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McGrady, Carter and Oakley look back on time with Raptors

TSN.ca Staff

11/3/2011 11:00:30 PM

You can't convince Tracy McGrady of any other result had he been around for the Raptors' 2001 second round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I think it would have been something special. There is not one per cent of doubt in my mind when those guys played Philadelphia in Game 7: had I been part of that team, there's no question we would have advance and gone to the Finals that year. There's no question in my mind," said McGrady on Off The Record.

"We had the perfect situation, the perfect chemistry. I do think about that."

That being said, there are no regrets for his decision that set in motion the demise of an era of Raptors basketball.

McGrady, Vince Carter and Charles Oakley - three cornerstones from those cherished Toronto teams - joined Michael Landsberg on Thursday for a reunion and a chance to reminisce.

While most of the memories continue to be fond, the underlying theme of the get together was 'What If?'

"I'll say this ... I can recall one All-Star game, even a couple of road games. We sat together talking about 'what if?'," said Carter, who's since played with the Nets, Magic and Suns since his most successful campaigns in Toronto. "I think it was just the wow factor. That team that we had was a very good team. You look at the veterans we had throughout the course of my time there: Antonio Davis, Doug Christie at one time, Dee Brown, Alvin Williams, Muggsy Bogues, Mark Jackson … we had a great nucleus of guys. We accomplished a goal that was never reached in Toronto (a playoff berth), which is always going to bring up the 'what if'?"

Oakley believed that the team that was assembled - two burgeoning stars surrounded by a veteran core on a team where everyone knew their role - was the perfect recipe to win a championship.

"No doubt. We just had something special. All the guys got along, that was the key," Oakley said.

The Raptors drafted McGrady with the ninth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. A year later, the team swapped picks with Golden State to acquire Carter, who the Warriors took with the fifth overall selection. That same season, the Raptors traded for the 35-year-old Oakley. With the two youngsters emerging as two of the best players in the NBA, the Raptors broke through in 2000 for their first ever playoff berth, getting swept in the first round by the Knicks.

That offseason, McGrady was dealt in a sign-and-trade to the Orlando Magic.

Carter stayed, and led the Raptors to within one missed shot of the Conference Final in 2001, where they fell to Allen Iverson and the 76ers.

Oakley was not retained for another season, and the Raptors never reached the playoffs again in the Carter era. He was eventually traded to the New Jersey Nets midway through the 2004-05 season. 

"They should have brought that team back together. You lose like that, you just don't separate. You bring that team back, to get a chance to go back," he said.

While Oakley continues to be a fan favourite, Carter and McGrady have consistently felt the chorus of boos from Raptors fans every time they play against Toronto, a grudge that still exists to this day.

Both players said they take great pride in performing, especially in front of the hostile fans, but hold no ill-will towards the city, or the organization.

"It didn't hurt me one bit. I really embraced it. I felt like (the booing showed) they really cared about me," McGrady said. "When I came back, I was going to put it in their face, for booing me. I was going to try and silence them every chance that I got. But I still got a lot of love for Toronto, that's where it all started, and my heart is still there."

"They watched myself and Tracy grow up. And when we left they still got to see (us) flourish and become (who we are). For me, I looked at it as, a young child growing up into a grown man and moving on. And I get it. Leaving, hurt a lot of people. And it hurt me."