Tracy McGrady didn't hear about his former coach's criticisms of his practice habits until a reporter asked him about them, but wasn't unnerved or surprised.
Jeff Van Gundy said McGrady had Hall of Fame talent, but that he didn't bring the best effort when the bright lights weren't on. Van Gundy, who coached McGrady in Houston from 2004-07, said, "I just wish I could have changed (McGrady's) practice habits and his mentality."
"It's what, four or five years ago," McGrady said. "Jeff is by far my best coach. I've always said that and still talk to him this day."
Van Gundy made his comments last week at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston.
"Tracy McGrady was 1,000 hours of practice," Van Gundy said. "He should be a Hall of Fame player. His talent was other-worldly. He was given a great leg up in the race against other players. He's as close as I've ever seen to someone with a perfect body and a good mind."
McGrady, who has carried teams with less-than-elite talent to the playoffs, feels there's another side to their argument, but kept his cool about the matter.
"Being as I talented as I was and I am, if that's what he saw, I don't have anything negative to say," he said. "I always conserve my energy for games."
McGrady hasn't played since coach John Kuester announced all spots would be open and players who practiced well would get the time on the floor. He wasn't available for comment after the game.
McGrady's former general manager, Darryl Morey made more pointed remarks about the two-time scoring champion. Morey said McGrady is a product of the AAU system, in which kids are praised for their talent but not pushed to work.
"McGrady was the most gifted player I've ever had on the roster," Morey said. "I do think [his talent] got in the way of Tracy's development. Much of the game was so, so easy."
McGrady was drafted as a high school prodigy in 1997, but he didn't have the quick start of LeBron James. Nor did he turn out as a bust, like Kwame Brown. He went from averaging seven points and four rebounds as an 18-year old to 32, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists as a 23-year old.
After putting in long and hard hours at the gym, where McGrady not only improved his jumper but his body, he's a little more than slightly annoyed at the sentiment all if his success was simply God-given.
"How can you reach that kind of status if you don't work hard?" he said. "That's why I don't have anything to say about those comments."
Like everyone else, he hears commentators refer to talented players like himself, James and Kobe Bryant as if they're superhuman. It's meant to be the most flattering observation, but guys of his ilk don't take it as such.
"That's one thing I heard in my prime, that I made it look too easy," McGrady said, then appearing slightly annoyed. "They don't, and I don't really take that as a compliment. Naw, it's hard. I worked my ass off and if people don't believe that, after all the injuries and things I've been through, they're crazy."
Ben Wallace 's eldest brother, Rev. James McBride , was buried Saturday in Alabama. McBride died after a lengthy illness and Wallace had taken time off in recent weeks to say goodbye.
Pistons coach John Kuester said he and Wallace exchanged text messages, but he doesn't know when Wallace will return to the team. Wallace last played Feb. 23 against Indiana.