The half-empty career of Tracy McGrady is teetering to an unsatisfying end.
A seven-time All-Star who led the NBA in scoring in 2003 and 2004, McGrady is lugging around a $20.3 million contract, a surgically repaired left knee and a surly attitude after butting heads with coach Rick Adelman.
McGrady wanted more playing time, undeservedly so, while Adelman was reluctant to tinker with the chemistry that has allowed the Rockets to emerge as one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season.
The 30-year-old McGrady could not accept this reality and was granted an indefinite leave of absence this week, with the assurance the Rockets would do what they could to trade him.
That won’t be easy, given his fat contract and insistence to use the regular season as part of his rehabilitation process after undergoing microfracture surgery in February.
It is a procedure that often requires up to a year’s worth of rehabilitation before a player is able to play at the demanding level of the NBA. Even then, as we have seen with Gilbert Arenas, it is a fitful process.
Amare Stoudemire needed a season’s worth of games to reprise his explosive self after undergoing the procedure. That, it seems, is the fate before Arenas.
McGrady’s rush to return is both foolhardy and in line with the me-first mentality of the NBA. Every player’s obsession is minutes played. A player cannot upgrade his quality of life without a sufficient number of minutes.
Not that McGrady has a financial incentive to be on the floor. He already has earned more than $137 million in his 13 seasons in the NBA. It is strictly ego with him, a sense of entitlement stemming from his days as one of the NBA’s leading figures.
But those days are gone, just as they are for Allen Iverson, to note another player with a distorted view of his value.
Yet unlike Iverson, who led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001, McGrady has a zero attached to his postseason ledger. He never has advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs in seven appearances. That includes three Game 7 losses, an incriminating circumstance for one once regarded as one of the top five players in the game.
And it is not as if McGrady is a dependent player in the manner of a center or power forward. As a point forward, McGrady never has needed someone to pass him the ball. When he was at the peak of his powers, the ball inevitably was in his hands, the decision to pass, drive to the basket or pull up and shoot all his.
Interest in McGrady is certain to be tepid. One-legged players with lots of zeros in their contracts rarely warm the hearts of general managers.
That is not to say the Rockets won’t find someone desperate enough to take a chance on McGrady. It is just that moving him is a loaded proposition.
At least in the case of Iverson, who sulked his way out of Memphis, his $3.5 million contract is hardly daunting. And he is a fan favorite in Philadelphia, where he had his best seasons.
Beyond the contract, left knee and petulance, McGrady has a lot of wear on his lower limbs. He cannot be who he once was. But will he come to accept the scaled-down version of himself?
If his actions in Houston are any indication, that mental adjustment won’t come anytime soon, if it ever comes.
That adjustment becomes even more difficult for those players accustomed to being high-volume shot-takers, as McGrady is.
Even the ever-cunning Michael Jordan could not reinvent himself during his two-season stint with the Wizards. He still was attempting to dominate games when he no longer could do it on a consistent basis.
These are the dissuasive considerations to any potential trade involving McGrady, a bad bet.