Well, Tracy McGrady is at it again. The former Houston Rockets star continues to hate on his former team, now calling for the firing of head coach Mike D’Antoni, who holds the highest win percentage in team history.
McGrady’s made a habit of criticizing the Rockets, often being critical of James Harden’s playing style, and even implored The Beard earlier in the playoffs to inexplicably start taking more mid-range jumpers (which we all know is the most inefficient shot in basketball for all but a small handful of players).
Then there was this one last year, after Harden shot 2-18 in the playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which McGrady said, “I wish I could have struggled like that and won.” (Nevermind that the Rockets made it further in 2009 without him than they ever did with him, but more on that below).
I know it’s a bit sacrilegious around these parts, and T-Mac was an idol to an entire generation of Rockets fans, but his whole schtick just comes across as jealous and petty to me, and I honestly have always felt that McGrady was overrated and lacked the requisite emotional/mental makeup to succeed at the ultimate level (ducks rotten tomatoes).
Even though he was one of the most talented players in terms of raw ability I’ve even seen step on the court, his playoff failures were legendary for all the wrong reasons, and of course, there were moments like these, in which he admitted to being lazy and disengaged in practice for most of his career. And then this classic, which didn’t directly throw his teammates under a bus, but for all intents and purposes...
Can you imagine the blowback if either of those statements came from Harden (who, it deserves mentioning, by all accounts, is a relentless worker on the practice floor)?
There was also the famous tears episode, which many T-Mac fans found gut-wrenching, but always felt a little fake to me and seems all the more disingenuous in retrospect (and shows a painful lack of self-awareness) knowing that McGrady didn’t, in fact, by his own later admission, try his hardest.
He had his work ethic questioned by multiple coaching regimes, and of course, there was this nugget from Grantland from when the Rockets hired Rick Adelman in 2007, and the new coach asked T-Mac to take on a larger leadership role, which would be natural for someone of his ability, stature, and contract.
After Morey fired Van Gundy before the 2007-08 season, new hire Rick Adelman was hoping McGrady would take on a bigger leadership role. Adelman was a more laid-back coach, Morey explains, someone who’d rather delegate to his players. So they met with McGrady to tell him that they needed his help.
What happened? McGrady politely turned them down. He just wasn’t wired that way, he told them.
“So who did everyone consider the team’s leader during your 22-game winning streak?” I asked Daryl.
“Probably Chuck Hayes,” Daryl said.
Despite all the numbers and all the athletic ability, this simply wasn’t a guy who could lead a group of grown men, either vocally or by example, and I think that at least partially explains why the best Rockets team of T-Mac’s entire tenure in Houston happened with McGrady only playing 35 games (with a controversial micro-fracture surgery that the team didn’t believe he needed), and Yao Ming (with a little help from Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, etc...) leading the Rockets to a 53-29 record and their first first-round playoff victory in over a decade.
The Rockets then famously took the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games the following round and had a legit shot at the upset had Yao not gotten hurt. Yao was a quiet guy as well, but he at least led by example by practicing hard and adding facets to his game, something we also see regularly from Harden.
That’s another complaint I have about McGrady. The guy was skilled enough to make an impact, particularly as a shooter, once his athleticism left him, but because he didn’t practice hard or work on expanding his game, once that explosion was gone, so was McGrady’s relevance.
James Harden has since surpassed McGrady’s legacy as a Rocket — twice leading Houston to the Western Conference Finals — surpassed his legacy as a player — winning an MVP award while running up for multiple others — and has now even exceeded McGrady’s famous 32.1 points per game with the Orlando Magic in 2003. The Beard even passed T-Mac on the all-time scoring list this season (Harden is now at 63, McGrady at 69).
It just feels like McGrady is harboring resentment at the fact his career has already been surpassed by Harden in every way. The D’Antoni take isn’t so terrible in a vacuum, even though I don’t agree with it at all (he’s not the only one calling for this). But it’s the way he’s going about it, saying that Houston’s biggest issue is that D’Antoni doesn’t hold James Harden “accountable.”
Accountable for what, exactly?
I’m old enough to remember some very lean years, so I really appreciate what the Rockets have accomplished these last three seasons, even without a title. But taken into the context that McGrady very rarely has anything nice to say about the Rockets, and I felt the urge to call out T-Mac’s bitterness.
I honestly can’t recall the last time T-Mac said something nice about the Rockets, James Harden, or their approach to basketball, which only makes sense taken into the context that the James Harden-led Rockets have already had significantly more success as a team than the T-Mac-led group ever did.
I know I’m facing a tough crowd here on this take (heck, I once had T-Mac criticism edited out of my piece entirely in my early days here), but it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it: bitter and jealous.