McGrady ain't what he used to be

Published February 24, 2010

| FoxSports

STRAIGHT SHOOTING

After three games with the Knicks, here's what Tracy McGrady has produced:

• Boosted by an understandable adrenalin rush on the part of the hopeful Madison Square Garden fans and his own personal resurrection, a dynamic first half in his initial game.

• Unfortunately, this was succeeded by five halves of mediocre-to-OK performances.

• Through it all, he's demonstrated no quickness and no lift.

• His shot has mostly been flat.

• His defense has been timid and increasingly ineffective.

• When he was at the top of his game, his startling quickness more than compensated for his being a softee. At first glance, he's at least two steps slower than he used to be and much softer than ever before.

• But he still understands how to play, so his passwork has been marked by unselfishness and generally acceptable decisions. And he knows how to take full advantage of the angles and pressure points that can lead to his generating makeable shots in certain situations.

After suffering a couple of bumps to his surgical knee, and after being a civilian for so long, it's understandable that McGrady is still wobbly. However, it's clear that he is just a shadow of his former self.

No longer a reliable go-to guy, in the foreseeable future T-Mac can be a better-than-average facilitator and a tertiary scoring option. As a free agent the best he can expect will probably be a one-year $3.5M offer from an elite team that already has a pair of dynamic point-makers as well as a shot-blocking back-line that can erase McGrady's defensive mistakes.

Unfortunately, T-Mac isn't the first, and won't be the last, outstanding player whose effectiveness has been radically diminished by injuries. That's because in the NBA game-time can be a dangerous time.

VOX POPULI

My friends and I have this debate all the time: In a game of one-on-one, who would win, Larry Bird or LeBron James? (I always take Larry.) - Shrey Sharma, Rochester, NY

My pick would be LeBron, and here's why:

While Bird was a notorious streak shooter, he was still far superior to LBJ in this category. However, it's hard to imagine Bird's beating James strictly on long-distance jumpers.  Bird was also better at executing team defense and in moving without the ball -- two skills that would be meaningless in this proposed contest. Neither is a particularly good man-to-man defender, but LeBron's strength would give him a considerable edge and force Bird into mostly relying on his outside shots.   When LBJ has the ball, his mass, power and handle would enable him to simply back Bird into the paint. As a result of all of the above, James would get many easier close-to-the-rim shot attempts than would Bird. And that would be the difference. In a 15-point game in which the winner must win by 2 points, and where whomever is scored upon gets the next possession, James wins 15-12.   In a best-of-three series, Bird wins one game by 21-19 before James takes the prize by 15-13. However, I must also issue a disclaimer: Bird's unparalleled resourcefulness and will to win should never be underestimated.

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY

While basketball players at the service academies might generally lack the size to compete on equal terms against today's powerhouse college teams, the hoopers at West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs are certainly a unique breed.

That's because, given their own specific off-court methodologies, they are all trained to kill. Which is precisely why West Point was the perfect place for Bobby Knight to begin his coaching career.

In fact, one of his favorite drills when he was in residence there serves to illustrate the common mentality of both Knight and his players.

The boundaries were a baseline, the mid-court line, and opposite sidelines, and the entire squad would be divided up into two equal teams. Knight would then place the ball on the floor in the precise midpoint of the available playing surface. At his whistle, each team would seek to gain possession of the ball and carry it across the opponent's sideline.

No passing, punching or kicking to advance the ball were permitted. In man-to-man confrontations, punches, holding, head-butts, tripping, or tackling were likewise forbidden. Everything else was permissible, including flying body-blocks, forearm hacks and elbow smashes.

The losers would run dozens of suicides, and the iodine flowed freely.

When Knight sought to institute the same drill at Indiana, the administration rebuffed him. Who knows how many more NCAA championships The General might have won had he been able to deploy his forces as he so desired.

If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email charleyrosen@gmail.com and he may respond in a future column.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/02/24/mcgrady-aint-used