the Yahoo story might be right, that McGrady’s behavior could leave room for legitimate question – please read on. Perhaps we will yet arrive at a something that fits what we do know. But I doubt it.

Here is a question to ponder (assuming Wojnarowski is right):

Isn’t it odd that McGrady staged his bit of theatre in Minnesota on the very day the Rockets insurance payments were due to commence? Isn’t it peculiar that the same date was one announced unilaterally, by McGrady, some weeks ago? A date that was evidently not the one Houston had in mind. Why would he do that?

Like most of us, what McGrady says, and what he does are often different. The timing of this could make one think there is something going on beyond a player simply being eager to rejoin his teammates. There is, after all, some precedent for unilateral action by McGrady before deadlines of great significance to Rockets management.

If McGrady suits up and plays even a game, it would seem (according to the Yahoo article) that the Rockets could not collect insurance until he missed another 1/2 season of games, no matter how hurt he might be. Is that the reason he suited up and demanded to play, when the Rockets had spoken of a 23rd date for an MRI as being a target?

Who is trying to do what to whom here? A person who believes there is genuine bad blood between the Rockets front office and McGrady, a flinty cynic no doubt, could suppose that McGrady would like nothing more than for the Rockets, rather than an insurance company, to eat his league-high salary.

We have no way of knowing (though perhaps the "person with knowledge of NBA insurance policies" could set us straight), but it could be seen, with the insurance issue (and date) on the table that McGrady was literally trying to force his way into a game, going so far as to suit up (to the surprise of all, evidently) and engage in a shouting match (it never happened) with his coach. Why else do this on this one day, of all days, if not the insurance?

High spirits? Because he really wanted to play the Twolves? Because he thought we couldn’t win without him?

Wouldn’t it be lovely to think so.

Look for Part II – where I wonder if we couldn’t make this all into the "Rashomon" of the NBA.