McGrady Still Confident in Comeback
McGrady, who had microfracture surgery to his left knee 14 months ago, has played 22 games with the New York Knicks since coming from the Houston Rockets in February, showing a few flashes of his former self, but more often the after-effects of serious injuries that have dampened his skills considerably.
"I haven't fallen off that f*****g much,'' McGrady said before a morning workout. "I don't see myself in a sixth-man role, either. I've been hurt, but I'll be fine by next season. This just takes time.''
McGrady, 30, was back Friday in Orlando, where he twice led the league in scoring (2003 and '04) with the Magic, laboring now through an agonizing comeback that has made him the object of ridicule in the final year of his contract (paying him $23 million).
"This last month or so, I've had some ups and down -- a lot of downs -- but I'm progressing faster than expected,'' he said. "The hardest part (of rehab) is over. It's just now getting stronger, getting used to being on the court again.''
McGrady, who has started all 22 games for the Knicks, is averaging just 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 26.5 minutes, looking mostly like a shell of his former self. Yet he has had his moments, getting three 20-point-plus games. In his Knicks debut, he had 26 points -- 19 in the first half -- back in February. In a victory over Detroit last month, he had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes.
Yet earlier this week, he sat out games against the Clippers and Celtics because of knee soreness. He returned Wednesday against Indiana and struggled.
His up-and-down performances have fueled the doubters, leaving his future in jeopardy. He is a free agent this summer and unlikely to return to New York as they chase high profile stars in their primes, which he is past.
He has talked about welcoming a return to Orlando, but the Magic have shown no interest. He was originally dealt to Houston in the prime of his career after he clashed openly with previous management, which had given him no supporting cast. He originally was thrilled to be traded to Houston, where Yao Ming was emerging. They traded him just before they drafted Dwight Howard with the No. 1 pick.
McGrady, in his 13th NBA season, still hasn't played past the first round of the playoffs.
"I just want to be now where I can win,'' he said. "Honestly, I wish I had never left here. I really miss it. It was unfortunate that we couldn't put together the pieces that make it how it is today. I guess I was just here at the wrong time. It's not like I wasn't producing. I just got tired after four years of grinding it out every night, having to do everything. It was wearing out my body.''
McGrady, who grew up in Central Florida, still holds many of the Magic and Amway Arena scoring records. He scored 62 points at Amway Arena against the Wizards in 2004. He scored 40 points or more 25 times for the Magic.
Unfortunately, he often was a one-man show on a bad team. His 32.1 point average during the 2002-03 season is the second-highest NBA scoring average in the last 17 years.
"I think about it (his days in Orlando) all the time. How can I not? It was a fun place to play. I always had so much family here. It was great to look into the stands and see all my people sitting there,'' he said. "But you move on.''
McGrady wants to spend the summer continuing to get stronger, expecting to play another four years but understands he will have to prove his worth all over again. He points to people like Amar'e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd, who have returned from microfracture surgery to be great players again. He doesn't mention Penny Hardaway, who never made it back after the same knee surgery.
"This season has been a struggle, which I expected after surgery like this,'' he said. "I'll have myself in great shape this summer, work out for a few teams in the offseason, and see where it goes. I still have some game.''