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[Hollinger]To Reach the Next Level, the Rockets Need McGrady

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by madmonkey37, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. madmonkey37

    madmonkey37 Contributing Member

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    Havent seen this posted yet.

    HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady wasn't there. And yet he was everywhere.

    In Houston's first game after announcing its star guard would be out for at least two weeks to work on a sore knee (and, many suspect, a bruised psyche), the Rockets made two things abundantly apparent: First, that they have enough talent to compete with anyone even without McGrady ... and second, that they have no chance of beating the West's elite unless he's there.

    Playing without both McGrady and Ron Artest, Houston gave the Western Conference-leading Lakers everything they could handle for three quarters on Tuesday before ultimately falling short 105-100 before a Toyota Center-record crowd of 18,557.

    Amazingly, the Rockets didn't seem to miss their two key perimeter scorers much in the first three quarters. Houston scored on its first six trips and shot 60 percent for three quarters, and Yao Ming destroyed Andrew Bynum in the paint, outrebounding him 17-1.

    But after being outscored through three quarters 23-20 by Von Wafer -- you know, the Von Wafer -- Kobe Bryant took over the game in the fourth. He pitched a 13-0 shutout on his opposing number in the final stanza that included a game-winning 3 with Shane Battier "right in his grill," helping the equally injury-riddled Lakers overcome a rough night from Bynum.

    Meanwhile, Houston didn't have a go-to guy around to answer Bryant's charge. After several weeks of timid play, McGrady and the Rockets agreed he'd sit out for at least two weeks and basically pretend it's the offseason, working on strength and conditioning in order to get him fresh for the stretch run and, hopefully, easing some of the pain in his surgically repaired knee.

    "I looked back on some of the film it was hard," said McGrady before the game. "Some of those games I had some fast breaks [where] I was actually petrified at times to got to the basket or to have a fast break and to jump off my leg. I was. I'm not ashamed to admit that.

    "I'll go back to my old regimen in the summertime. I will act like its July, go to the track and do my normal offseason workout. I've already started that."

    Of course, some would argue T-Mac started acting like it was July several weeks ago -- part of an ongoing is-this-guy-really-hurt-or-is-he-just-a-wimp debate that is impossible to know the answer to without spending some quality time inside McGrady's knee. Houston seemed ready to move on without him before the game, with Rick Adelman declaring it was time to worry about the players who were there and healthy, but that would have been easier if it hadn't been reminded so clearly of T-Mac's absence down the stretch.

    Bryant matched Houston's total with 11 points in the final 6:16, the final three putting the Lakers up 102-100 with 27 seconds left, and that's when things unwound for Houston. Rafer Alston missed two foul shots that could have tied the game, but the Rockets got another chance to tie down by three with seven seconds left.

    Instead of going to McGrady and relying on him to make the right decision, the ball went to Aaron Brooks in the corner, who couldn't escape and threw it inside to Yao Ming, who turned, surveyed his options, and then let nearly the entire clock expire before missing a meaningless two-pointer with one second left.

    It was amazing the Rockets were in this game at all given some of the rag-tag lineups they employed. With McGrady, Artest and Luther Head all sidelined, Carl Landry was pressed into service as a small forward and played the bulk of crunch time there. Brooks was guarding Trevor Ariza for much of the second quarter, Brent Barry took a shift guarding Bryant, and we had our first Dikembe Mutombo sighting of the year when he played for four minutes in the first half.

    But the Lakers had to grind this one out as well. Bryant had to serve as the backup point guard since Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar were out, Lamar Odom returned and gutted out a 10-point effort on a sore knee after a scoreless first half, and little-used subs Sun Yue and Josh Powell both saw some burn in the second half.

    The difference-maker, in the end, was Bryant's presence, and McGrady's absence.

    "I think it's just need," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson of Bryant's late-game heroics. "I think it sends him to another level."

    "I'll take that shot every day of the week," said Battier. "That's probably the least efficient shot you can give him on any given Kobe possession, a 35-footer with a hand in his face. That speaks to his talent."

    Meanwhile, the Rockets left the arena appreciative of a strong team effort, yet knowing that moral victories weren't going to cut the mustard in a cutthroat Western Conference playoff race.

    And while no sane person would count this team out -- not after what they did in the second half last season -- it's abundantly clear what they lack without their top playmaker. Houston took only eight foul shots all night, one of which came on a technical foul, and mustered just 18 points in the fourth quarter.

    Thus, Tuesday cemented that the Rockets find themselves in a very strange dilemma moving into the second half of the season. Yes, they're capable of winning it all if they ever get healthy. But there's only one guy who can take them to the next level, and they're not sure he's interested in doing it.

