December 08, 2010
You remember Tracy McGrady(notes), right? Before being exiled to irrelevance by back and knee problems, T-Mac was one of the league's brightest stars, teaming with Yao Ming(notes) to give the Rockets one of the most exciting -- albeit not very successful -- star duos around. He never won a first-round playoff series, but he still accomplished a lot.
Tuesday night, he made his return to Houston, and the reaction was mostly indifferent. From Jonathan Feigen at the Houston Chronicle:
"I want to know," McGrady said, "who they're blaming around here now that I'm gone." If McGrady was blamed, that would have been an indication of how much more was possible. [...]
By then, the boos that greeted McGrady, had faded, though they never did rise to Toronto or Orlando levels, anyway. As Kyle Lowry(notes) and Luis Scola(notes) took over, McGrady could only watch. McGrady seemed to accept that, as he said he will accept what his career will be and won't be.
When asked how he'd like Houston fans to remember his time with the Rockets, he was stumped. "Whatever comes to mind," McGrady said. "I don't know. Whatever I did for them, if they enjoyed me, whatever they feel."
There you have it: One of the best players in franchise history returned to the court in Houston, was booed even though his departure allowed the team to bring in a quality new shooting guard in Kevin Martin(notes), and generally expressed disdain for Rockets fans after the game. Of course, with that reception, who could really blame him?
McGrady has never been the most passionate player, and the fans' indifferent reaction to his return obviously reflects that. That this game resembled nothing close to an event emphasizes the fact that the Rockets just weren't that sad to see him go, nor did they especially appreciate his time with the team enough to give him a big cheer.
This is a shame, both because McGrady was once an incandescent talent and because he deserves better. He may not have taken Houston to even moderate heights as a franchise, but he still gave the team post-Olajuwon relevance and hope.
Perhaps Houston will appreciate all T-Mac did when T-Mac's career is over and his failures don't seem so fresh. For now, though, just watch the classic "13 points in 33 seconds" clip and try to remember the good times.