Basking in the afterglow of a 42-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound
Game 3 performance against the Milwaukee Bucks last Saturday
night, Orlando Magic forward Tracy McGrady received a
distinguished visitor at his locker. Julius Erving, a senior
vice president for the Magic who also serves as a mentor for the
team's young players, approached the 21-year-old McGrady, arm
extended. After congratulating McGrady and praising him for
showing the maturity to pass out of the double team, the
51-year-old Dr. J jokingly asked his young patient, "So, you
think you have a future in this league?" McGrady smiled
sheepishly. "I'm doing all right," he said.
It was a rare flicker of understatement from McGrady, whose play
in the postseason has been worthy of hyperbole. Through the
121-116 Game 3 overtime classic--which enabled Orlando to stave
off elimination against the second-seeded Bucks--the 6'8" McGrady
was averaging 36.7 points, scoring with either hand on all manner
of drives and post-up moves, burying long-range jumpers and going
to the line with clockwork regularity. For punctuation he'd also
thrown down the kind of dunks usually reserved for those absurdly
peppy men who perform with trampolines during timeouts. Milwaukee
had done everything short of bringing defensive stalwart Sidney
Moncrief out of retirement to try to stop him. Nothing had
worked. On Saturday six Bucks--usually two at a time--took turns
getting used and abused. "I should probably tell you he's not all
that good and we can stop him," says Milwaukee guard Sam Cassell.
"But, man, what a wonderful player."
Never mind the NBA's Most Improved Player Award that McGrady
received last weekend. After scoring 26.8 points a game during
the regular season, he's comporting himself in the playoffs like
a future MVP. McGrady's resume for the series includes stringing
together a 33-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist line in Game 1;
scoring 20 straight points for Orlando in Game 2; and in Game 3
becoming the second youngest player, behind Magic Johnson, to
score 40 or more points in a postseason game. "I said T-Mac was
definitely among the top five players in the league," says
Orlando swingman Grant Hill, who, before a broken left ankle
expunged his season, was supposed to have joined McGrady to form
the Eastern Conference's most formidable one-two combination.
"And that was before the playoffs."
Adds Magic coach Doc Rivers, "He had a Michael Jordan-type game
on Saturday. He tried to get others involved early, then took it
to another level and attacked late. I love what he's doing,
showing he's not a flash in the pan."
In a contentious trio of games that featured a near brawl, a
running feud between Rivers and Milwaukee coach George Karl,
eight technical fouls, five flagrants and a landfill's worth of
trash talk, McGrady, perhaps sensing that this is what superstars
are supposed to do in the playoffs, also pitched a tent in the
Bucks' collective psyche. Though Milwaukee had beaten Orlando 11
straight times before Saturday, McGrady--the series' Most Voluble
Player, as Dale Hoffman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put
it--declared that the Bucks "ain't crap." After Milwaukee All-Star
guard Ray Allen suggested that McGrady is less effective against
physical defense, T-Mac responded, "If you want to bump me, bump
me. I'll bump you back. Ray Allen can't stop me one-on-one."
Asked whether he was able to get his shot off anytime he wanted,
McGrady laughed. "Of course," he said. "Give me a break, man.
Have you seen anyone stop me yet?"
McGrady directed much of his woofing at Milwaukee All-Star
forward Glenn Robinson. A 22.0-points-per-game scorer during the
regular season, Robinson mustered only 14 points in each of the
first three games against the tenacious defense of McGrady, whose
arms seemingly reach halfway to Tampa. Citing Robinson's
ineffectual play in this series, McGrady suggested the Big Dog be
rechristened Big Puppy. "Has he been locked down or what?"
McGrady then asked. With the Magic trailing by a point in the
waning seconds of Game 3, McGrady converted a twisting,
left-handed layup despite being fouled. Immediately, he launched
into an impassioned soliloquy inches from Robinson's ear. "I told
you I'd be bringin' it all night" was among his milder phrases.
As McGrady single-handedly carried the Magic, the question arose
whether the Toronto Raptors' management had made the right
decision when it embraced Vince Carter as the Man, prompting
McGrady to join Orlando as a free agent last summer. While
struggling through another shaky playoff series against the New
York Knicks, whom the Raptors trailed two games to one after a
97-89 loss on Sunday, Carter had requested more help from his
teammates and was clearly ambivalent about being a leader. By
contrast McGrady, who signed a seven-year, $93 million deal with
the Magic after three years in Toronto, doesn't merely relish the
ball at crunch time, he demands it. In the fourth quarter and
overtime of Game 3, he scored 21 points, taking 15 shots and
attempting nine free throws. "A lot of players put up big numbers
during the regular season, but T-Mac's proved he's a total
gamer," says Orlando forward Pat Garrity, whose deadeye outside
shooting made the Bucks pay dearly when they double-teamed
Barely a year out of braces, McGrady finally showed his age after
Game 3. He's a serial slumberer--Pumpkinhead and Big Sleep, his
friends call him--who can log 14 hours a night, easy. As he sat in
front of his locker and listened to Erving's counsel, he made no
effort to stifle a series of yawns. "Past my bedtime," McGrady
Before finally sauntering to the TD Waterhouse Centre parking
lot, he strapped on a leather backpack, the kind favored by his
peers on college campuses. As he drove off, he let off a juvenile
scream of elation. This was the rare 21-year-old who didn't mind
that his summer vacation had been postponed for at least a few
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB ROSATO KID DYNAMITE Using his left hand as well as his right, McGrady hammered the Bucks for 110 points during the three games.