Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Vince Carter & Tracy McGrady have more in common than kin.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Explosive, electrifying, appreciated> implosive, fan-defying, hated.
It was all good just a few years ago. Cousins and former Toronto teammates Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter were ‘it’. All-Star’s, magazine cover subjects, faces of commercials, apprentices to air and all-round players amongst the best ballers. So what happened? Did Carter and McGrady basically fail to meet everyone’s expectations? Or simply were the expectations always too much? The bar the fans raised being too high? Are these former Raptor legends in the making now extinct dinosaurs?
Maybe it is the expectations that are being placed too high because V.C. and Mac’s careers have still been great. This is despite what most think and despite some growing pains. The bar will always be set high and the pair of athletes may not always clear it but their personal bests speak for themselves. Today fans are tuned into the Kobe and LeBron show and other players are finding it hard to get airtime. That being said it appears that Carter and McGrady’s stock has been diminished for a long time now, but why?
If your in this game to hate its easier to see why. Vince may have been the man in Toronto with his out of this universe, aerial displays wowing everyone and bringing everybody’s attention to basketball in Canada but things would change. Air Canada’s moves and finishes were the most electrifying and explosive the league had seen since Air Jordan but one move was all it took for the fans to really be shook. When Vince played out his final season in Toronto and left, the hate boiled over. It was a cold summer in the T-Dot. Vince may have taken the Raptors places but now he would never feel at home there again. If this was the rap game Vince would be Ja Rule, disregarded and forgotten (but why?). Vince may have pole-vaulted opponents in the Olympic games but now the rest of his career seems to be going over everybody’s head.
Tracy’s career from the hate perspective looks like a load of expectations followed by disappointments. From Vince in Toronto, to Grant Hill in Orlando and then Yao Ming in Houston, Mac has formed potential partnerships for the ages. Partnerships with so much potential but a short shelf life. Various injuries and trades helped speed up the expiration process. These days as well, the more times a player moves or gets traded the less his star power shines. Think about it do people really see Allen Iverson as a member of the Grizzlies, a part of Turkey, or a 76er? A change in identity wasn’t the only factor that took away some of Tracy’s shine however. If the negative part of Vince’s career is defined by hate than the negative part of Tracy’s career is defined by doubt. In the NBA doubt is the product of chronic injuries and constant first-round exits.
The early memories of McGrady may have been full of dunks and stare downs but most recently the memories of Mac have been all suit and tie. If this was the rap game T-Mac would be T.I., out of the game and out of commission for a while (but you best believe he'll be back). Tracy was that dude dominating advert spots between games. Look back at Tracy’s ‘commercial’ success and you will see him featuring in adverts with hip-hop sounds such as Baby and Clipse playing in the background. McGrady’s status today however has left fans thinking ‘What happened to that boy’?
Is it this simple? Have these guys truly fallen off? Or are fans just lost in the hate and doubt that come with writing off people in the spotlight? The answer is these guys aren’t even close to the edge of falling off. Air Canada may have been grounded but Vince can still play, via some Air Disney and flight in Phoenix. Now as for Trace, just look at how we maximised minimal time in New York and Detroit, let's not be the ones sleeping on ‘the big sleep’.
It must be very discouraging (at the very least) for Vince and Tracy that so many critics and fans have turned their backs on them. For the rest of his career Carter will always be associated with the Toronto Raptors but for all the wrong reasons. Vince is so routinely booed and heckled in Ontario that it has even become a feature on the NBA Live video game when the Suns play the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. In the real world the ‘Get Carter’ reception in Toronto is always the same but Vince’s performances have been mixed. At times it looks like the pressure is getting too much for Vinsanity but then sometimes he goes for 42 and 10 and ices the game in 0.1 seconds. Regardless of his reception or appreciation Vince Carter is going to show up for his team and play his game. His personality may be challenged but that has nothing to do with his game, that can not be disgraced.
