Tracy McGrady: "I can't say I'm pleased"
What would you say to all those critics that thought you would not be in the league for long?
Tracy McGrady: Everybody is going to have his opinion, which is fine with me. They are going to keep on criticizing me cause they can't do what I do. I don't care. They have no idea what I'm going to be able to do -- me neither.
Are those critics an extra motivation?
TM: Yes. Proving them wrong is an extra motivation. It makes me better.
It's very hard now to criticize your game. What keeps you motivated, then?
TM: (Laughs) My main motivation is the championship ring, the NBA title. There is no other.
How does one feel when there is so many people that consider you an idol?
TM: It's a pleasure. Being a kid coming out of high school, with all those scouts criticizing me, having to hear how tough would it be for me to play in the NBA... Then being where I'm now... It's a pleasure. It's all about hard work and dedication.
What's the key for not letting all that recognition and attention change you as a person?
TM: Being concentrated and not letting all those things around you get in your head. You gotta keep your feet on the ground listening to your family and the people you most care about.
People are always looking for "stoppers" for players like you. Who would you say is the best opponent guarding you?
TM: Ron Artest. He's the best defender in the NBA.
Let's talk about your team. Do you thing Orlando has real chances of going deep in the playoffs?
TM: (His expression changes) It's gonna be tough, very difficult. If we can make the playoffs, then we'll see what happens. But the first thing we've got to do is focus on reaching the postseason.
Are you pleased with your current situation?
TM: I can't say I'm pleased. At least not right now, not at this moment. In a couple of years, no, I won't take satisfaction until I get a ring.
For how long do you see yourself carrying all that load in your shoulders night in, night out?
TM: All that load? Well, I'll do it as long as I'm able to do it. I'll do it my best.
How do you handle the frustration of another season in which the team does not appear to reach the next level?
TM: I think the key is being patient. Being a patient person helps in these cases. I feel like help in on the way, that someone is coming, that someone is on his way to help my team.
But that's not Grant Hill, who is apparently on the way to his fourth surgery...
TM: Grant is going to have a lot of time to do what he has to do to get healthy. If he comes back healthy next year, then we'll see what happens. But if not, then something's got to give.
Will you handle this situation -- not having a team built around you with a shot at the title -- for long?
TM: The clock is ticking. I don't know how much longer. Right now I'm really not thinking about that. Right now I'm just thinking about trying to get wins and trying to get my team to the playoffs. The Eastern Conference right now is real tight. That's really all I'm concentrating on. Hopefully, that frustration won't settle in any time soon this year.
Do you want to have a say on the path the franchise should take?
TM: Of course I want to have an important and decisive opinion on what happens with this team in the future. I'm part of the franchise and I'm the leader of this group, so I want to be there when decisions are made.
What is your vision of the future of the team?
TM: Making a run for the title -- that's my vision. I'm one guy away from that. I truly believe that I'm one guy from being that team that I dreamed about having. If I get that one guy, everything else will take care of itself.
From one team to another. What's your opinion on the disaster of Indianapolis?
TM: It was obviously a very big disappointment. We should have taken the gold medal. In fact, I didn't see many games. But it was not very good, right? We finished sixth, so we didn't do well. I don't know what the problem was because I wasn't there, but I'll be in Athens.
Is there any possibility with guys like you and Kobe that something similar happens again?
TM: No, there is not a chance. The gold has an owner. It's ours.
What does it mean for you taking part in the last All-Star Game of Michael Jordan?
TM: It's great. It's definitely an honor. I tried to convince him to take my spot. I had several ideas in mind -- like saying I had to go to the bathroom or saying that I had lost my jersey (laughs). Just to think what he's done... It's surprising. It's something inspirational for many of us, and being in his last All-Star Game makes us part of the history.
What particular aspect of MJ would you like to have or imitate? What would you like to learn from him?
TM: The competitive fire. I don't think there is anybody in the league as competitive as Michael. I think Kobe is close. I'd be content to have that of Jordan.
Do you see yourself at that level?
TM: Me? Hmmmm... I think I'm close to that mental level right now.
Being one of the big stars after the Jordan era is an extra pressure for you?
TM: Pressure? I don't feel no pressure. What pressure? I have no idea what that is.
What about the pressure you put yourself under?
TM: In that case... If it's a pressure you put yourself... OK, I may feel the pressure in that sense. But there is no one that's going to put pressure upon me.
We've read you're one of very few players that don't play a single game during the summer. How's that?
TM: All I do during the summer is work and work on my game. I never take part in summer tournaments or games. I just work to improve my game.
And it seems like you improve your game every season. What's the main difference between Orlando's McGrady and Toronto's McGrady?
TM: The fact of having the chance of showing what your level is. I was the second or third option in the team there. I was not the key player. In Orlando, I'm the franchise player, the one that has to step on the floor and make things happen, being a great example and leading by example.
I can't leave without asking you about that rumor that says you sleep 12 hours a day...
TM: You can be sure I slept a lot in Toronto because the weather was terrible and I hardly leave home. All I did was watching TV and sleep. That's not the case in Orlando, because I have a baby. That has helped me in some manner to be more responsible.
What's the relationship with your cousin Vince?
TM: Yeahh. I'm OK with my cousin. There is no problem between us. There was a time when things were said on both sides that muddied things a little, but we're fine now.
David Carro writes for Gigantes and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com. The interview was made during the All-Star Weekend.
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