This will probably the last playoff series Tracy McGrady ever participates in, although there’s a good chance he won’t play a single second of basketball for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals, being one of the more recognizable faces in the finals, yet maybe the only player without a role to play in it.
Since signing with the Spurs on a postseason contract, McGrady has played in four games, never more than 7 minutes, showing up only once in the series against Memphis: The first game, which the Spurs won by 22 points. Popovich added McGrady for, well, it’s not quite clear, because it certainly wasn’t championship experience. He never won a playoff series before in his life.
But besides the jokes, McGrady simply isn’t going to play unless a game is over, for better or for worse. In short, he was brought on the winning ship to participate only in garbage time situations, while hopefully adding some sort of experience factor to the table, despite the Spurs having guys like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to draw their inspiration and NBA war stories from.
Yet unlike other fringe figures in this series, like Mike Miller and Joel Anthony on the Miami Heat, McGrady has no position or role he needs to fill. It’s almost as if Popovich and Buford decided to do him a favor, and just put him in a position to finally taste some postseason success, although it’s been done vicariously up to this point, mostly by celebrating with the guys in the dressing room or on the court.
When you reach that point, and you’re still such a familiar face among NBA fans and around the world thanks to about a decade of elite basketball, you realize your time in the NBA is through. McGrady is contemplating retirement, and for good reason. No one wants to be a 12th player, especially when its at this point of his career, 16 years after he entered the league straight out of high school.
Maybe he’s hoping that a title he had nothing to do with on his resume can help him enter the hall of fame. McGrady hasn’t done much since leaving the Rockets in the 2009-2010 season, but the decade before that usually had him involved in debates about who is the best scorer and even player in the NBA. He never knew much success with his teams once the regular season was over, but he did win the scoring title twice, and had at least 8 individual season which some would say are hall of fame worthy.
Title rings have too much weight when it comes to selections and future debates about how good a player was. In a league of 29-30 teams, with the power usually concentrated in the hands of a few, the chances to win the NBA title aren’t that great anyway. But McGrady might get his ticket into the hall by playing on a championship team, without really doing anything meaningful on it.