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[INQ7.net]Straight up with T-mac

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by kingkow, Sep 6, 2006.

  1. kingkow

    kingkow Member

    Jun 29, 2006
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    Straight up with T-Mac

    By Gabriel Mercado
    Last updated 09:28pm (Mla time) 09/05/2006

    Published on Page C1 of the September 6, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

    There are lots of Tracy McGrady highlights. But the most memorable one for me is when he was still with Orlando Magic in the 2002-2003 season, and the Magics were visiting the New York Knicks. It happened to be Patrick Ewing’s retirement night, and major NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Julius Erving had come to honor Ewing as he retired his jersey.

    At the sidelines, Jordan and Ewing were being interviewed when someone came up from behind the camera to shake their hands. It was McGrady, only 23 at that time. Both Jordan and Ewing were joking around with the interviewer when they stopped and acknowledged McGrady’s presence, even slapping high fives with him.

    The moment was fleeting, but significant for three reasons. First, any one of the 10 players on the court could have done the same, but it was McGrady who took the time to do so. Second, it was a special night. The air was electric with many of the greatest players of the NBA under one roof to honor Ewing. And third, McGrady was paying his respects to the greatest players; he himself was slowly moving into their company.
    The T-Mac was more than just another spectacular athlete. He had earned the respect not only of his peers, but of the established greats of the game. He had truly arrived.

    Proving it

    Since then, McGrady has fulfilled his promise. He became the NBA’s Scoring Champ in ’02-’03, and the youngest to average 30 points per game since the ’70s. Last June he was chosen by EASports, makers of the famous NBA Live video game, to grace their cover for 2007. This is a great honor among most professional athletes, with some considering it almost as valuable as an MVP award.

    Twice named to the All NBA First Team in ’01-’02 and ’02-’03 seasons, he is a five-time NBA All Star, and has patented a famous move where he bounces the ball off the backboard as if to pass, but instead catches it for a thunderous dunk, making even fellow All-Stars jaws drop.
    More recently he pulled off an amazing feat, scoring 13 points in 35 seconds against the San Antonio Spurs. Mostly using three-pointers and even a rare four-point play off a foul—from fellow All Star Tim Duncan, of all people.

    Recently he was in Manila, the third leg of a four-country whirlwind tour for Adidas, to promote his new, individually numbered all-white Limited-Edition T-Mac Ones, of which there are only 1,650 pairs available. He is the first athlete to sign a lifetime contract with Adidas.
    In this interview, the friendly and animated T-Mac talked with me and top coach Joel Banal, who brought along three of his four sons—Juan (21), Miguel (20) and Gabriel (16)—who were visibly excited about meeting the NBA player.

    Coach Banal (CB): You have said “Impossible is Nothing,” and I know you’re gonna win an NBA championship. I’d like to know how soon?

    Tracy McGrady (TM): Well, you’re a coach, you know how hard it is. Well, you win a lot, so I don’t know. (Laughs).
    No, I’m sure you know how hard it is to win in the NBA. It’s really hard, you’ve got some great teams. Some teams just do a great job of putting the pieces together to create that chemistry. I think with me and Yao, those are the two most important pieces that you need. We have an inside/outside game. We just need to get that, you know, that other piece that can really get us over the hump. I think with the addition of Shane Battier [guard, Houston], to our team, he’s a very smart, very blue-collar basketball player, he’ll help us be more successful than we were, but I still think we have to do a little more in terms of depth. You look at teams like Dallas, they have Jerry Stackhouse coming off their bench. San Antonio Spurs are deep all around (the Banal boys chime in: “Michael Finley!”), yeah they have Michael Finley coming off their bench. So it is really tough to win in the NBA; I must tell you, it is.

    CB: I don’t know how they do it in the NBA but my style is I talk to my players, especially the big ones and I ask them what they think about the team. Do you do that?

    Yeah we do that of course. I think it’s important that the coach talks to the best players to see, you know, what can we do to make our team better. I think it’s important that you have a great relationship between the coach and the best player. You know the coach and best player usually have some run-ins. You’re both competitors, you both wanna win. But it’s all about getting on the same page and making your team better.

    CB: In connection with that, if you were asked, what do you think would you need to get closer to a championship?

