The propaganda machine is in full force. Yes, the story about why McGrady can’t play is actually called “T-Mac: ‘It Feels Good’.” I understand the Pistons want to spin news to be as positive as possible, but can’t they use even a little subtlety?
McGrady spent a lot of time at media day talking about how good he felt. He said he was back in shape. He said, without question, he was the healthiest he’s been in the last three years. He even joked that it’s like he’s 29, not his real age of 31, because he hadn’t played the last two seasons.
A couple weeks later, the tune out of Auburn Hills has changed. And it’s not just pistons.com. The rest of the media has eagerly picked up the company line.
"T-Mac has hardly played in two seasons. Would be unrealistic to think he would be completely ready to go. #Pistons"
Now that McGrady playing hasn’t worked, it was the plan all along? Really?
"The bigger picture, he believes, is not proving he can play in exhibitions. Which is why Pistons strength-and-conditioning coach Arnie Kander didn’t take him through the gamut over the summer.It seems the two are taking a more gradual approach."
McGrady didn’t agree to terms with the with the Pistons until Aug. 10. Even if he began working with Kander immediately, it’s disingenuous to say Kander had a significant impact on McGrady’s summer workout regimen.
But it obviously benefits the Pistons to plant that seed. Fans trust Kander. If he said McGrady needed to take it easy this summer, well, McGrady needed to take it easy this summer.
Is it the knee?
Maybe there’s more than meets the eye here. Maybe McGrady’s knee is actually the problem. If you want to make that case, this McGrady quote, via Goodwill, at the beginning of training camp would be Exhibit A:
""Can’t put the knee aside, that’s the major issue," he said. "If I didn’t have any problems with my knee, I would be myself.""
I don’t think the Pistons would rush to admit McGrady’s knee still bothers him. I think that would embarrass them, especially given how the Bulls very publicly passed on McGrady after a workout:
"According to two people who witnessed the workout, McGrady shot the ball well but didn’t move with much fluidity or exhibit superior conditioning."
Rare time this matters
Most of the time, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s no secret: the NBA regular season is pretty meaningless relative to other sports. The preseason is even more meaningless. Players use training camp, the preseason and even the regular season to get into shape all the time.
But McGrady is a fringe rotation player on this team. Coming to camp out of shape is a big deal, especially in a preseason where the team is preaching competition and accountability.
In theory, the Pistons shouldn’t give McGrady special treatment. In practicality, with Austin Daye playing so well, they don’t need to. They owe us a better explanation than they’ve given.
Maybe McGrady couldn’t get into proper shape because his knee was bothering him prior to camp. I think that would be a reasonable excuse for him sitting out. But that probably opens another can of worms about why they signed him.
Maybe, after so much time away from the game, McGrady underestimated the conditioning necessary to be ready for the season. I don’t think that would be a reasonable excuse for McGrady sitting out.
Either way, the Pistons’ message can’t be: McGrady is fine, he just can’t play basketball. That’s not reasonable.
Someone has some explaining to do.