The 2001-04 seasons were both incredibly breathtaking for the Magic and incredibly frustrating.
On one hand, Tracy McGrady was arguably the best wing player in the league, finishing high in MVP voting, perenially starting the All-Star Game and scoring at will as he led the league in scoring for two years in a Magic uniform. For Magic fans, going to the stadium to see McGrady meant the possibility of seeing something special at any moment and being in the presence of greatness -- a home-grown greatness too after McGrady was a sixth man type player in Toronto.
On the other hand, there was a team that could not get its act together and do much in the Playoffs. Grant HIll was constantly injured and the organization constantly shuffled players in and out without any semblance of consistency trying to survive for a year. The Magic were smack dab in the middle of the league and just barely in the Playoffs just about every year.
Getting out of the first round, even with a player of Tracy McGrady's caliber, was pretty close to improbable.
That makes this year's Playoffs so nice for Magic fans -- at least the ones who have forgiven McGrady for his ugly exit.
For the first time in his career, Tracy McGrady is in the second round of the Playoffs . . . and in the Conference Finals. Sure, he is not playing. Injuries have zapped McGrady of the athleticism that made him brilliant those four years in Orlando. But McGrady, as he told Fran Blinebury of NBA.com before Tuesday's Game Two, is happy even to be along for the ride:
It’s a great feeling. It’s great to be part of this terrific organization and guys around here. I’m living the dream right now.
It is hard to go from league superstar (anyone remember his cameo in Like Mike?) to human victory cigar. McGrady knew that was the deal after he signed with San Antonio following the completion of the Chinese season.
McGrady has appeared in only four games for the Spurs this postseason. He has not yet scored and has missed all four of his shots. He took two shots in Game One against the Grizzlies in his first Western Conference Finals appearance.
But the cheers from the crowd and the reaction on social media is not the sarcastic kind when McGrady is in. It is nostalgic. There is still the hope McGrady can recapture some of his former glory and the Magic that made him so great.