    It is important that you reach out to your best player and let him have some sort of opinion on where the team’s future should be. Who is out there that I think can make our team better. That happens in the NBA, it really does. I know it happened with the Rockets when they asked me, because I have a great feel of talent. I recognize talent whenever I see it and they know that.

    CB’s boys: At home we always watch this clip of you against the San Antonio Spurs, where you made 13 points in less than a minute.

    I watch that all the time! (Laughter.)

    CB’s boys: We watch it over and over again and there was this one player who was just stunned, after the game!

    Seriously I honestly watch that play over and over ’cause it was a really a moment... after I hit two of those threes, I knew we were pretty much gonna win the game. You know after I hit that four-point play on Tim Duncan (Laughter), it was over. Our confidence was sky-high. It was like, we are gonna do this! So we just had to find some way to strategize to foul those guys without a lot of time coming off the clock, put them on the free-throw line, and I was just throwing up three’s.
    And it was crazy, I thought that after I hit my third three, I think we were up two. They inbound the ball, and the guy [Devin Brown] lost it. Nobody touched him. It was like... that was really meant for us to win that game. Nobody touched this guy. He fell down, loses the ball and who the ball comes to? Me! So I was thinking, I’m not gonna shoot a two, we’ve come this far, I did all this work, dammit we gonna win this game. That was my whole thing, we were gonna win this game. I put up a three and it went through the net, and it was crazy. It erupted in there. It was definitely a great feeling, guys.

    CB boys: I think the best shot was when Tim Duncan fouled you. That was it.

    You know what, Tim’s seven-foot tall and I can’t believe I got that shot up over him and made it. That was crazy. He was trying to avoid me, but all he had to do was just block the shot. He was right there ’cause I didn’t really get off the ground that far, so he could’ve blocked the shot.

    CB: After you made a couple I think they felt the pressure that they might lose the game.

    Yeah they were missing free throws, and I just seen it on their faces. And I tell you, our arena, there was so much energy in that building, and.. a lot of people had left.

    Gabby Mercado (GM): Yeah. How do you feel about something like that? Whenever that happens.

    I told them, I looked at the camera and said you just missed a hell of a game.

    GM: So when you’re playing, how do you feel when you see the people filing out?

    You know what? They paid good money, they came to see a good game, and when they feel the game is pretty much out of reach they leave. It really doesn’t bother me. But that night? I’m sure it bothered them. (Laughter)

    CB: How often do you feel like you own the game?

    You know, I pick and choose. I like to see who’s rolling on my team. So what I do know, because I play with Yao, I like to get Yao going first ‘cause I know I could get myself going at any time. So I like to get Yao going, and if I see him struggling then I like to take over. Sometimes I have shots, but I like to get my other guys involved because it’s tough when you have somebody demanding the ball all the time and you don’t really get that feel for the ball and when you shoot the ball, it kinda feels weird.
    So I like to move the ball around, get them confident, and when it’s my time, I take it over. Now with the Rockets, I don’t look to score 62 points [a record he set in Orlando]. I don’t have to do that now. I just control the game, try to get us a win.

    On Yao Ming and baseball
    CB: When you were growing up, did you have a hero in the NBA?
    Yeah, I loved Magic Johnson.
    CB: In your career, when did you feel that you had established yourself?
    After my second year in Orlando, I really emerged being a superstar in this league. Before the 13 at 35, I was most famous for putting the ball off the glass in the All Star game and that really put me on a pedestal.

    CB boys: How’s your relationship with Yao? Is there a language barrier?
    Yao speaks good English! Yao is a funny, goofy guy. He’s real down to earth. I talk to him every now and then, check up on him make sure he’s doing ok, and we have a great relationship.

    CB boys: What makes a good basketball player?

    First, you have to respect the game. You have to love the game. You just have to have that passion for the game. You have to work hard. You can’t work hard, think you are good, and stop working hard. You have to constantly just never be satisfied, and believe in yourself that you can be great. So every time I step on the court, it’s not an arrogant thing, it’s a confident thing. Every time I step on the court, I feel that I’m the best. I feel that nobody is better than me.
    Other people might have their opinion, and I’m sure other guys feel the same way I do every time they step on the court but you just gotta take that with you. If you don’t take that with you, I say to myself, [and I know] Kobe does too, if you don’t think you’re confident enough to play against us we gonna kill you. We gonna take you hard, and once we take you hard, you’re done. ’Cause your confidence is gonna be shot, and if you don’t have confidence, I don’t care how talented you are, you’re no good.

