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Scott Howard-Cooper

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When it comes to free agent offers, Tracy McGrady will likely be playing the waiting game.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

One-time star McGrady must wait to take what he can get


Posted Jun 28 2010 10:46AM

This week and this month are not going to be good for Tracy McGrady's ego. What impact these next few weeks will have on his bank account remains to be seen. But all indications are that, emotionally, he is about to take a big hit.

Teams have literally spent years stashing money away for the great free-agent hunt of 2010. And McGrady remains one of the glamour names of the game. Yet there's no reason for him to be wringing his hands waiting for a lucrative offer because he may not get any offer, period, for a while.

Executives from title contenders, the most likely suitors, will want to gauge his willingness to accept a reduced, ego-squeezing role. Front offices from every place in the standings will wonder about his durability after failing to play at least 70 games in four of the last five seasons. They will probably inquire about the bad breakup with the Rockets in February. They'll definitely run a lot of risk-reward scenarios through their minds.

Working in his favor: He's Tracy McGrady.

There's no denying the guy generates heat. He was nowhere for months in 2009-10, recovering from micro fracture knee surgery. He played six games and 45 minutes off the bench for Houston ... and nearly crashed the All-Star Game as a West starter because of his immense popularity with fans. Owners desperately needing to sell tickets will notice such things.

"He'll always get interest," one executive said. "I could see a team like the Lakers. A team like the Celtics. Not Orlando."

No, probably not Orlando ... especially after considering his bitter end with the Magic years ago.

"But some teams might make the investment. There's a couple teams that could spend an entire season just getting him ready for the playoffs, like a Robert Horry."

So McGrady has enough left to help someone?

"I think he's got enough left to keep you intrigued," the executive said.

The interest in McGrady will be, another front-office veteran predicted, "Basically about the same as Allen Iverson [last season]."

Ouch.

"It wouldn't be a whole lot higher than that," he continued. "I don't see where he's going to get that much interest. I thought New York gave him a really good shot at it. He tried. I think teams would be willing to do the veteran's minimum to take a look. I'm not sure he'd be willing to do that."

There is that scenario, that McGrady makes a stand that $1.35 million isn't enough, remains unsigned as camps open and waits for an injury that nudges an anxious team to dip into the mid-level exception. He's still barely 31. Maybe he can make a dent for somebody in the regular season and win a game or two in the playoffs.

The 24-game test drive with the Knicks last season, hoping to show he could still contribute after the major knee injury, brought mixed reviews. In 24 starts, he shot 38.9 percent from the field and averaged 9.4 points, 3.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 26.1 minutes in a big step forward from the 7.7 minutes per game as a Houston reserve. There was something to be said for T-Mac proving he could handle a real workload. Though that wasn't necessarily apparent.

"From what I saw, it didn't look like he had a lot left," an executive said. "Maybe everything's changed a lot since then."

McGrady's had a lot of time since the end of the Knicks' season to hit the gym to try to find the old T-Mac. Maybe it's done him some good. That might seem a little strange, that a player who has been apart from the game for such a long time can benefit from a little more me-time.

But there's a lot of strange going on here. The same T-Mac who lived with constant attention is hoping to finally get some attention again.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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