Tracy McGrady returned to Houston last night. He was looking forward to bringing something great to the city of Houston, but was never able to follow through on it. McGrady and Yao Ming made it past the first round of the playoffs a grand total of zero times together, though Yao was finally able to bust through with Ron Artest in the 2008-2009 season as McGrady sat out with injuries.
McGrady was greeted by a chorus of boos upon setting foot on the court. Some fans probably were as irked by his pre-game comments that Alex touched on earlier, but this is Houston, and the story of Houston sports for every post-Clutch City team has been one of unrequited promise. The Kubiak-era Texans that aren't able to put together a good enough defense to get their offense to the big stage, the Hunsicker-Astros that watched Bagwell and Biggio scuffle year-after-year in the playoffs and came up a run short in every game against the White Sox in 2005, and the promise of the Yao-McGrady core that never made it to fruition due to a poor supporting cast and injuries.
While it's true that McGrady wasn't particularly healthy at any time he played for the Rockets, he was able to do some pretty amazing things for the team. The Shawn Bradley dunk in the playoffs and the 13 point comeback against the Spurs are the most memorable of those, but by no means the only one. But Houston fans didn't boo McGrady because of who he was, they booed because his existence is another reminder of a place that we haven't been able to get to. Last night, he was a scapegoat in a frustrating year for the city. One that watched the Astros and Texans stagnate, the Rockets get off to an awful start, the Dynamo couldn't fix their leaky midfield or backline, the Cougars flopped as Case Keenum was injured, and to the extent that many graduates are also in the city, the Longhorns went from a pre-season Top 5 team to not even being bowl-eligible.â†µ
I'm not the type to preach to fans. You bought the ticket, you have the right to boo the man. I wouldn't do it, and I don't think it reflects particularly well on the city, but I think the context of the booing matters here. This was less about what McGrady is and how he worked and more about what he wasn't able to do. I have many great memories of McGrady, and one day we'll be able to laugh at them once Daryl Morey gets the Rockets back to the promised land, but right now, he's less of a player then a reminder of an wasted era. That was what got booed first and foremost last night. McGrady was just the conduit for that frustration.â†µ
A reminder that we're all still waiting for somebody to bring great things to the city of Houston.â†µ