Just before Christmas, one front office executive told his video coordinator to cobble together the footage of Tracy McGrady's(notes) comeback. The executive had watched most of those unmemorable 47 minutes, but wanted to make sure that he hadn't missed something. The evidence was incomplete, but the conclusion unmistakable: T-Mac is no longer an impact player, just an expiring contract.
"That said, how am I supposed to tell anything off the minutes they were giving him?" the executive said.
So Rockets coach Rick Adelman told basketball's highest-paid player this season – $23 million – there were no plans to increase his role beyond the eight minutes per night, that they had witnessed nothing that warranted his insertion into the regular rotation. Once T-Mac opened his mouth and wanted his minutes elevated, he did his general manager and coach a favor: They had an excuse to tell him he was deactivated for the weekend games with New Jersey and Cleveland, that this awkward arrangement was unworkable.
This farce needs to end.
When McGrady, his agent Bob Myers and the Rockets management are done talking over the next 48 hours, two sources told Yahoo! Sports they believe the likely resolution will be McGrady leaving the Rockets and returning to Chicago to work with renowned trainer Tim Grover at Attack Athletics gymnasium.
For T-Mac and the Rockets, this is a deteriorating partnership that's becoming increasingly combustible. His comeback has been a futile, pointless exercise this season. "I don't understand their plan," one NBA coach said Sunday. "Why bring him back at all to play eight minutes? They should send him away because it's obvious Rick doesn't want him around."
There are no imminent trades, but rival teams say the Rockets are willing to take back long-term money for the right trade with McGrady. Sources say they've shown an interest in Sacramento Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin(notes), but the Kings want to see him play with rookie Tyreke Evans(notes) once Martin returns from a broken wrist in January. The Kings would likely want the Rockets to take Beno Udrith and Andres Nocioni(notes) with Kenny Thomas'(notes) expiring deal, but none of that is happening.
There are no legitimate discussions, just the dead-ends the Rockets are finding for McGrady. In the near future, there just isn't a trade for McGrady. It won't be closer to the trade deadline in mid-February, when teams start to give up on the playoffs and are more apt to give up a good player in a cost-cutting move for T-Mac's expiring deal.
Without McGrady and Yao Ming(notes), the Rockets have been celebrated for staying in the Western Conference playoff chase. General manager Daryl Morey and Adelman are chasing executive and coach of the year awards, improbably winning 18 of 31 games to start the season. They're winning with defense and rebounding, with balanced ball movement on offense. Yes, it's delicate, and Adelman sees T-Mac as the bull in his china shop.
"I've got to be careful because our team is on kind of a bubble," Adelman said. "If we start changing the rotation, we start changing the way we play, it changes the whole chemistry of the team."
McGrady, 30, is a two-time scoring champ, a seven–time All-Star, and he's assuredly on a dramatic decline. Like most great players, he's the last to see it. He still believes he can work his way back into a good, useful player for the Rockets this season. It won't happen. To think that they'll come out of this meeting with Adelman agreeing to give McGrady minutes is pure foolery.
The possibility of a contract buyout isn't expected to be addressed now with McGrady's agent, because there's just no motivation for Houston to give him one until the trade deadline passes in February. Unless, of course, T-Mac is willing to give back several million dollars to become a free agent now. Here's the one issue with him working with Grover in Chicago until a trade happens: This is a difficult time of the year for the trainer to simulate true NBA competition. Over the summer, T-Mac could run with Dwyane Wade(notes), Jermaine O'Neal(notes), Gilbert Arenas(notes) – lots of top pros – but that isn't the case in the dead of winter.
Nevertheless, there are no ideal circumstances in this saga, just everyone trying to make the best of a mess. Everyone just needs to stop fooling themselves, and split once and for all. All along, this was a farce. T-Mac couldn't prove his worth with eight minutes a game and Adelman knew that. Spare everyone the make-believe, let T-Mac leave and check when a trade, or a buyout, frees him once and for all. Yes, this farce needs to end.