    John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime?page=dime-090114
     
  2. Jeff Who

    Jeff Who Member

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    I will say it once again, the decision to take McGrady out for at least two weeks is the best decision that could ever happen. You know he is fired up, you know he wants to prove everybody wrong, you know he wants to finally win something...

    All I can said T-Mac is really fired up and so am I. Season ain't over yet.
     
  3. bbjai

    bbjai Member

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    MAybe hopefully

    finally

    T-mac has woken up. IF you read what Doc Rocket has said its clear he hasn't and this is a lame holiday call pulled by Tracy. But today it was obvious we needed him.

    Hopefully he actually means what he sayas this time
     
  4. trance112

    trance112 Member

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    2 weeks.... then the rockets will prove to the West they are a force to be reckon with!
    I believe we will finally have our lineup that was originally planned for in the summer out there on the court and healthy ready to make some serious noise!

    We need Tmac just as much as we need Yao and even Artest to get us to the promise land...lets make this a team effort and get the ball rolling...
     
  5. tiger0330

    tiger0330 Contributing Member

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    Two weeks to recover from a knee injury? I'm skeptical, I hope Mcgrady is ready to go in two weeks but I think you will see him on the inactive list again before the end of the season.
     
  6. blender

    blender Member

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    Good article about the game but also about the McGrady situation.

    Pretty much sums it up.
     
  7. mrfirefly7

    mrfirefly7 Member

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    Rockets should have mentality that they will have to compete with current health lineup even in the playoff. If Tmac returns and contribute, that's great. They will just compete like they used to.

    Just don't expect anything out of Tmac, so if they do get something out of him, it will be a plus.
     
  8. worzel gummidge

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    This is what having a pre-game presser when the LA media are in town is all about...
     
  9. blender

    blender Member

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    They're good enough to make it to the playoffs, but without McGrady, it will take a pretty big upset to knock out one of the top four seeds.
     
  10. rocketsmetalspd

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    I will wait and see what transpires with TMacs two weeks of summer time rehab.
     
  11. boby

    boby Member

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    To reach the next level, NY needs SM.
     
  12. Spacemoth

    Spacemoth Contributing Member

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    Great article. Sums up my sentiments exactly. Inside all Rocket fans is the desire to punch T-Mac in the face, but you know we can't do it because he's our only chance.

    He'll be there in the end. Or he won't. Nevertheless, a 20% chance of getting the old T-Mac back is better than a 100% chance of falling short once again if we get rid of him.
     
  13. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    glad he not shamed :mad:

    Rocket River
    . . have some pride aboput yaself!
     
  14. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    One More thing. . . . Games like this will build a player
    AB, Yao, etc will probably do better the next time this happens
    T-Mac's Absence in the stretch? Would have he played Defense on Kobe
    HELL NAW!!
    Would Kobe have defended him
    HELL YES!

    Rocket River
    . . .I'm not buying it. . . the Rockets played hard and battled
    and to undermine their accomplishment to push up McGrady is
    assinine and pathetic . . . How about some of the **** giving
    the REST OF THE ROCKETS come props every now and again
    rather than constantly dogging them out in order to make McGrady
    look like some fricking savior
     
  15. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    Just wait....I told you guys the PR spin machine will crank up now....and talk about how hard McGrady is working out...to repair his image with the fans so that when he comes back...he won't get booed.

    And I don't think the team needs Tmac.....not the way he is playing....Artest is more valuable right now with the way Wafer is playing.

    DD
     
    #15 DaDakota, Jan 14, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  16. northeastfan

    northeastfan Member

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    I completely agree. TSlack is perhaps the most over-rated players in the NBA. Without TSlack, the Rockets play with energy and enthusiasm. The games are much more exciting. Win or lose, I'd rather watch that than TSlack not play defense, demand the ball, jack up bad fadeaways, and sulk.
     
  17. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    It is clear that the players are making a statement to him....they just play harder when he is not around....

    Tmac brings the team down......he is more talented, but he doesn't play hard and it brings the energy and team effort down.

    I think you take out Tmac....put in Artest...and the team is better and a contender this year....if Wafer is for real.

    DD
     
  18. dandorotik

    dandorotik Contributing Member

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    Boy, some of you all are short-sighted. Better off without T-Mac? Please. I don't care how he's acting right now or how he's playing (substandard), anyone who thinks we're better off without him needs to study the history of the NBA.
     
  19. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    Dandorotik,

    If Tracy is ready to play and be part of the team, you are right, but if he has become a lazy, good for nothing cancer, then you are wrong.

    DD
     
  20. northeastfan

    northeastfan Member

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    Exactly. TMac, okay. TSlack and we're a lottery team.
     

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