TORONTO - A decade after he left Canada for his hometown team in Orlando, Tracy McGrady said he could understand why Toronto Raptors star Chris Bosh might want to return to the United States when he becomes a free agent this summer.
"Maybe he wants to start off fresh with another franchise, or maybe he's doing it for tax reasons," McGrady said Friday, before his New York Knicks tipped off in Toronto.
"I'm not speaking (for) Chris Bosh, 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."
Toronto took McGrady with the ninth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, when he was still a teenager right out of high school. His ascent to stardom was only beginning when he left the Raptors after the 1999-00 season, returning home to Florida as a free agent to play with the Orlando Magic.
Bosh is set to become a free agent this summer, part of a banner crop that will include the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Bosh, who has spent the entirety of his seven-season NBA career with the Raptors, has kept his intentions a closely guarded secret.
"Some guys do it for different reasons," McGrady said. "He's been here for quite some time now, and he's personally been successful. The team really hasn't done that much."
Bosh was not available for comment Friday morning because he missed the team's usual pre-game workout with what was described as "an upset stomach." The 25-year-old was to be evaluated in the afternoon, having already missed Toronto's previous six games with a sprained left ankle.
McGrady was said to have been courted by both the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat when he was weighing his future in Toronto. The native of Auburndale, Fla., said at the time he chose Orlando so he could be closer to home.
He went on to lead the NBA in scoring twice, in 2002-03 and 2003-04, and has been a seven-time NBA All-Star Game selection. But he has never won a playoff series in seven attempts.
The Knicks acquired McGrady in a trade last month to position themselves to be players in the free agent market this summer. New York took on the 30-year-old's US$23-million salary because his contract is expiring this year, which will give the team plenty of space under the league's salary cap.
Speaking with reporters in the visiting dressing room at the Air Canada Centre Friday morning, McGrady described his rookie season with the Raptors as "definitely a challenging moment in my life."
"It was very tough," he said. "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."