Fresh start for McGrady

Updated: 2012-10-17 07:57

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Other NBA stars agree it's good move, but how will he perform?

So, what's it going to be?

Will Tracy McGrady follow in the footsteps of Stephon Marbury and open a new chapter of his career when he comes to China? Or is he just another NBA vagabond passing by?

While the answer is yet to be determined, some of his fellow NBA players and even the league's commissioner have shown support for his bold move to China.

"I think it is a great idea. I love it," NBA commissioner David Stern said during the China Games' Shanghai leg last week. "I think the CBA has become a place where players can extend their careers, and that's a wonderful thing."

"It's good for Tracy," McGrady's former Houston Rockets teammate Shane Battier said during his trip with the Miami Heat last week.

Battier, who played with Yao Ming and McGrady from 2006-11 in Houston, knows first-hand how warmly the Chinese people will greet McGrady. The Miami trip was his ninth to the country after he signed a lucrative sneaker endorsement with a local brand.

He also believes China can provide a perfect setting for any former teammate of Yao.

Fresh start for McGrady

"Every player is in a different spot a lot of guys just want to play. Maybe he thinks it's the best chance to be the Tracy they all know," he said.

"Maybe he just wants something new and different, which a lot of guys do after playing in the NBA for so long. And China's definitely a good choice."

With seven All-Star appearances and two NBA scoring titles, McGrady (pictured) will arguably be the highest-profile NBA player to play in the CBA.

The Heat's MVP forward, LeBron James, also backs the move.

"It's not at all," James replied last week in Beijing when a reporter asked how "pitiful" it was for McGrady to leave the NBA for the CBA. "Tracy McGrady's one of the best players in the game. He still can play the game of basketball, and no matter where you do it, he's very passionate about it. You know, I don't agree with your question."

Los Angeles Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul agreed with James, stressing he was happy for McGrady.

"That's not pitiful, that guy is still playing basketball," he said in response to the same reporter's question. "It's a game you know we love. It's a great opportunity to play basketball anywhere."

In his prime, McGrady was a game-changer who once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to lead the Rockets over the San Antonio Spurs on Dec 9, 2004.

His new CBA team, the Qingdao Eagles, expects him to have a great impact. Manager Sheng Xishun said the club has set its sights on making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Still, some experts, including commentators Su Qun and Yang Yi, remain guarded and say McGrady's reserved character might hinder him from taking on a leadership role with the Eagles.

Former CBA chief Li Yuanwei also warned that Marbury's success was unique and would not be easy to emulate.

"The key is whether McGrady can bond with the team or not. It's too early to expect so much of him," Li said on his micro blog on Tuesday.

Health will be another issue for the 33-year-old after he averaged a career-low 5.3 points in 16 minutes last season with the Atlanta Hawks.

"The CBA isn't as easy as people think. I think it will be good if he comes, but I don't know what he will be capable of doing until he plays," Marbury said on his micro blog recently.

Stern, who said he closely follows ex-NBA players who play in China, credits the CBA's competitiveness for the influx of stars.

"The CBA's talent level has gotten higher," he said. "In the past, Tracy might have gone to Europe, now we see he's in China. The CBA has high standards now and, sometimes, players who are expected to do well don't do so well. That's because it's a higher level of competition, much higher than it used to be."

(China Daily 10/17/2012 page22)