This weekend has not been good to Tracy McGrady. On Friday he suffered the indignity of having to run off the court because of diarrhea — to say nothing of the indignity of a 10-point performance in a 30-point home loss. Yesterday in Beijing, against the defending champs, he was involved in what could have been an even dirtier play, when he intentionally elbowed Beijing’s Ji Zhe early in the fourth quarter.
The final frame had just begun when Ji, one of the Ducks’ young but talented players, swished a three-pointer in McGrady’s face to put the home team up 22. Going back up the court, Ji wagged his finger at T-Mac, who steely waited for the right moment to throw the tip of his elbow into Ji’s shoulder.
The refs saw it immediately but only called a regular foul. It was probably better that it wasn’t deemed flagrant — though it obviously was — because the situation didn’t need to be inflamed. You might have heard that China is a country where face is important; the last thing officials probably wanted was to add insult to a player of McGrady’s stature. Play continued without incident.
In the end, McGrady scored a season-high 37 in a 116-102 loss. And the situation with Ji Zhe seems to have been smoothed over, if you believe the reports.
Ji was forced to appear for a press conference after the game, during which Sohu reports he “kept his head down” and was “uncommunicative,” at least at the start. When asked if he remembers wagging his finger, he didn’t respond.
His coach, Min Lulei, spoke for him: “This was a brief on-court incident, and really wasn’t necessary. At the time, I guess McGrady blocked Ji Zhe’s shot… after that what happened on the court was quite normal. Ji Zhe in the future, to the best of his ability, will not make these type of gestures.”
Eventually, Ji Zhe would say that McGrady was actually his idol, and that the two spoke after the game. He said he told T-Mac, “You’re a superstar, I’ve watched you since I was little, I worship you.” He also said that he was playing hard even as the game appeared to be won because T-Mac was still playing hard, and “with someone like McGrady, who knows what might happen?”
So far for McGrady, all that has happened is his team has lost – seven times and counting, with zero wins.
He can take solace in this Sohu headline though, which reads, “McGrady scores season-high 37 points, Marbury 14+10, Beijing at home sends Qingdao to seventh straight loss.” Even in defeat, it’s the new face on the block — not the four-year CBA vet, Marbury — who leads the news.
But who could have imagined, four years ago, that T-Mac would be one of three former Dream Teamers playing in China — along with Gilbert Arenas — and that it would be Stephon Marbury with the most success of them all, leading a championship team currently with one loss and at the top of the standings?
Although we should remember that Marbury’s first and second seasons in China were, to put it simply, miserable. We’ll see if McGrady stays for a third year — if, that is, he manages to get through this first one.
56.com video for those in China here.
UPDATE, 1:13 pm: Now in GIF form, via Sina Weibo:
UPDATE, 11:46 pm: This picture:
Via Weibo via Adam Minter