UPDATE 1:25 pm: McGrady is now listed as probable for tonight’s game against the Celtics.
9:38 am: For one game, we all saw the Tracy McGrady we wanted to see, wanted to believe was still in him. A guy who could drive and pass or hit the three. The guy who could just take over a game.
In his second game, we saw the Tracy McGrady we’ve seen all to much of in recent years — he was limping on the court and hit just 5 of 14 shots.
McGrady said afterward he knocked knees twice and wouldn’t guarantee he’ll be healthy enough to face the Celtics tonight in Boston.
“Hopefully it’s not sore [Tuesday],” McGrady said. “Maybe I’ll lace them up and play, but we’ll see. We’ll see how it feels before the game…”
“In the first half, I knocked knees with somebody. I didn’t really feel it until I came in here and sat 15-20 minutes and went out,” McGrady said. “Toward the end, I banged knees again. Coach saw me limping, so he pulled me out.”
This sounds like the kind of thing that is sore, but where there is no structural damage (although sore could keep him out tonight). Nothing serious would be a good thing for the McGrady comeback, and for the Knicks who clearly need his offense — New York scored a season-low 67 points with the slower McGrady running the show. Part of that slower play for McGrady was due to him getting 32 minutes of burn in the previous game while still trying to get his game stamina back.
Hopefully for the Knicks and their fans, it’s not more than that.
No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.
According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.
“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”
“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”
We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.
The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.
Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.
Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.
76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.
Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.
A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.
But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.
The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.
In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.
Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.
Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.
Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:
They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.
Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.
Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.
There were other title changes within the organization as well.
What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.
And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.