Published September 27, 2010
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Even at age 31, time was beginning to run out for Tracy McGrady.
After two seasons ruined by knee problems, McGrady approached this offseason with determination and urgency.
"I was going to work hard. I was going to give it a shot," McGrady said. "If it didn't work out this offseason to where I didn't feel well, that was going to be it for me, because it was just too much to really come back from."
Now, McGrady says he's healthy and at ease, and he's awaiting another chance to revive a career that once looked so promising. The two-time NBA scoring champion signed with the Detroit Pistons last month, and he'll have a couple of new teammates who can relate to his struggles.
Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are also trying to bounce back from injury-plagued seasons, forming a potential logjam for the Pistons on the perimeter for coach John Kuester to resolve.
"Coach, he's going to have a good time," Hamilton said. "When you've got a lot of special guys that can put the ball in the basket and play ... it's a good thing for a coach. You're never really worrying a lot."
McGrady had major surgery on his left knee in February 2009, and a year later he was traded from Houston to the Knicks. He started all 24 games he played with New York but averaged only 9.4 points.
At Detroit's media day Monday, McGrady described some difficult nights watching basketball and wondering what had become of his career.
"It was frustrating. There were times when I actually teared up when I was by myself. ... When you go from being one of the elite players in this league and you have this injury, it's tough," McGrady said.
"I've been fighting my whole career to try to advance in the playoffs, and then an injury comes about, and I sit in Chicago and watch my team (the Rockets) advance to the second round and fight the Lakers hard in a Game 7, and I'm not able to help those guys out."
Prince understands the frustration. He missed over 30 games in the 2009-10 season because of back and knee problems. Hamilton played in only 46 games, with a sprained ankle the primary culprit.
Prince had a consecutive games streak snapped at 497.
"Just a wake-up call and a culture shock to me at the same time," Prince said. "I'm just excited to get back and help these young guys, because they were kind of out on an island last year with me and Rip being hurt so much."
If everyone stays healthy, McGrady's addition could give the Pistons a glut of players with similar abilities on the perimeter. Hamilton has been the subject of trade speculation.
"I wouldn't put this jersey on if I didn't want to be here," Hamilton said. "I think since I've been here, the fans and organization have been so great to me."
Eleven players started at least 10 games for Detroit last season, and all but one are back. Add McGrady and lottery pick Greg Monroe, and Kuester will have plenty of decisions to make before the season opener.
"We're going to have a number of guys that are going to be competing for playing time, and that's what you want in a basketball camp," Kuester said. "You can't please everybody. You wish you could give everybody 34 minutes. We're going to put out the guys that have committed themselves in our practice sessions. Also, we're going to be committed to what we're trying to get accomplished defensively."
Pistons president Joe Dumars echoed Kuester's sentiments.
"The players will determine who plays," Dumars said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We're deep and that has always been a staple of our teams."
For McGrady, playing time is a secondary concern. After months of trying to recover from a major injury, he's happy for the chance to be back on the court again and hopes to regain the form that made him a seven-time All-Star.
"I can honestly say I've never worked as hard as I did the last couple seasons and this offseason," McGrady said. "I'm only 31. Really, I'm only 29 because I haven't played in two seasons."