McGrady gave voice – and did it in pretty stark terms coming from a rival player – to the largest question critics had amid the hysteria over Miami’s signing of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go with Dwyane Wade over the summer: How would James and Wade, both accustomed to dominating the ball, adjust to spending at least half their time together without it?
Not well, so far.
“It’s what I expected,” McGrady said. “You’ve got two guys who really don’t mix. They’re the same type of player. If you look at Boston’s big three, they’re traditional guys. You’ve got a true shooting guard, you have a true small forward and you have a true power forward. You have a shooting guard (Ray Allen) that doesn’t need the ball. In their case, both of their guys need the ball. They’re not great outside shooters, so they just can’t stand out there and wait for one to pass the ball and knock down open shots.
“That’s not their game. They have to have the ball to make plays and catch a rhythm that way. I’m the same way. I’m not the type of player who can stand on the perimeter and wait for somebody to pass me the ball and knock down jumpers. That’s just how it is. They just don’t complement each other.”
It’s relevant, too, that McGrady cited himself in that example, because he’s right: He’s that type of player, too. When the Pistons visited Miami for their preseason opener, I asked McGrady after the morning shootaround if five or six years ago he could have imagined himself, as a free agent, going to join Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.
McGrady grinned widely and shook his head. Nope. That wasn’t going to happen.
“I don’t think I could have gone to a team that had Kobe at a time when I was in my prime,” he said. “No. It was me and Kobe going at it. I couldn’t see myself going over there and teaming up with Kobe.”
His career regret is that while he was in Orlando, he never got to play with a healthy Grant Hill for any length of time. Now that would have worked – Hill and McGrady. Hill came into the league, as Pistons fans of a certain age will well recall, being touted as the heir to Michael Jordan.
In reality, Hill was more of a Scottie Pippen type who would have been the perfect foil to the McGrady who averaged 32 points a game eight years ago as a 23-year-old for Orlando. When Hill and McGrady signed with Orlando in July 2000, the Magic also made a run at another pretty decent free agent: Tim Duncan. They would have been Miami before Pat Riley created the Super Team.
“We could have, without all the hype,” McGrady said. “Wishful thinking – yeah, I wish that would have happened. That’s just teasing me. I’ve had so many nights of wishing Grant Hill was healthy. Just me and Grant. We would have loved to have had Tim Duncan, but just a healthy Grant Hill at the time in the Eastern Conference?”
McGrady is a student of the game. He’ll watchNBA games in his hotel room when the Pistons are on the road. And what he sees on LeBron’s face right now speaks volumes to him.
“You can see it on his face,” McGrady said. “He’s not having fun. I’m so used to him doing all his antics on the basketball court and he’s not doing it. You can just see something is just not right.
“It’s tough to get that chemistry. You just can’t go somewhere and create that type of chemistry. He had that in Cleveland. He had everything going for him – great energy in the building. He created a great atmosphere. I enjoyed going to Cleveland. The atmosphere was unbelievable. You can’t just go somewhere and create that.”
So, yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what type of atmosphere awaits McGrady in Miami.
First up, though, is Orlando, and the back-to-back in Florida gives the Pistons a chance to come away with the signature win that so far has eluded them this season.
- It’s been a struggle for Rip Hamilton, no secret, with his shooting accuracy down at 40 percent and his scoring average dipping to 13 a game. Yet over the past week or so, the only difference I really see in Hamilton this year and the Hamilton of the past is he’s not making the 16- to 20-footers from the baseline and the elbows that he’d make at a high rate in the past. If Hamilton was open from that range before, he’d probably make 70 percent. This year, it seems like it’s about half of that. There’s no logical reason he won’t start making them again as long as he stays healthy. He just has to keep his frustrations from bubbling over and keep plugging away.
- Greg Monroe made a play that caught my eye in Sunday’s game, hustling back to block a Knicks layup attempt, then saving the ball before it went out of bounds. The most impressive thing Monroe has exhibited so far is a knack for rebounding in traffic. His shooting numbers are still subpar, but you can see him going through the process of adjusting. He’s getting his shots off quicker to avoid having them blocked, to the point of rushing his attempts, but John Kuester keeps insisting we’ll see a different player once he goes around the league a time or two. That fits what we know about Monroe – a player who needs to experience the league, process information and adjust.
- There’s nobody taken after the Pistons took Monroe at No. 7 who is giving them any reason to believe they would do anything differently today. The other big man left who generated public interest, at least, was Cole Aldrich. He’s played 48 minutes for Oklahoma City and scored five points. Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders is a player the Pistons liked and he’s flashed the potential to be a big-time defensive force, but he’s also very raw and having trouble cracking Milwaukee’s rotation. Al-Farouq Aminu went No. 8 to the Clippers and has shown a surprising perimeter shooting stroke, making 20 triples so far and hitting them at a 54 percent clip. But he’s a combo forward who’d be behind Austin Daye and battling DaJuan Summers for his place in the pecking order.