    GM: You know what, yesterday I was at the press con and you said you loved baseball more. I, and your fans, really need to know why!

    And I will tell you why! I started playing baseball when I was 5 years old, up until my junior year in high school. I never missed a year playing baseball. The only reason I started playing basketball, and you’re gonna get a kick out of this, is because every time we went out to the playground, I had older cousins and all my friends were older than me, and they needed an extra guy to play. I never wanted to play ’cause I hated the sport, because I was a baseball and football player. I hated basketball, but they needed an extra guy, and I always used to get picked on. They’d smack me on the head and say: “No you gonna play.” So I was basically threatened to play basketball! (Laughter.)
    It got to the point when I got tired of them picking on me. I continued to play, I picked up the sport, and by this time I was playing all three sports. I was great in all three sports. Got to high school, dominated each sport. I just started watching basketball, and I fell in love with it because I was getting good. We were playing against these older guys, and I was killing them. They hated it, too. They’d say: “How is it that he’s so good and he don’t even like the sport?”
    I was gifted, I was probably like 12-13 years old!

    GM: How tall were you?

    I wasn’t even six foot. That’s why I can handle the ball so well ’cause I didn’t get a growth spurt until my sophomore year in high school. So I used to kill those guys. So I said, maybe this is something that I really need to pick up and I just started taking it seriously, playing in high school.

    GM: So at that point, goodbye baseball?

    Goodbye baseball. And football, too, ‘cause they didn’t want me to get hurt. So my junior year in high school, I was playing baseball, and I can remember one particular game. I was pitching, and I had the Baltimore Orioles and a couple of scouts watching me. The next couple of days, I had a call from my high school baseball coach, and he said if you really took this seriously, you could become a professional baseball player.

    GM: So there was a point when you really had to make a choice.
    Yeah there was a point when I could’ve played baseball. So it was either baseball or basketball, and I chose basketball. That’s why I’m still holding on to the dream [of playing baseball].

    CB boys: Kinda like Michael Jordan, huh!
    No, I’ll be better than Mike!
    CB: Would you say that moving out of Toronto in the beginning was a big push in your career?

    You know what? I actually loved Toronto, I just felt like I couldn’t make a career there. It was in another country, it didn’t have anything to do with Vince [Carter]. He was family, it didn’t have to do with him. I just felt like.. I didn’t want to move my family to Canada. I didn’t want my daughter going to school in Canada. It was a great experience for me because I didn’t come to a young team. I came to a team where there were guys like Charles Oakley, Dee Brown, Mugsy Bogues, Kevin Willis... all these veteran players I played with. I just sat back and I learned from those guys how to handle the NBA life pretty much. And I also sat back and watched Vince do some amazing things. (Everyone smiles)
    That was fun for me, but I had to get out of there.

    CB: Have you really found a home in Houston?

    Yeah. I hope to end my career in Houston with Yao, myself, and bring a championship.

    GM: I saw your video at Hallstrengths.com, where you were working out. You were the voiceover, and you were saying how people were doubting your motivation, specifically your first year coach. Could you tell us about that?

    You saw that? That was cool. Hmm... Yeah he was a... (takes a few seconds to answer) uhmmm.. he was a nobody. He was a coach… no I’m not even gonna say he was a coach. I don’t know what he was! He was a friend of Isiah Thomas, he just got lucky and got the job. He didn’t know what he was doing, he obviously didn’t know what he was talking about because of what I’ve accomplished in my career. So yeah, he criticized me for being lazy, didn’t work, don’t love the game and I’d be out of the league in three years.

    GM: Would you say that was one your obstacles?

    Yes, definitely. I tried to overcome that because back home, when you say something like that, and it gets out on the media, 70-80 percent of people believe that, ’cause this is coming from my coach! I’m 18 years old, and it was hard to really show what I was really about and what type of player I was gonna be. So I look back now and I’m kinda glad that he did say that ’cause it really motivated me. ’Cause look at me now.

    On Van Gundy, workout

    CB: How’s Jeff Van Gundy of the Houston Rockets as a coach?

    Jeff is real demanding as far as defense, and he’s real precise. When we’re doing defensive drills, if you’re not in a certain spot, we won’t start. We have to start over. Even on offense. It could be not even a yard, like a foot! But he’s also a great motivator. All the guys love him. I love him.

