Shootaround (Sept. 9) -- Tracy McGrady part of unique group ... in the Hall but not hanging in rafters
This morning’s headlines:
The skinny on jersey numbers — Did you know that not every member of the Basketball Hall of Fame has his jersey retired? The latest player to be inducted into the Hall, and this group, is Tracy McGrady. He starred mostly with the Rockets and Magic and yet his No. 1 doesn’t hang in the ceiling of either team’s arena. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com examined the art of the retired jersey and T-Mac’s role — or lack thereof — in the process:
When you think of Tracy McGrady playing basketball, which jersey is he wearing?
Is it the classic Orlando No. 1 in which he won two scoring titles and established the backboard self alley-oop?
Or is it the red No. 1 on white, the one he wore with the Rockets when he poured in an epic 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs back in 2004?
It’s not an easy answer. And that might be part of the reason that McGrady — for all his other-worldly talents — may find himself in a unique group of NBA legends: in the Hall, but somehow not in the rafters.
It’s looking like McGrady, despite entering the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, will not have his jersey retired by either the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic or any of the seven franchises he played for.
“Tracy has been one of my favorite Rockets during my ownership and one of the greatest players in NBA history,” said longtime Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “I’m incredibly proud of Tracy’s well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame.”
But what about retiring his number?
According to league sources, the Rockets have made no plans to retire McGrady’s jersey in Houston, and revisiting that decision has been put on hold while the new ownership comes into place. Last week, Alexander reportedly agreed to sell the franchise to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion. Currently, Trevor Ariza has been wearing No. 1 for the Rockets over the past three seasons. As of now, he won’t have to find another jersey for training camp.
In Orlando, where McGrady is the all-time leader in points per game, the situation is a little trickier.
Unlike the Rockets — who have retired the jerseys of Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Moses Malone (24), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Rudy Tomjanovich (45) and McGrady’s teammate Yao Ming (11) — the Magic have zero former players whose jerseys hang in the rafters. But if you look up at the Amway Center, you’ll find No. 6, which has been worn only on one occasion in its team history. And it was by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, of all people, in his final season.
But the No. 6 isn’t for Ewing in honor of his four starts with the organization. No. 6 is a tribute to its fans. The Sixth Man. The Orlando Magic, as of now, have no plans to retire a jersey beyond No. 6.
But that doesn’t mean the Magic won’t be honoring McGrady. He could be the seventh member of the Magic Hall of Fame, which, starting in 2014, “celebrates great players, coaches and executives who have had a major impact during the team’s history.” McGrady would join three other players — Nick Anderson, Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway — in the Magic Hall.
But again: a spot in Springfield, but no retired jersey. How rare is that? This hasn’t happened in nearly two decades.
Wizards look to take over the Nation’s Capitol — For so many years Washington belonged to the Redskins, with good reason; they won Super Bowls. And football is the unofficial national sport. But there’s an uptick with the Wizards right now, and the Redskins haven’t been on championship radar for decades now, and so maybe the time is ripe for a takeover in the pecking order? Perhaps. It’s fashionable to be a Wizards fan right now and John Wall is the coolest pro athlete in town (arguably, anyway). Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post spoke with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and sends this along:
The Wizards shouldn’t be the least relevant pro sports team in Washington.
That’s so obvious almost no one thinks to say it, but it’s still true. This is one of the most fertile basketball recruiting areas in the country. Two traditional college basketball powers play within a few miles of the White House. A 2011 Washington Post poll of area sports fans found the NBA tied with Major League Baseball for the second-strongest interest.
And yet over the past few years, the Wizards lagged behind. They were usually last among Washington’s four major teams in local television ratings, last in attendance, last in buzz, and a decided last in random sightings of people wearing their gear. The Wizards had about two-thirds the season ticket holders of the Caps last season, plus a worse renewal rate — this in a town more famous for artisanal ice cubes than actual frozen bodies of water.
Well, things might finally, finally be changing. The Wizards’ local TV ratings remained modest last season, but they had the third-biggest increase in the NBA, according to Sports Business Journal. The team’s season-ticket renewal rate is up significantly to around 95 percent; “this was the first offseason that we’ve been kind of like the Caps,” owner Ted Leonsis said in a recent conversation. The team added more than 2,000 new season-ticket holders, too, and should have around 12,000 this year. (The Caps have had around 16,000 in recent years.) The Wizards are uniformly picked as the third- or fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, which helped earn them a shocking 18 national TV dates this season — nearly double what they were given the past two seasons, combined.
Some skeptics remain, but the past few months have felt significant, from the first division title since the ’70s to the nationally interesting seven-game series with the Celtics. Wall was one of the most captivating figures in the first two rounds of the playoffs, reaching at least the outskirts of the NBA’s core of true stars. During the playoffs, he had the league’s 12th-best selling jersey. (No one on the Redskins, by way of comparison, is in the top 45 of NFL jersey sales.)
Leonsis compared Wall’s supermax to the megadeal Alex Ovechkin once signed with the Capitals: “It was, ‘Wow that’s different — great player wants to spend his career here,’ ” the owner said. And in a star-driven league, having an actual star — someone worthy of an ABC appearance on Christmas night — might finally start winnowing out some of those visiting-team jerseys on F Street.
