'Jealous' Tracy McGrady Wishes Miami's Big Three Success
McGrady chuckled at the suggestion that he was once part of a very similar, grand blueprint almost a decade ago -- until it fell apart.
McGrady, now with the Detroit Pistons, was a young, just-budding star when he signed as a free agent with the Orlando Magic in 2000, expecting to team with Grant Hill and Tim Duncan in their primes that same summer.
Hill also signed with the Magic, but a career-changing ankle injury made him a shell of his former self. Duncan, also a free agent that summer, seriously considered joining the Magic and coach Doc Rivers but was persuaded to stay in San Antonio.
"I am envious (of Miami's Big Three). I'm jealous as s**t,'' McGrady chuckled Tuesday morning before a Pistons workout. "I look at all the teams I've been on, and I never had a Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team. I'm jealous, but I'm happy for them. I hope they win 10 damn championships.''
McGrady, now 31 and still trying to return successfully from serious knee surgery, won two scoring titles in Orlando, but he never had a decent supporting cast. He was traded to Houston the same summer that Dwight Howard was drafted directly from high school.
He has played in seven NBA All-Star Games, but he still hasn't been beyond the first round of the playoffs (he was injured during Houston's playoff run in 2009) and it's unlikely to happen now with the rebuilding Pistons.
"Ten years ago, we could have done it (put a Big Three together) but without all the hype,'' McGrady said. "But that's just wishful thinking now. It's what could have happened. It's only teasing me (to talk about it). So many nights I remember just wishing that Grant was healthy. I would have loved for Duncan to have been there, too, but a healthy Grant Hill would have been good enough (for me).''
McGrady said he understands the unrelenting intrigue and runaway hype with the Heat now, but he still doesn't understand why James was criticized so fiercely for leaving Cleveland and joining the Heat.
"I can't fault him. If I was in that situation, I'd go to a team with Dwyane Wade. It's about winning, isn't it?'' he said. "Everyone just has a problem with how he did it. Me, I might not have done it that way, but as far as leaving to play with Dwyane, I'm happy for him. It's about winning.''
McGrady is at a completely different stage of his career today, slowly trying to wind his way back from microfracture knee surgery almost two years ago.
He started last season in Houston, but he hardly played, then was traded to the Knicks for his expiring contract. He looked like a shell of his former self in New York, where he gamely tried to show he had something left to his career. He signed with the Pistons, taking a minimum contract, because none of the contenders offered him a job.
A summer of continued rehab and a good training camp, though, has him smiling again about his future. If he plays well, he believes the Pistons should be able to battle for one of the final Eastern Conference playoffs spots.
"I'm so far ahead of where I was with the Knicks, it's not even close. Not even close,'' he said. "My goal is play in 82 games and get to the playoffs. That's a successful season for me. Mentally, I have to learn how to play again, not having pain in my knee.''