Tracy McGrady's Rebirth as Point Guard Helping Revitalize Pistons
It's like a basketball rebirth.
Major knee surgery may have ended his days as one of the NBA's most prolific scorers, but after wrestling through various stages of rehabilitation the last two years, he is beginning to emerge as a slightly unorthodox, but valued point guard.
It was hard to argue against him Monday night.
No one will mistake him for Chris Paul or Deron Williams or Derrick Rose -- the league's best points -- but McGrady suddenly has taken charge of the Detroit Pistons.
It's a position he never played before, but a position to which he is quickly adapting.
The Pistons (17-28) are 5-3 since McGrady became their starting point guard. In Monday's victory over the Orlando Magic, McGrady had 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. His quick start -- 14 of those points in the first period -- provided the confidence that made the upset possible.
"I like the way the team runs when I have the ball,'' McGrady said. "If this can prolong my career, I'm all for it. When I was younger, that's how I envisioned my career being, just an all-around player and not a scorer.''
McGrady twice led the league in scoring when he played for the Magic (2002-03 and 2003-04), carving his niche as one of the most explosive wing players in the game. Yet microfracture surgery almost ended his career when he hobbled through the last two seasons, leaving him completely unwanted this summer and nearly serving a similar fate as Allen Iverson.
The Pistons signed him for the minimum -- and for one season -- hoping he had some game left in his legs. He doesn't have the lift or the explosiveness he once did, but his knowledge of the game and his willingness to adapt to a different role has the Pistons believing he still has a future.
"Your traditional point guards control the team," said Pistons coach John Kuester. "The luxury we have in him is that he's also 6-8, and a former superstar who plays with no ego. When he attacks the basket and is not settling for jump shots, he's awfully good. Not only does he create for himself, he creates for others.''
McGrady struggled early this season, much like he did the past two seasons, averaging just 4 points and 1.3 assists in the first 25 games. In his last 14 games, the last eight as the starting point guard, he has averaged 11 points and 4.9 assists.
The move allowed Rodney Stuckey to move from point guard to his more natural position of shooting guard. It took Rip Hamilton out of the rotation completely, giving the Pistons a more balanced, unselfish offense.
"This role is easy for me," McGrady said. "Certain guys understand the game a lot more than others, like me and Grant (Hill in Phoenix). "Not only are we skillful, but we have a high basketball IQ. You can have guys who are as athletic as hell in this league, but if they were to lose their athleticism, then they don't have the skills to be effective.''
McGrady did not play well in Saturday's win over Phoenix, but he had 10 points, six assists and six rebounds last week against New Jersey. Backup Will Bynum can provide the quickness and a good change of pace at point guard, but Kuester is convinced that the McGrady experiment is working.
"Obviously, I'm not the player I once was, but I've always been a playmaker as well as a scorer. I'm more of a facilitator now, and I like the way it feels,'' he said. "I'll never have the tools I once did, but when you modify your game, you can still make it work.''