According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein: “Despite an on-court audition for team officials Monday that one source said raised no significant concerns about his physical condition, McGrady apparently has not convinced the Bulls that he is willing to embrace a secondary role, which is one of two key prerequisites the two-time scoring champ must satisfy to secure a deal from Chicago.
“One source close to the process told ESPN.com that the prospect of Chicago signing McGrady was downgraded to ‘unlikely’ after the workout and interview, with the Bulls saying they wanted more time to consider other options. Another source confirmed that the post-workout meeting between McGrady and Bulls’ decision-makers did not clinch a deal, as McGrady had hoped.”
Didn’t we all kind of see that coming? Especially after what T-Mac said to the press yesterday. Forget the fact that he referred to the Bulls as “we” well before anybody put a contract anywhere in his general vicinity. It was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to be satisfied with a bench role:
“I won’t have a problem, but that’s not what I’m really shooting for. I think, yeah, if I was the player that I was in a Knicks uniform [at the end of last season], I would have no problem coming off the bench. But I’ve worked extremely hard and I’m far from being that player. Trust me. It’s up to me in training camp to prove I’m a starter.”
I know there’s strong pro-McGrady sentiment among some Bulls fans, but as bland as those comments may seem right now, they could easily (and quickly) become toxic. Remember: T-Mac has appeared in only 249 out of a possible 410 games over the past five seasons. He’s a volume shooter who connects on a disturbingly low percentage of his shots. Furthermore, there is strong reason — make that strong reasons — to suspect his skills are in decline.
That’s why NBA teams aren’t exactly beating down his door.
He wants to play for the Bulls? Fine. He wants to be a starter? Of course he does. Who wouldn’t? But the right answer — and the correct mindset — in this situation would be: “I will happily and without complaint do whatever I can to contribute to a winning situation.”
The reality is that if T-Mac came out and played great, he would probably start, or at the very least get starter’s minutes. But he couldn’t just let things play out. The Bulls weren’t keeping their prerequisites a secret. McGrady knew they expected him to be willing to a man instead of The Man. But even knowing that he couldn’t not tell people he wanted to start.
Don’t forget what happened when Allen Iverson — who, like McGrady, spent most of his career being The Man for bad to slightly above average teams — was asked to accept a secondary role, first by the Pistons and then by the Grizzlies. Both experiments failed rather miserably and probably hastened the end of Iverson’s career.
Although McGrady may not be the locker room cancer Iverson was, this situation could end badly. Why risk that? Management has carefully constructed a team of talented young players who have (for the most part) proven they are willing to play hard and accept their role on whatever team they’re playing for.
If T-Mac can’t do that without saying “But, if…” then he’s probably not a good fit for the Bulls.