I understand that you need star power to win in the NBA. That’s just how it works. Ask the Bulls. When they had Jordan, they won championships. When they had some nice parts that supposedly made up a good “core” they maxed out by getting into the playoffs but never advanced too deep.
Can a team like Utah win the whole thing with several above-average parts but no true superstar (no, Deron Willams and AK-47 don’t count)? Probably not.
Then again, could Tim Duncan continue winning titles without supporting players like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen? Absolutely not.
Teams almost always need a great star to win it, but without the requisite supporting cast that star is doomed. Basketball at its root is still a team game. We all know that. Even in the NBA it takes a team, baby.
So, I give you Tracy McGrady. A legit star in the Association if you ask me. His Rockets are down 2-0 in their series against the Jazz, and there is no way they will come back, even if they somehow pull out a win in Utah tonight. Yao Ming has been hurt since the regular season and starting point guard Skip to My Lou is hurt now, too.
Somehow, T-Mac is supposed to just shoulder the load and make playoff advancement happen. That’s what stars do, right? When the Rockets lost Monday and dropped to 0-2, McGrady (rightly) felt the criticism of him was excessive. I mean, all he did was lead Houston in every single important statistical category. Look at the box score.
A columnist for the Houston Chronicle points out that criticism of a superstar after losses, especially in the playoffs, is just part of the deal.
He’s right. Superstars in the Association are like quarterbacks in the NFL; they’re given too much credit when things go right and too much criticism when things go wrong. That’s just how it is.
But that doesn’t make it right.
T-Mac disappeared in the fourth quarter because he was tired. So what? Where was everyone else? Because here’s news: That is Jerry Sloan’s strategy. There’s nobody else to worry about, so bother and wear out T-Mac until he’s rendered ineffective.
That’s what happened Monday night and it will happen again and again until the Rockets are eliminated or guys like Shane Battier are able to contribute something at a meaningful moment.
Without Yao and Rafer Alston this series is simply over. I’d dare you to take Amare Stoudamire and Grant Hill away from Steve Nash and see what happens. It’s the same principle.
McGrady will continue to take the blame and be labeled a choker in late-game scenarios. But then again, that’s all Dirk Nowitzki is, too. That’s why the best team wins the title every year, not the best player.
It takes more than one man. But you already knew that.