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Making strides

McGrady named NBA's Most Improved Player

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Posted: Saturday April 28, 2001 1:21 PM
Updated: Sunday April 29, 2001 12:22 AM

  Tracy McGrady With Grant Hill out for the season, Tracy McGrady had to carry the bulk of the scoring load, averaging 26.8 points per game. AP

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Tracy McGrady, who blossomed into a superstar in Orlando, is the NBA's Most Improved Player.

The 21-year-old McGrady earned the honor by posting career highs in points (26.8), rebounds (7.5), assists (4.6), steals (1.51) and minutes played (40.1) this season. His .457 field-goal percentage, .355 three-point field-goal percentage, and .733 free-throw percentage also were career-best marks.

The 6-foot-8 forward received 74 of a possible 124 votes from a nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. His selection was announced Saturday.

Sacramento's Peja Stojakovic finished second with 14 votes and Dallas' Steve Nash was third with 12. Phoenix forward Shawn Marion finished fourth with six votes.

"Playing behind a superstar in Vince Carter last year, it wasn't my turn," said McGrady, who left Toronto to join the Magic as a free agent before this season. "I believe I could have done some of the things I did this year last year, but I was held back. So, I brought my talent to Orlando and exploited it here."

After starting 53 games in his first three seasons with Toronto, McGrady started 77 games for the Magic this season and was voted through fan balloting as a starter in his first career NBA All-Star game. McGrady is the first player to start an All-Star game and be honored as the league' Most Improved Player in the same season.

Most Improved Players
Yr.  Player 
1986  Alvin Robertson, San Antonio 
1987  Dale Ellis, Seattle 
1988  Kevin Duckworth, Portland 
1989  Kevin Johnson, Phoenix 
1990  Rony Seikaly, Miami 
1991  Scott Skiles, Orlando 
1992  Pervis Ellison, Washington 
1993  Chris Jackson, Denver 
1994  Don MacLean, Washington 
1995  Dana Barros, Philadelphia 
1996  Gheorghe Muresan, Washington 
1997  Isaac Austin, Miami 
1998  Alan Henderson, Atlanta 
1999  Darrell Armstrong, Orlando 
2000  Jalen Rose, Indiana 
2001  Tracy McGrady, Orlando 

In each of his first four years in the NBA, McGrady has improved on his averages in scoring, rebounding and assists from the previous season. Last year, McGrady finished fifth in the voting for the Most Improved Player.

"The thing that I like most about him is that as good as he is, he still wants to get better," Magic coach Doc Rivers said. "Every challenge that's been thrust upon him, he's basically answered. The biggest surprise to me is not only all the talent he has, but the type of guys he's been off the court. He's been special in that way."

McGrady and Grant Hill, another free-agent acquisition, were expected to lead Orlando into title contention this season. But when Hill missed all but four games because of ankle problems, the pressure fell on McGrady's shoulders.

"Everybody looked toward me to really step up and carry this team," McGrady said. "And that's what I've always wanted. I think I did a pretty good job of that."

Behind McGrady's all-around play, the Magic posted a record of 43-39, a two-game improvement from the previous season, and reached the playoffs after a year's absence.

The Magic play the Milwaukee Bucks in the third game of their opening-round series on Saturday night. Milwaukee has a 2-0 lead and can eliminate Orlando with a victory.

McGrady is averaging a league-best 34 points in the playoffs.

Related information
Bucks look to close out Orlando in Magic's kingdom
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