SLAM: What do you think the Magic want to see? Now that Duncan’s not here, but you and Grant are, what do you think they are expecting from you?
T-Mac: Just to go out and play basketball. And play hard every night. Give 110 percent.
SLAM: Yeah, no disrespect, but they had a crew of CBA players here last year that gave 110 percent and damn near went to the playoffs. I mean, if they got 110 out of them and they weren’t really paying them anything, you and Grant have to come with at least 150 percent.
T-Mac: But that’s what you’re supposed to ask and receive from all of your players, right? I mean, I know Grant came here to win. And as long as we’re out there playing hard, that’s all they can ask of us as a team. I know I’m going out there and I’m going to sacrifice for the team. I’m not going to go out there and try to score 25 a night; that’s not my game. I don’t have to score, you know, I got Grant Hill, I got Darrell Armstrong, I got John Amaechi. I have some players around me. All I have to do is get those guys involved in the game. My job is to make the players I’m playing with better. That’s what I do, that’s my game. I’m going to be the cat that does a lot of the “other” things. I’m going to rebound, I’m going to block shots, I’m going to play defense. To me, that’s what I’m here for.
SLAM: Aiight, let’s break down those facets of the game. Right now, you’re a new player here. No one really knows you or what you can really do, because a lot of your signing dealt with your potential, not necessarily what you had done in the past. Now, which one of those and any other areas of the game do you have to improve on immediately?
T-Mac: I definitely want my mid-range J to be butter. If I get that down pat and get some automatic post moves, where I can either draw a foul or score on someone every time down, then I’ll be close to becoming the complete player. And improve my defense.
SLAM: Well, your defense has never been in question…
T-Mac: No, but it can get better. I think I have the confidence in myself to defend the smaller guys, but I want to be able to shut ’em down.
SLAM: Like Pippen used to?
T-Mac: Yeah. I want to be able to shut them down. I mean, I’m gonna be there to block shots. I averaged almost two a game last year [1.91 to be exact, good for 12th in the L]. I mean, I led all non-centers in the League in blocked shots, so I can play defense. I’m there. Last year, I wanted that challenge of defending the other team’s best player, this year I want to lock them down. All that, and I want to shoot like 40-45 percent from three.
SLAM: Lemme make a point. Everyone makes a big deal about KG and Kob’ as these high school phenoms that got busy in the pros. But no one ever mentions your name. Maybe it was because you didn’t play the minutes that they did, or maybe it was just you playing under Vince. But as far as what you bring to the table, you are right on par with them. There’s really no difference in the three of you. You three are blessed. But my problem is that you three are the ones that have made it bad for everyone else. You three are the ones that make everyone else think it’s easy or that the high school-to-pros thing is for them.
T-Mac: I see that, too, but we can’t tell these guys not to come out. I mean, we did it.
SLAM: True, but a lot of these cats ain’t y’all.
T-Mac: I know, but they think that they can hang with us because we did it. But, they [have to understand] that they’re not us. It’s sad, but guys want that money. And I hope that that’s not the only reason they’re jumpin’, I hope it’s the challenge. And I hope it’s because they have a deep passion for this game. Because I know for sure, between the three of us, KG, Kob’ and myself, we are blessed ball players, very gifted, but we also have a deep, deep passion for the game. And that’s what makes us special.
SLAM: Speaking on Kob, is he your best friend?
T-Mac: No one really knows that. But that’s my man. I see Kobe as one of my big brothers—that’s scary right? See, I don’t have a big brother and we were both in the same situation coming out of high school and I used to call him and ask him for advice. He used to tell me what he was going through and what I would be going through. And I just thanked him for doing that because he didn’t have to. And ever since then I’ve just called him my big brother.
SLAM: Just for fun, what would have happened if you would have gone to college?
T-Mac: You know, I sit back and I think about that sometimes. I think of all the guys that came out early—what if we had gone and stayed all four years. I mean, me, Kobe, Ray Allen, Steph, KG, Shareef, Allen, Rasheed and Stack, we all would have been in school at the same time. It’s scary. It would have been off the chain, son.
SLAM: Back to reality. Does it feel any different yet, just being here?
T-Mac: Naw. (Being here) won’t really hit me until October 31st, that very first game. That’s when all of this will sink in. That’s when I’ll know that it’s time to get down to work. That’s when I’ll know it’s time to rack this team up some W’s and take it as far as it can go.
SLAM: Are you worried about Miami, especially with Eddie Jones?
SLAM: So at this point, what will be a disappointment for this team?
McGrady: If we don’t make the playoffs. That would be a big disappointment. With the talent we have on this team, there’s no reason. Last year, this team felt like it had something to prove, and we want to keep that going. Don’t change nuthin’. Grant and I are just adding to the chemistry. We’re the new additions in town.
SLAM: The Sheriff and the Deputy.
T-Mac: Right. I just hope that nothing changes because what they already have here is special. I haven’t really, really talked to Grant, but I know that we both just want to bring our talents to the table and bring our A-games every night. If we do that, there’s no limit to how far we can take this.
SLAM: Yeah, but last year this team was expected to lose games. This year…
T-Mac: Well, we still have something to prove this year, too. This team was expected to finish last in the conference last year, and instead they went .500, one game from making the playoffs. Now you add two good players to that team? Playoffs. That’s it, we have to make it this year. Can’t accept nothing less.
The Epilogue: “I was just feelin’ that moment. Imagining that that was me out there doing that. Doin’ the same thing, in the Finals. Because my boy was just out there ballin’. And he’s only 21, man. Only 21! And capable of doing that. ‘Sooner or later,’ I said to myself, ‘That’s going to be me.’