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Old 04-18-13, 07:48 PM
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From couch potato to insurance policy: T-Mac returns

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm by Dan McCarneY

Tracy McGrady spent the latter portion of Wednesday’s shootaround cramming with assistant coach Mike Budenholzer. Three interns shagged balls, the better to maximize McGrady’s acclimation process as he comes straight off his couch in Houston to fill a role that has yet to be determined with the Spurs.

“We don’t have any expectation,” head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He may not play at all and he may play a bunch. It just depends on situations as we move along. He’s a quality player and a good person and he’ll fit in well with everybody. We’re glad to have him.”

McGrady, likewise, said he’s thrilled to be back in the NBA after moonlighting in China for a brief season — with a potential championship team, no less. The opportunity arose last week with the unexpected release of reserve forward Stephen Jackson. Jackson reportedly was upset with his role, something McGrady vowed won’t be an issue.

“This is unbelievable,” said McGrady, who averaged 5.3 points with Atlanta last season. “It’s a championship organization, something I haven’t really been part of my entire career. I’m very excited. I’m humbled for the opportunity. I’m not sure when I’ll play or if I’ll play. That’s not the place for me (to complain). I just know when my number is called, I’ll be ready.”

McGrady, 33, said he was “shocked” when Popovich called on Sunday, as he and his family were leaving church, to offer him a job. McGrady said his agent had been in casual contact with the Spurs throughout the season, even as he lit up the Chinese Basketball Association with Qingdao DoubleStar.

McGrady had been anticipating a potential call-up to the NBA upon returning to the United States in late February. When that call never came, McGrady said he slid into “couch potato” mode.

“I tell you, I got real relaxed,” he said. “I was with my kids because the whole time I was in China, I didn’t see my kids. So I was enjoying my time off. I kind of relaxed a little bit. And out of the blue, here we go. It was a shocker.”

The Spurs are McGrady’s seventh NBA team. Despite an impressive array individual accomplishments — two scoring titles, seven All-Star teams, two top five finishes in MVP voting — he’s perhaps best known for failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs in eight tries. It’s a distinction McGrady takes issue with, and is eager to erase with a Spurs team that will be heavily favored to advance when the postseason begins this weekend.

“I’ve never got past the first round,” he said, “but it takes more than just me. If you look at what I’ve done in the regular season, and my playoff numbers, I’ve always stepped up. The teams we faced was obviously better than us. It just didn’t happen.

“A couple times with the Rockets, we played series without Yao. How difficult is that to play without your other star guy? Orlando, my whole playoff career there, I didn’t have great help. It’s good to be a part of a team with tradition of winning championships and expects greatness. And no pressure’s on me.”

(For what it’s worth, McGrady’s playoff scoring average is 25.2 points per game compared to 19.6 in the regular season.)

McGrady’s other notable feat is scoring 13 points in the final 35 seconds to stun the Spurs in a 2004 regular-season game. Not only do the Spurs still remember — “ (Pop) made a few jokes about me busting his ass over the years,” McGrady said — it might even be a national holiday in China, where McGrady became hugely popular while playing next to Yao Ming with the Rockets.....

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