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New York Knicks forward Tracy McGrady drives past Toronto Raptors forward Sonny Weems (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto March 5, 2010. Weems scored a career high 20 points as the Raptors won 102-96 snapping a four game losing skid. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)
New York Knicks forward Tracy McGrady drives past Toronto Raptors forward Sonny Weems (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto March 5, 2010. Weems scored a career high 20 points as the Raptors won 102-96 snapping a four game losing skid. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)

Raptors dump T-Mac and Knicks Add to ...

There are all kinds of things that can make you feel old in this world. For Toronto basketball fans of a certain vintage, one of those is Tracy McGrady - or at least the version on display last night at the Air Canada Centre.

Maybe that's why he still gets booed here.

The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of celebrating their 15th NBA season; McGrady joined them after their second.

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He was the ninth overall pick in the 1997 draft and came to Canada boasting about "having to break out the fur" for winter.

"[It]was definitely a challenging moment in my life," he told reporters yesterday before taking to the floor with the visiting New York Knicks. "I was 18 years old, and I wasn't even legal when I came up here. I think the legal age was, like, 19. But I was up here, just me and one of my buddies, in a foreign country, not knowing anything about this place."

What he had going for him at the time, if not a working knowledge of geography, was a dose of quickness, speed and grace that made it seem as if his bones were filled with helium.

None of which were on display in any measure during the Raptors' 102-96 win last night, which halted a four-game losing skid, improving Toronto to 32-28, while the Knicks fell to 21-40.

Soaring over the crowd for dunks? Twisting his 6-foot-8 length for impossibly gentle layups in traffic?

How about stumbling into Raptors defender Antoine Wright and being charged with an offensive foul? Or getting tied up by guard Jarrett Jack, nearly six inches shorter, on an ill-fated post-up attempt?

In his 13th season, 30, and having missed 110 games over the past four years with various injuries, the two-time former NBA scoring champion's greater value is as a contract to be moved for salary-cap purposes - which is why he arrived in New York at the trade deadline.

When the contract directing $23.2-million (U.S.) his way this season - the NBA's largest pay package - expires at the end of this year, it will provide New York room under the salary cap to pursue a high-profile free agent, if not two.

Ironically, if the Knicks can sign the likes of Raptors all-star power forward Chris Bosh as a free agent, it will be because of the franchise's first significant free-agent departure.

McGrady was asked yesterday for insight, given his experience.

"Maybe he wants to start off fresh with another franchise, or maybe he's doing it for tax reasons. I'm not speaking [for]Chris, I'm just saying [for]the individual that wants to move on. There's different reasons why a guy wouldn't want to play here," said McGrady, who was just emerging as a player when he left Toronto after the 1999-2000 season, signing with the Orlando Magic to be close to his hometown.

"He's been here for quite some time now, and he's personally been successful. The team really hasn't done that much."

Last night, the Raptors did enough to hold off the Knicks, who - like most of the teams McGrady has played for in his career - won't be doing much either come playoff time.

With Bosh out with stomach pains, the Raptors were lifted by the young legs of Sonny Weems, who hustled off the bench for a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds, matching the energy provided by Amir Johnson, who started in place of Bosh and responded with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Toronto shot 50.5 per cent from the field and committed just eight turnovers.

McGrady counted 13 points and four assists, but showed his rust, too, committing six turnovers.

If the athleticism has departed, he still has a feel for the game - the Knicks play him at point guard in a tribute to the former scoring champ's ability to make the right pass - but on a listless night, he largely fit right in.

The Raptors led by a point after three quarters, and were able to pull away in the fourth, thanks to youngsters Weems and Johnson - players with just a shade of McGrady's gifts in their legs, but more important, just a fraction of the miles.

David Lee of the Knicks came into the game tied with Bosh with 39 double-doubles on the season, and left with his 40th, finishing with 23 points and 18 rebounds.

 

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