In a day of amazing individual-stat games (see Mamba, Shawn Marion, and AI), Tracy McGrady's performance in the Rockets' loss to the Pistons might not stand out as much. But McGrady's gaudy numbers in a losing effort still headlined most game recaps (both locally and nationally) and garnered some kind lip-service from the Pistons. Flip Saunders in today's Free Press:
"They're a different team with Tracy," Saunders said. "He was phenomenal tonight. At times, even before we could try and get to him to trap, he was shooting it deep and he was on fire. But for us this was a good game."
"He's just a great player," Rasheed Wallace said. "He's doing what he can for his team right now. He's not getting the help that he really wants right now, but he's doing all he can for his team."
And, never one for modesty, T-Mac added this nugget of "damning by faint praise":
"They don't need a player like me because their starting five is a (great) five," McGrady said. "They all know their roles and nobody tries to do too much."
(Yeah, thanks Tracy.)
It is frustrating to see an individual player's performance from the losing side eclipse that of the victorious team, but I can't rail against the national media too much. I understand that the couple weeks leading up to the All-Star break can be a little drab, and stories on individual performances are easy to write without much substanive content. Tracy played a great game last night, and 81-point games by Mamba will always be a big story.
Whether or not their winning ways have become boring for the national media, the Pistons just continue to truck along, and they do so mostly devoid of individual performances in the 40-80 point range. Since the national press prematurely ejected their "70-win" stories in December and early January, don't expect to hear as much about Detroit's play on the court as you hear about the individual superstars of--and manufactured drama surrounding--upcoming opponents, e.g., Minnesota (Flip's return), the Lakers (Mamba), Indiana (brawl recap anyone?), and Miami (Udonis Haslem and James Posey).
But remember, boring or not, every team in the league has lost at least twice as many games as your Pistons. And home-court in the Eastern Conference could conceivably (if not mathematically) be locked up by the All-Star break. Let Kobe, Tracy, Shaq/Wade, and Lebron get the points and pub. Detroit will take the W's every time.