With under a minute to go and a win out of reach, a defeated and frustrated Tracy McGrady pulled up with a muscle pull in his thigh, asked to be subbed out, and watched from the bench as his Qingdao Eagles lost 95-84 to the previously winless Jilin Northeast Tigers.
As McGrady walked back to the locker room with his teammates, they did so as the only 0-5 team in the Chinese Basketball Association.
With McGrady in an Eagles uniform this season, big things were expected in coastal Shandong province.
But, it definitely wasn’t supposed to go down like this.
In a series of events that have pushed the Eagles and McGrady to new depths with every passing game, these past two weeks — which were supposed to be the beginning stages of of McGrady’s CBA takeover — have instead turned into the opening act of a Shakespearian tragedy.
Victims of two heart-breaking buzzer beaters, one to Fujian’s Sundiata Gaines and another to Bayi’s Wang Zhizhi, and culprits of three uninspiring performances against Foshan, Shanghai and Jilin, the Eagles find themselves without a win, without direction and likely without a realistic shot at making the post-season.
They’ve already gone through one head coach, and likely could go through another soon if their record continues to go south. The team’s roster seems to be in store for a shakeup as well, as the club is reportedly in the process of swapping out McGrady’s foreign teammate, D.J. Mbenga, who has been largely disappointing thus far.
As any foreigner who has spent time in this country, China forces you to learn quickly. It’s true as well for McGrady, who is currently learning a valuable lesson, one that foreign basketball players, businessmen, companies and governments have learned in similarly hard ways before him:
It’s not easy to simply walk into the Middle Kingdom, set up shop and enjoy immediate success.
When McGrady signed the most celebrated contract in CBA history in September, the buzz around China was palpable.