Tracy McGrady was relaxed.
On the other hand, I was nervous. The visiting team’s locker room was unexplored territory for me. After a while, you get more comfortable talking to the Rockets players. Entering the Pistons locker room and seeing Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace… it takes you back to the beginning.
McGrady appeared ready for his Houston return. He was hanging out at his locker, finishing up a call on his cell phone. Honestly, it was bizarre seeing him decked out in Pistons gear. He said being in the “other” locker room wasn’t as strange as he thought it was going to be.
“If this was my first time, it would be, but I’ve been on this side before in a Magic uniform,” said McGrady. “It feels weird, but not as weird as I thought it was going to be because I’ve been on this side before.”
McGrady thought of Yao Ming first when asked about his best moments in Houston.
“It was a pleasure to be Yao’s teammate,” said McGrady. “I was really looking forward to that when I first got traded here. The 22-game winning streak as a team, that’s the second best in NBA history. Those are two of the best for me.”
The reaction from the crowd shocked me.
I was asked 4-5 times what I thought would be the reaction from the Toyota Center crowd when McGrady entered the game — I thought for sure he would be cheered. There would be a few jeers, but they would be drowned out.
That wasn’t the case at all. The arena filled with boos when McGrady entered the game and it truly surprised me.
It wasn’t that the reaction was not justified. I wrote a year ago about the day T-Mac lost the city of Houston, but Rockets faithful cheered him loudly when he finally came back last season, and that too surprised me. I think they got it backwards… it would have been nice to send a clear message then, but now might have been the time to reflect a bit more on the positive.
Here is both the reaction on TV when McGrady entered the game and the amateur fan cam view from the stands.
If McGrady was rattled by the fan reaction, he certainly wasn’t going to let it be known in his words.
“I don’t have no reaction at all,” said McGrady.
But it was obvious that T-Mac didn’t have the same demeanor that he showed pregame. He was more defensive and almost seemed a bit hurt. He definitely wasn’t basking in the backlash, like he did in Orlando. McGrady really didn’t have a clear answer when asked how he wanted to be remembered in Houston.
“Whatever comes to mind. I really don’t have any … I don’t know,” said McGrady. “Whatever I did for them when I played here, if they enjoyed me when I suited up at night. If they didn’t, it’s whatever they feel.”
Listen closely. A reporter mentions that it wasn’t like the first trip back to “Orlando,” and McGrady agrees, saying the first trip back to “Toronto” was actually worse.
And I think that collection of burned bridges sums it up. McGrady had truly amazing talent, the kind that can put you in the Hall of Fame, but you never see true superstars booed at every place they once called home.