McGrady Excites Garden Crowd In Debut As Knicks Lose Again

Published on: 21st February, 2010

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Thunder Knicks Basketball
McGrady Excites Garden Crowd In Debut As Knicks Lose Again

New York Knicks' Tracy McGrady (3) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)  | read this item

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New York – There was actually a New York “happening” tonight in a basketball arena, replete with the type of cheering and tension and excitement not seen in these parts since, well, opposing players like Kobe and LeBron came to town. And, even though the Knickerbockers took it on the chin again, this time at the hands of the up- and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-118 in overtime, the sellout crowd of 19,763 walked out of the place with the most hopeful of thoughts for their favorite teams’ future.

The NBA trading season ended last Thursday afternoon but now it was time for the new pieces of the Knicks puzzle to try to fit in or, more to the point, change the losing culture that has existed at 33rd street and Seventh Avenue for almost a decade. With only one short practice under their belt yesterday, the Knicks three new players, Tracy McGrady, Eddie House and Sergio Rodriguez were being asked to go out against Kevin Durant and company and energize the building.

Guess what? That’s exactly what they did.

McGrady, the 30-year old former NBA superstar and 13-year veteran is trying to regain his past stardom since undergoing career-threatening  microfracture knee surgery. He’s been limited to just 41 games played in two years so no one, McGrady among them,  had any idea what he would be capable of producing. He shocked everyone, including himself by putting up 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting. He shot the outside jumper consistently and in rhythm and he drove the lane, having no fear of contact under the rim. He got to the foul line often enough to take seven shots, hitting five of those while dishing out five assists. It was an excellent Knicks debut for McGrady, and all of it in 32 minutes of time on the court.

“It really felt good,” said McGrady. “I think it will help my confidence moving forward, knowing I could go out there and play a significant amount of minutes. The key is, how I’m going to feel tomorrow and Monday. That will be the big test.”

Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was tremendously pleased with his new star’s performance as well as the play of his other new players.

“I thought it was really, really good,” he said. “Just their intensity, the little things, getting the ball here and there. They were talking in the timeouts, talking going on the floor. Just all the intangibles that they’re bringing.”

“I really didn’t expect to play past 30 minutes,” McGrady said. “I thought my goal was about 20 but it felt good that I was able to keep going.”

House, acquired from the Celtics in the Nate Robinson deal, came off the bench to score 24 points, providing clutch-shooting, veteran leadership and grit, something the Knicks have been lacking since, well, the Patrick Ewing-Charles Oakley teams of the previous millennium.

“It felt good to hear them cheering like that,” said House. “You feel the energy of the crowd and I will continue to play as hard as I can and feed off their energy and hope they can feed off of mine.”

Coming from a championship program in Boston, House was asked if the adjustment to being a Knickerbocker would be difficult.

“I feel like a Knick right now,” he said. “I’m playing a game and when you’re out there grinding, you become a part of this team. We’re all together so we’re going to try to put some wins together.”

It was too bad the Knicks had the misfortune of this being McGrady’s first game, before his stamina and legs are ready for full-scale minutes. He was unable to play most of the last quarter and in the overtime period, when the Knicks finally gave up their lead and eventually, the game.  

“I didn’t have any legs at all so I thought why be out there hurting my team when we’re in a position to win it,” he said. “If I feel like I can’t be effective, then there’s no need for me to be out there. It just wasn’t the right thing to do. I didn’t want to be a hero. It was my first game back in god knows how long.”

This game was one of the more exciting ones the Knicks have played here in many years. There was a playoff-type electricity in the air all game long, beginning with the ovation McGrady received when he was announced with the starting lineup. His performance only served to pump up the volume of the crowd to the point it chanted loudly and in unison, “We want T-Mac,” when D’Antoni had him resting during the fourth quarter in an ever-tightening game.

“You feed off of the crowd and that energy. I haven’t felt that good in awhile, to really be received by the crowd that way. To hear those chants, it’s really been awhile since I’ve been in an arena and heard that. It gave me a chill down my spine.”

It’s safe to say the packed crowd inside the arena still referred-to as “The Mecca” by each of these new Knicks was feeling that same chill down their collective spines.

Overlooked in all the hoopla was the brilliance of Kevin Durant, the young wonderkind of Oklahoma, who simply did what he’s been doing since he entered the NBA as a 19-year old.  He  scored 36 points, effortlessly and many of the clutch variety, in leading his very exciting, talented team to another win on the road.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of energy in the building with Tracy McGrady coming in,” Durant said. “He played phenomenal. He’s back. He played well, but I’ll take the win.”

Durant hit the tying 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in regulation of his 27th consecutive game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Allen Iverson also did it in 27 in a row from Jan. 12-March 9, 2001. The last longer streak was by Michael Jordan in 40 straight in the 1986-87 season.

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