It’s bad enough when a player’s former team’s fans turn on him but how about when a player’s current team loses hope in him? A few years back in the 'Houston we have a problem' years, Rocket fans changed their number 1 Tracy McGrady jerseys to number 13in support of Von Wafer. That must have hurt T-Mac who was trying to start afresh after injury that season. People will be quick to remember Tracy blowing an open look and appearing as if he was blocking his own lay-up against Milwaukee. These types of plays are remembered by the fans who desire to highlight the demise in a players skill set or career.
These same fans should remember the number of great finishes McGrady has bestowed upon the rim, Shawn Bradley certainly does. Or how he killed the San Antonio Spurs in half a minute with a bucket load of points, Tim Duncan certainly does, the number 13 is certainly unlucky for him. Sadly Tracy may not ever be the player he was again before he went down to injury, but that's not his fault, so let's hunt for some goodwill. The average player does not return to their peak form after chronic or serious injury. Then again look at things like Tracy’s 13 points in 33 seconds and its clear were not dealing with your average NBA player.
With great expectations come great disappointments. The world surrounding the NBA can sometimes be dominated by too much bad press. All this does is take away from what is actually done on the court. Vince and Tracy may not be at the same level as when they wowed video camera at the ready, fans and players alike in the dunk contest in 2000, like they did o the courts of Canada for what was and what could have been. Still they both remain a force to be reckoned with today. A force that can still capture people’s attention.
Think Vince can’t get it done anymore? Then look at his averages and add that up with a deadly central mid-range alliance with Grant Hill (another former star and ally of McGrady in Orlando), served on a Steve Nash plate and what do you get? You get two disregarded All-Star talents and a disregarded top NBA franchise motivated and ready to hang with the big boys. Think about Steve dishing out the double team and Vince having the ball in his hands when the clock ticks, closing out games like he does. Look at all this and write these guys off one more time.
Vince has been carrying teams on his own for many years now. Next season presents the chance for him to pursue real success since he experienced his first playoff berth. The big test that faces Vince is whether he can accept a reduced role to achieve this. From all accounts of games in the bank, it appears Mr. Carter can afford to do this. Like Lil' Wayne, 'tha Carter' is about to go forth. Jay-Z will be watching what could have been if he kept his New Jersey, somewhere in Brooklyn.
Think Tracy is to hobbled and too choked up over the years to stand up for himself and let his game do the talking then think again. Tracy may be on the slow climb back, but he hasn’t given up. For years Tracy watched Vince Carter's teammate Grant Hill being grounded by chronic injury after chronic injury but Grant never gave up and he made it back too. Tracy’s former Adidas ‘impossible is nothing’ co-star Kevin Garnett faced years of being knocked out of the playoffs too early but his time and his ring came in the end. Impossible really is nothing, like K.G. screamed, 'anything is possible'. If this does not serve as inspiration for Tracy then he really is dormant.
Tracy isn’t sleeping though his eyes are wide open and staring. Staring down like years back when he gave one of the leagues best dunkers Tyrus Thomas a taste of his own medicine and a glimpse of things to come. Staring down his Twitter feed to be motivated by both the love and hate when he poster a superimposed picture of him in a Lakers jersey. The reality of this could be beyond anybodies wildest dreams. One things for certain; Mac is back and wants to play and win. It became clear how much winning means to Tracy a couple of seasons back when he addressed the press speechless and in tears after being knocked out of the postseason. Are these the acts of a cry-baby or someone who really is driven? If you don't already know, nows the time you should take a backseat.
So both Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter may have more in the bank then they do in the tank but they deserve more credit than what’s been taken away from them over the past few years. Whether it be due to hate or doubt these former fan-favourites still play at a high level when healthy and still have a lot to offer. These cousins have plenty of time yet to achieve what they’ve been after for so long and silence their detractors. The same people who label the pair as weak or cry-babies can not deny jumping out their seats to T-Mac and V.C’s off the glass antics and in your face slams. The anticipation of excitement may have diminished over the years but the duo’s games are still being honed as they excel above it all still giants like Microsoft, even without the hardware. People can talk trash all they like but true talent and love for the game speaks louder than words and hate. Silence!