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Yes, Tracy McGrady should be a Hall of Famer

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There have been 15 NBA players who retired having scored more than 18,000 points, grabbed more than 5,000 rebounds and made more than 4,000 assists. Each and every one of them is in the Hall of Fame. (Via ESPN Stats and Info.)

Now Tracy McGrady makes it 16 players as he is going to retire from the NBA. But his Hall of Fame credentials are on shakier ground. It’s because the peak of his career wasn’t that long and was cut short by injuries, and it’s because in an era obsessed with titles McGrady did not define himself in the playoffs.

Still McGrady belongs in the Hall. Whether he gets in or not, who knows — the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame selection process seems to be a roulette wheel of chance with the well connected getting in along with the best players.

To me, the Hall should be for the top players of a generation, and McGrady is that. When we talk about the NBA of the early 2000s we often focus on the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, but McGrady was right there as the best player in the league for five years.

This isn’t one of those “there is no doubt” first ballot picks, I’d personally even put Allen Iverson in ahead of him (because Iverson had a bigger impact on the culture of and around the game), but McGrady has the credentials. He deserves to be inducted.

First, he is a two-time NBA scoring champion — every scoring champion except Max Zaslofsky is in. For eight consecutive seasons McGrady scored 20 points a game (and averaged better than 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game all those years, too). People sometimes remember the end of a career, and in McGrady’s case that wasn’t pretty as he battled through knee and back injuries to try and stay on the court, but if you look back at his peak (when people wondered if he or Kobe Bryant was better) then he is one of his generations best.

McGrady was a two-time All-NBA First Team selection (he made the second team five times) and was a seven-time All-Star.

Did his teams struggle in the playoffs? Yes, save for last year’s Spurs (where he rode the bench). But that was not really about McGrady as it was he was largely on teams that were not that good. It’s not like he was on great teams getting upset, he was on the underdog but he played well — he averaged 19.6 points a game for his regular season career, but 22.2 in the playoffs. He had a career regular season PER of 22.1, he had a playoff career PER of 23.4. He didn’t falter in the postseason, his teams did. This is the problem with the “count the rings” argument — basketball is still a team game. Nobody — not Bill Russell, not Michael Jordan, not Magic Johnson — won a ring by themselves, they had good talent around them. McGrady never had that. Should we really hold that against him?

McGrady is going to take a few rounds to get into the Hall of Fame.

But he should eventually get in. His peak may have been short, but he was one of the best of his generation.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.