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December 29, 2009
On the Beat
Knicks and McGrady a Match?

by John Perrotto

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Could the New York Knicks be a landing spot for Tracy McGrady, who wants the Houston Rockets to trade him?

The Knicks have two players who also want out in center Eddy Curry and guard Nate Robinson. While McGrady, the seven-time All-Star guard, has struggled to fit into the Rockets’ revamped rotation as a bench player, perhaps Curry and Robinson would work better as role players for the Rockets, who are a surprising 18-13 in a season in which center Yao Ming has not played a game because of reconstructive foot surgery.

Either way, McGrady has gone from All-Star to benchwarmer in Houston through some circumstances beyond his control. McGrady missed the first 23 games this season while recovering from microfracture knee surgery then has averaged just 7.7 minutes in the six games in which he has played.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and coach Rick Adelman decided last weekend that McGrady would better serve the team being out of uniform. McGrady was allowed to go home to Houston when the Rockets beat the Nets on Saturday night and lost to the Cavaliers on Sunday night, then reportedly asked for a trade on Monday.

The Knicks, who are 11-19 but have playoff hopes in a weak Eastern Conference, could use McGrady. And acquiring a player eligible for free agency in the summer makes sense as seemingly the Knicks’ entire 2009-10 strategy is to clear as much salary-cap room as possible in order to go after free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. However, Houston also wants to retain its flexibility for next summer, which makes acquiring Curry's contract--which includes a player option for the 2010-11 season--prohibitive.

Curry was banished from the team by Knicks president Donnie Walsh and forced to work out with team trainers after arriving to training camp extremely overweight. Curry lost what appeared to be about 50 pounds then played in seven games, beginning Nov. 18, and averaged 8.9 minutes a game. However, coach Mike D’Antoni has not played Curry in the last six games while Robinson’s string of DNPs has reached 13.

While Robinson’s agent asked for a trade, Curry is keeping quiet and putting the onus on the Knicks to resolve his situation.

“They have the power to change it, but until they decide I'm not the right fit by moving me, I'm going to always assume as long as I'm here that I am the right fit,” Curry said.

Adelman, meanwhile, has great admiration for McGrady but a hard time finding the right spots to play him.

“I said all along I want to see where he fits,” Adelman said. “Coming back from an injury like that, it’s obvious he’s not the Tracy we knew two years ago. He knows that. What I’m trying to figure out is where we can best get him in the rotation where he can have a positive effect on the team. I just felt if he was unhappy with the situation, I wasn’t comfortable to go forward and try to jump-start it again. I want to be sure this is our plan. I don’t blame any player for saying, ‘I want more.’ That’s what he wants. Right now, I’m not sure how to do it. We’ll figure it out, I hope.”

Another possible trade partner for the Rockets is the Denver Nuggets, who would also like to add a big man despite leading the Northwest Division with a 20-12 record. Though the NBA trading deadline isn’t until Feb. 18, the Nuggets’ $3.2-million trade exception from last season’s Chucky Atkins deal expires Jan. 7. The Nuggets also have a $3.7-million trade exception from the Steven Hunter deal that does not expire until Aug. 7.

The Portland Trail Blazers, who are one-half game behind the Nuggets in the division race at 20-13, could also use a big man as centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are likely out for the season after suffering knee injuries that required surgery.

Van Gundy Wants Christmas Off

ESPN/ABC had a five-game extravaganza on Christmas but Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t thrilled to be part of it. And his attitude had nothing to do with an 86-77 loss to the visiting Celtics.

“I would rather not play on Christmas,” Van Gundy said. “This is a day to spend with your family. The league has been good to all of us in terms of what we get (big money) out of these TV games, so it would sound a little disingenuous to complain too much. But if I had my way, we'd take a five-day Christmas break.”

Van Gundy and his wife have four children and did not like giving up most of the holiday because of work. The Magic also played the Hawks in Atlanta on Thanksgiving and are scheduled to play the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Friday, New Year’s Day.

“I think we get a little carried away with ourselves with sports thinking we're more important than everything else,” Van Gundy said. “But that's the way it is. There's nothing more important than the NBA on Christmas Day.”

Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, whose team posted a 107-96 home victory over the Nuggets on Christmas, takes playing on the holiday as a compliment.

“It’s always a big deal to play on Christmas,” McMillan said. “I got the opportunity to play once or twice as a player, but as a coach, the last three years. The league feels good about you if you are playing on Christmas. Of course you want to be with your family but it's also a special time. Business is business. As athletes, you play on holidays. We've been doing that all our careers, playing in high school and college tournaments. It's nothing new.”

Spoelstra Plays Santa

The Miami Heat also played on Christmas, posting a 93-87 road victory over the Knicks and each player received holiday gifts from coach Erik Spoelstra--a copy of the book The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and a 2010 vocabulary calendar.

“It’s a poignant book,” Spoelstra said of The Energy Bus. “But also it has some meaning with this group and this team. We're at our best when we're on that energy bus and we have that effort, that energy and that intensity.”

The subtitle of the book is “10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy.” Jack Del Rio, coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has used the book as required reading, though Spoelstra hasn’t placed made it mandatory for his players.

“Some guys will read parts of it, and if they don't, the parts that I want them to get will be the daily lectures to them, from time to time,” Spoelstra said. “It's a fun little read, and from time to time, there'll be some things from the book that I'll highlight and point out to the team.”

Spoelstra also thinks it can’t hurt his players to expand their vocabulary.

“Some of the guys will raise their hands during my talks and will ask what a word means,” he said. “This is an opportunity to slowly increase their vocabulary one day at a time.”

D’Antoni did not give his Knicks any presents.

“Unfortunately, all my books are already colored in,” he cracked.

Karl, Nuggets Talking Extension

The Denver Nuggets have offered coach George Karl a three-year, $12-million contract extension. However, Karl, whose contract expires at the end of this season, sounds like he isn’t ready to grab a pen and sign.

“I’ve always said I want to be in Denver, nothing’s changed there,” Karl said. “When you see all this stuff that’s written, it just makes it sad that I’m going to have to be a businessman. I don’t want to be a businessman. I want to be wanted, signed and move on.”

Karl indicated he would like to either have a deal in place by the end of this week or put off talks until after the season for fear they could become a distraction to his team.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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On the Beat (12/24)
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