MVP odds already? — It’s not too early to weigh the favorites for the MVP race, right? What else is there to do in early September except some forecasting, which is the favorite sport of preseason? Well, then: Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated takes a stab at it and of course it’s filled with the usual suspects, plus a few longshots:
Dirk Nowitzki: 500/1
Dwight Howard: 500/1
Imagine: Dirk enters camp with a bloodstream that’s 85% exotic growth hormone, and he has an out-ofbody experience for seven months straight. He turns the league upside down with 27 and 8, 40 minutes per game, and game-winner after game-winner. The Mavs win 58 games and take the No. 2 seed out West. Nobody’s arguing about the Warriors, there are no Anthony Davis rumors, nobody cares about this year’s Fake Cavs Challenger in the East. By March and April, The Year of Dirk is the only story that matters.
What I’m saying is, the 1-in-500 Dirk MVP season is the greatest possible timeline for the NBA in 2018. Likewise, we don’t need to get into it, but the timeline for the 1-in-500 Dwight Howard MVP season in Charlotte is darker than you can possibly imagine.
Ben Simmons: 75/1
Damian Lillard: 75/1
Damian Lillard has been consistently great for a solid three years now, and at 27 years old, he’s smack in the middle of his prime. He’s on a playoff team with only moderate expectations and real potential to surprise people in the West. He hits big shots as a rule, and he’s the sort of magnetic personality who can build a ton of momentum if things break right along the way. So how—how—does he have the same MVP odds as Ben Simmons?
Simmons hasn’t played a competitive game in more than 18 months. He maybe (probably?) shoots like Rajon Rondo. He’s fought to be announced as the point guard for some reason, even though Markelle Fultz is also on the team. As for magnetism, I’m not sure I’ve heard him speak since the draft 14 months ago.
Between this and the Sixers over/under number—opened at 42.5, bet down to do 40.5, still at least five wins too high—Vegas Sixers hype is one of the more inexplicable phenomenons of the summer. It’s one thing to like the what the Sixers are building, it’s another to expect a real, functional basketball team for the next eight months. This is out of hand. Ben Simmons should have Dwight odds, not Lillard odds.
DeMarcus Cousins: 50/1
OK. Probably a horrible bet. But hear me out: What if Anthony Davis misses a significant amount of time, only the Pels somehow stay afloat? Boogie carries them with something like 30, 12, and 5 while playing the best defense of his career, and they land somewhere in the middle of the West with 50 wins, while the Warriors and Cavs coast, OKC and Houston underwhelm. Granted, this scenario involves both a Brow injury and Boogie turning into a force of stability that he’s never, ever been before. But at least one of those things is a genuine possibility.
Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 10/1
At first, this seemed a little optimistic. Giannis was fantastic last year and I’m sure he’ll be even better this season, but the Bucks were still 42-40 in a terrible conference, and barely squeaked into the playoffs. Jabari Parker’s health this year is an unknown, Khris Middleton isn’t a a convincing enough sidekick, and … Yeah. That’s it. There’s not much else unless you’re banking on a breakout year from Malcolm Brogdon.
But then, that might be why Giannis has a chance. The Bucks have no business winning 50 games, but with Giannis there, you can’t totally count them out, right? The East is even worse than it was last year. Boston has depth issues, and the Cavs may not have a reason to care until March. If Giannis somehow carries this Bucks roster to a top-two seed in the East, he will have as good of a case as anyone. And that scenario’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.
Kyrie Irving: 25/1
The case against Kyrie: the NBA already rewarded a deeply polarizing point guard who plays no defense, and it’s unlikely that Kyrie will be as dominant individually as Westbrook was last year, nor as valuable. There’s a much better chance we spend the entire season yelling about his flaws and whether he can truly be the best player on a contender, because that’s how Kyrie’s career has always been.
The second you think he’s overrated, he’ll go off and drop an effortless 45 and look like the most unstoppable scorer on earth. Then you start talking about him like he’s better than Steph, and he’ll go 7-of-20 from the floor and dribble for 45 minutes straight in a double-digit loss. I don’t think this will change on a new team. Kyrie could average 30 points per game in Boston, be more efficient than he’s ever been, and continue to be the most inscrutable player in the NBA. That’s not an MVP.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Damian Lillard is trying to lose pounds as efficiently as he loses defenders … Looks like Cameron Payne won’t suit up before the holidays … Michael Carter-Williams could be out a while, too, with injury, although nobody quite knows for how long yet … The Pistons have some spiffy new digs at Little Caesar’s Arena; take a look … Likewise, Vivint Center is getting an upgrade in Salt Lake City, so it could be a little dusty next season … Should teams leave the nicknames behind when they switch cities? New Orleans would sound a lot better as the Jazz than the Pelicans (love the logo, though) … Michael Jordan is very rich, which isn’t exactly breaking news … Target Center could be the center of the sports universe next season in Minneapolis if projections about the Wolves hold true … Rich Guy, Part II: That would be Knicks owner James Dolan … Jimmy Butler didn’t always mesh with his former coach in Chicago, Fred Hoiberg, but you knew that already.