Tracy McGrady lost the explosiveness that could’ve made him an all-time great, but a re-dedication has helped him maintain relevancy.
SLAM: Do you and Vince Carter chuckle at being cousins who were once two of the NBA’s most athletic players and today are on the opposite end of that status?
TM: [Laughs] I called him the other day and asked him how he felt. He said he felt good but I said, I’m watching you, and you don’t look like you feel good.
SLAM: What do you like most about playing for the Hawks?
TM: Watching them over the years and seeing that they’re a step closer to getting deep in the Playoffs, I felt like I was a piece of the puzzle to get them over that hump. For so many years they were struggling to beat Orlando in the Playoffs, and they accomplished that last year. So when Jamal Crawford didn’t re-sign, I felt like this was a perfect fit.
SLAM: At one point it looked like you were going to the Chicago Bulls. You’re more of a facilitator than Rip Hamilton, so I can only imagine how much scarier the Bulls would be today if you wound up signing with them.
TM: I felt Chicago was definitely a perfect spot because they only have one creator with DRose. He’s beating his body up every night having to create and score, doing too much. I’ve been through that so I know what it does to your body over time. I felt like I could go there and relieve some pressure off of him and become a facilitator, but it just didn’t work out. Atlanta really wanted me so I went there.
SLAM: You began the season shooting 50 percent from the floor and over 60 percent from three, yet there are numerous plays during the end of Hawks games where you don’t touch the ball at all. Are you shooting enough?
TM: You know what it is? I’m not trying to carry a team. I’m comfortable with my role. Now if they want [me to shoot more], I’m capable, but I’m comfortable not going out there night in and night out beating up my body.
SLAM: In Detroit you played a lot of point and even said that being a playmaker would prolong your career, but now you’re back to an off-guard role. Would you want more PG duties?
TM: I would because I feel that I’m at my best when I have the ball in my hands–I see the game better than most guys. But I’m comfortable playing off the ball because that’s where I’ve been playing almost my whole career.
SLAM: Besides yourself, what’s it gonna take for the Hawks to run deep into the Playoffs?
TM: We have to look at ourselves and see what kind of team we wanna be. Do we wanna be a finesse team or a physical team? We have no identity. I feel like we need to just check our egos and achieve that goal…because we have the talent.
SLAM: Joe Johnson is the Hawk who receives the most criticism. He’s tagged as immensely talented but lacking killer instinct. You made a career off of that instinct. Can you help him become a killer or does he have to be born one?
TM: If I’m in a game and I have 20, I’m trying to get 30. If I have 30, I’m trying to get 40. I’m trying to bury your ass. I don’t care who I’m playing against. Some guys just don’t have that mentality, but you can’t knock ’em, that’s who they are. But I think Joe has it. He’s just so quiet, and I think he gets criticized for being laid back, but the kid can play.
SLAM: How does a guy who was a centerpiece of adidas’ basketball campaigns for several years keep sane while his athleticism declines? Lesser men would have been eaten alive by their ego.
TM: I accept what happened to me. I had a great run for a lot of years, which people didn’t expect me to do. I proved a lot of people wrong. So when there was a dark cloud, I really had to check myself and test who I really am. I overcame that and now I’m mentally and physically happy. Although I wish I was still that dude, I accept it.
SLAM: Penny says he sees himself in your game. Do you see yourself in Kevin Durant’s?
TM: I love that kid’s game. I love him because he reminds me of myself. We have a mutual friend and he tells me how much respect KD has for me and that I was his dude coming up, so it feels good that a dude on his level looked up to me. It’s crazy to think that I’m not much older than these dudes, but I feel like an old head in this game [laughs].