As the story going into the first Knicks-Rockets matchup following the transaction that forever altered the futures of the two aforementioned franchises was how well Tracy McGrady would do against yet another team that no longer desired his services.
The worst-case scenario for Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had to have been watching McGrady utterly and effortlessly devastate his former team at both of the ends of the court, ending with a game-winning shot by the former two-time scoring champion. And as the game began with a Knicks double-digit lead, and McGrady playing relatively well, the perceived belief that a McGrady trade would come to haunt the Rockets wasshort-lived as by the end it was Aaron Brooks’ fourth-quarter heroics, along with two castoffs by the Knicks that helped give the Rockets a 116-112 win.
For McGrady, while a stat line of 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists is nothing to scoff at; for the vast majority of the game his impact wasn’t felt. He got his numbers, but his team didn’t win (sounds a bit familiar). When the game was on the line, it was Brooks who made the big shots, and McGrady who missed them. With the clock winding to a close, Brooks was the best player on the court, and McGrady was nowhere to be seen.
When McGrady was sent away from the team prior to New Year’s Eve, and began to train in Chicago, he had to have been waiting for this day. He must have been salivating at the opportunity to show the Rockets’ front office what they would be missing as they dismiss him as nothing more than an eight-minute-a-game player at this point in his career. But by 4:00 p.m E.S.T he didn’t prove anything. He didn’t have such a performance that would lead one to be awe-inspired by his performance.
To some it may have been bittersweet to see McGrady in a Knicks uniform, but it should have been anything but. Frankly, it was a welcome sight.
He certainly didn’t embarrass himself Sunday afternoon, but he didn’t allow for the Rockets’ management nor his former team’s fans the opportunity to second guess the way they treated him, or the transaction that led to his departure. Morey was the one who had to feel a sense of satisfaction to know he made the right move.
For Morey to watch McGrady’s replacement, Kevin Martin, score 28 points in yet another efficient offensive showing, it had to have put a smile on his face. A grin that would extend from ear to ear.
All this game did was further substantiate the notion that Daryl Morey is one of the top personnel men in all of professional basketball.
Considered by some as nothing more thana six million dollar burden for the 2010-2011 season, simply an asset to make the numbers work, it was Jared Jeffries who drew four — count ‘em four — charges, including two in the final two and a half minutes. Defensive positioning sometimes goes unnoticed, yet despite having no points his impact was evident, and certainly appreciated by the Rockets’ bench and coaching staff.
But maybe what was most noticeable was the impact Jordan Hill had on the game. Before the game, New York Knicks head coach, Mike D’Antoni, lambasted the team’s first round draft pick in 2009:
“I don’t like to play bad rookies. I like to play good rookies,” D’Antoni said, explaining that Hill was not showing enough in practice to warrant playing time ahead of the Knicks’ more established frontcourt players. “I do like Jordan. I think he’ll be a nice player in the league, but that’s as far as it goes.”
Essentially calling Hill a bad player during his tenure in New York, it offered some insight into the lingering question some around Houston had towards Knicks management, and why D’Antoni was so hesitant to limit Hill’s playing time.
But while D’Antoni is certainly entitled to his own opinion, and his basketball acumen exceeds most, the fact that with increased playing time has seen Hill begin to develop into a formidable rotational player, it begs the question why D’Antoni was so hesitant to put him on the court in non-blowout scenarios. It’s not as though the Knicks have much front court depth outside of Danilo Gallinari and David Lee.
The Knicks y spent a high draft pick on him, passed on Brandon Jennings for him, and then never offered him gave him consistent minutes to prove he belonged in the rotation. Practice can only show so much.
Hill apparently has the talent and ability to compete in the league based upon the production he has given the Rockets over the last five games.
Averaging 8.6 points and six rebounds per game during that span— including the 13 points and five rebounds he had against his former team Sunday, it supports the notion that Morey is able to target apparent castoffs from other teams, and with the coaching of Adelman and his staff — turn them into formidable players.
Maybe Hill’s recent success shows that D’Antoni fit to handle young talent, or that Adelman is better equipped, who knows. Nevertheless, as Hill is playing relatively well it has to cause some discomfort within the Knicks organization.
Yet with the Rockets season inching closer to a finish as the idea of playoffs seems less likely with each passing Trail Blazers victory, looking ahead to the 2010-2011 season has to be at the minds of those who follow the Rockets.
While there is no certainty that Hill will develop a mid-range game reminiscent of Carl Landry’s, or Martin can stay healthy for a full year, or Jarred Jeffries can be as much of a pest on the defensive end as he was for those 13 minutes Sunday, at the very least what Sunday illustrated was that Morey made the correct maneuver in handling McGrady, and the Rockets are better because of it.