Knicks Struck by Thunder, 121-118, In T-Mac’s Debut

NEW YORK –By the close of business on Thursday, February 18, the New York Knicks had acquired a seven-time All-Star and two quality guards.  In the process, they had also saved enough money to add two premier free agents either this summer or next.

For now, however, it’s all about Tracy McGrady –or, more specifically, his surgically-repaired left knee- and how much he can actually contribute over the Knicks final 29 games of the season.

Whatever the 6’8” swingman can give the New York for the duration will certainly be much more than he added to the Houston Rockets.  In a grand total of six games, none of which McGrady started, he averaged 3.2 points and 1 assist in less than eight minutes.  Clearly, the Rockets’ loss instantly turned into the Knicks’ gain.  Nineteen first-half points [and 26 overall] against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Saturday night’s 121-118 overtime loss, were enough to convince observers that, while not quite 100%, T-Mac still has considerable game left.

“With Tracy coming in, we knew there was going to be a lot of energy in the building,” Kevin Durant said after scoring 36 points to extend his consecutive game streak of 25-plus points to 27.  “He was phenomenal.  He’s back.  But, I’ll take the win.”

So, while Sergio Rodriguez, formerly of Sacramento, and Eddie House, who arrived from Boston in the Nate Robinson deal, could be nice fits to the puzzle, the trade for McGrady is looked upon as New York’s most significant in quite some time.

“Tracy has been one of the premier players in our league over the past decade,” Donnie Walsh, the Knicks president, said.  “We have every indication that he is healthy and committed to re-establishing himself as one of the best in our game.”

Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni haven’t been here that much longer.  As Walsh continues to rebuild, D’Antoni attempts to mix and match whatever assorted pieces are given to him.  By virtue of Walsh’s success to move the bloated contracts of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph last year, and Jerome James and Jared Jefferies this season, New York is very much in play for a lively off-season.

“Mike’s losses [which now number 84 in 135 games] don’t just count against him,” Walsh clarified.  “They count against my record, too.”

McGrady, 30, who has career averages of 21.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists with three teams, is on the books for $23 million.  There’s also the question of his expiring contract, which he wouldn’t mind converting into one that is more team-friendly.

“I’ve made a lot of money in my career,” he confirmed.  “I could retire right now, and be fine financially. So, money is not an issue. [If] they want to bring in LeBron and D-Wade, along with Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire, I’d be a damn fool not to want to stay here.

“I would definitely embrace the opportunity where money is not an issue.”

Thus, it would not be a stretch for him to accept a midlevel [$5.9 million] or, perhaps, a biannual [$1.9 million] exception for the privilege to play alongside any combination of the two.

After the 29 games are over and, assuming the Knicks’ season ends at that point, July 1 will represent the next important date on the team calendar.  But, that is then; this is now.

In other words, any thoughts of James or Wade and, to a lesser extent, Bosh will have to wait.  The present team, which also comprises All-Star David Lee, among others, may need some time to become acquainted.  In fact, because of trade deadline activity, there were just eight of 15 player photos on the wall outside the New York lockerroom.

But, while the wall suggested an empty feeling, the Knicks’ cup, at the moment, is very, very fill.

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