Financially speaking, he's the biggest name of them all. After five full seasons with the Rockets, and zero trips past the first round of the NBA playoffs, Tracy McGrady is nearing the end of his time in Houston, and he's set to make a league-high $22,483,124 during the final year of his contract.
For a cool 22 million, most people would be happy to stick it out and show up to work every day. But T-Mac isn't most people, and he's told the Rockets he wants out.
Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski had the scoop last week — McGrady and the Rockets have reached a mutual decision allowing McGrady to leave the team while Houston GM Daryl Morey works on hammering out a trade to send him elsewhere.
The Rockets have played five games since McGrady walked away, and they've won three of them, knocking off a couple of competitive Western Conference teams in the process. They're not in any hurry to trade McGrady. But eventually, a deal will be reached.
But where? Who will take McGrady — with his desperate need for lots of minutes and lots of shots, his complete lack of meaningful postseason experience and, of course, his humongous contract? It's a scary combination of red flags, and it won't be easy finding an NBA executive who's just crazy enough to take a gamble on McGrady.
A decade ago, the Chicago Bulls were all over McGrady, who was being anointed the "next Michael Jordan" by a Chicago media desperate to find a replacement for His Airness. Now? Not so much. Don't expect the Bulls to go after the $22 million man — the now-aging McGrady is barely worth a look for them now. Too much money, not enough upside for their tastes.
The Pistons are a natural candidate, as they've long been piling up contracts set to expire in 2010, and McGrady's is the biggest of them all. But you have to worry about how much talent Detroit would have to give up in exchange for a marquee name like McGrady — a package of Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton would be a bit much for Joe Dumars.
The Sixers? That case has been argued before, but it's a tough sell. They might have the trade chips to move and the money to pay T-Mac, but imagine putting him on the same floor with Allen Iverson. It's a scary thought — too much ego and not enough shots to go around. And for what? How many aging superstars does it take to put together a playoff run, even in the Eastern Conference?
Nothing seems to make sense. But McGrady's got to go somewhere — Morey's too smart to let his superstar's expiring contract slip away for nothing.
You have to wonder if Boston is a possibility.
The Celtics have had a rocky couple of weeks as injuries have taken their toll — with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo struggling to stay healthy, another star player in the mix would be a godsend. And while injuries have been a problem in the past for T-Mac, who underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2009, he's healthy now.
At an athletic 6-foot-8, McGrady can handle any role. He came into the league as a combo guard, able to handle the point or play the two. He's evolved into a stellar wing player who matches up favorably with opposing forwards. He's a jack of all trades, and he could fit in anywhere the Celtics needed him to.
The C's have plenty of expiring contracts of their own that may see the trading block this winter — the names Eddie House, Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens and Brian Scalabrine all come to mind. The trade chips are there. Or some of them, at least.
But logically, realistically, it's a pipe dream. With a $22 million contract, T-Mac will be near impossible to move. We're talking about two teams that are well over the salary cap, and the numbers just won't match up.
In order to find the contracts to make a T-Mac trade work out, the Celtics would have to give up a big star — we're talking Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce or Ray Allen big. And as much as the Celtics would love McGrady in their lineup, the price isn't going to be right.
In the coming weeks, you're going to hear rumors about McGrady going every which way, and Boston is bound to end up in the conversation. And the basketball world would love to believe it's a remote possibility. McGrady finally finding himself on a contending team would make for a great story.
But it's a story that Daryl Morey would have a hard time writing. The rumors about Tracy McGrady are inevitable, but don't expect them to come true anytime soon.