    CB boys: How hard was the jump from high school to the pros. Do you think that if the opportunity presents itself to any high school student, will you suggest the jump to the pros? Or should one try college first?

    You know, I’m a real gifted player. I have a very rare talent. Kobe is a rare talent. LeBron is a rare talent. There are more guys that try to make the jump, but were unsuccessful. So no, I don’t give them advice to make the jump ’cause it’s hard. It’s really hard.
    Physically, mentally, you have to be tough. ’Cause when you’re considered an NBA prospect out of high school, obviously, you’re the man in your high school team. So you never come out of the game, you’re taking all the shots, you’re probably averaging 30 points at the high-school level, and when you get to the NBA, you might not play. And mentally, you’re like, “Why did you draft me for? You’re not gonna play me!” So you’re sitting on the bench, losing confidence in yourself ’cause they feel you don’t have the ability to play yet, and mentally you could lose your confidence.

    GM: You see that in other young players?

    Of course. I see that, and that’s why they’re not in the league now. Like I said, the guys I just named are very rare talents.

    GM: Let’s talk about Adidas. Why did it take all this time for you to make another shoe?

    Why only now? Well, every time I go to Asia, I bring a gift, and it’s always limited. So we want to bring back my T-Mac Ones, which was six years ago, so we made a limited-edition 1,650 pairs and launched it over here, and that’s my gift to Asia.

    GM: You never thought about launching your own brand?

    No, whatever I do, the choices I make is gonna be a mutual decision between myself and Adidas to make sure that it’s something we both can gain from.

    GM: How much has Adidas helped you?

    Oh gosh. I have a lifetime contract, and the relationship that we’ve had is great. There’s definitely loyalty here, we care for one another, we treat one another with respect. I helped them and they helped me. Financially I’m stable, they’ve given me the right kind of deal, so this is a great marriage.

    CB boys: As a player, what kind of extra work do you do? How many shots do you take?

    I really don’t have the exact numbers, but when I’m working out on the gym, I probably spend 1 to 1.5 hours shooting and drilling. I never play pick up ball after the season. I always do individual workouts, just myself and the trainer, working on my crossover, all kinds of moves, working on the post, working on shooting off the dribble. Working on spin moves. On shooting threes. Working on curls, on fades, put myself in a situation where there would be just three seconds on the clock. I do all that stuff.
    Quick questions

    GM: Tracy, I’ll ask you a bunch of questions, and answer with the first thought that comes into your head, ok? What’s your favorite arena to play in, other than in Houston?

    TM: Madison Square Garden, in New York.

    GM: Escalade or Range Rover?

    TM: Range Rover.

    GM: Biggest trash talker?
    TM: Uhhh, player?

    GM: Yeah. You mean there are non-players who talk trash to you?
    Yeah, you got a guy like Spike Lee, he’s on the side. But no, I really can’t think of anyone that’s talking smack. I guess GHM Payton’s one of them.

    GM: He looks like he talks a lot.


    GM: Sweetest shooter?

    Ray Allen.

    GM: Jay-Z or Snoop?

    TM: Jay. All day.

    CB boys: Is it because of Beyoncé?

    GM: Best crossover?
    AI [Allen Iverson]. He doesn’t use it anymore, though.

    GM: Yeah why’d you think?

    I dunno. But back in his younger days, well he’s still young, you guys saw when he put it on Jordan, right? (Everyone nods in agreement.)

    GM: Fastest player.

    GM: Hardest to guard?

    GM: Noisiest arena?

    GM: Strongest player?
    Ron Artest.

    GM: Friendliest player? The guy that everyone gets along with?
    Shaq [O’Neal].

    GM: Most memorable dunk?
    Uhhhh... hhhmm... (TM scratches his chin.)

    CB boys: Over Shawn Bradley!
    Well, there you go. Over Shawn Bradley.

    GM: Best basketball movie. Are you a big movie guy?
    TM: Yeah. “Glory Road.”

    GM:Baseball movie?
    TM: Uhmmm. “Bad News Bears.” Hey it’s about baseball.

    GM: If you were a fan, who’d you cheer other than the Rockets?
    TM: Oh, I’m a big fan of Dwade, so Miami.
  2. lost_elephant

    lost_elephant Contributing Member

    Mar 7, 2003
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