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Tracy McGrady is impressed by his growing and appreciative Chinese fan base, but not enough to stay in China for the CBA All-Star Game.
McGrady, CBA's the high-profile import with the Qingdao Eagles, has enjoyed huge support from Chinese diehards during the two-month regular season, but won't be able to pay them back with an All-Star appearance.
The former NBA scoring champion announced on Monday that he won't take part in this weekend's All-Star Game although he earned 2,218,388 votes to lead the poll.
"Unfortunately, I won't be able to play in the game as I have been dealing with the sickness of my grandmother for a few weeks. She is the most influential person in my life and I will be flying home to spend time with her. Hope you all understand my predicament," McGrady said on his micro blog.
Although Qingdao's manager, Sheng Xishun, said in a Beijing Youth Daily report that McGrady's All-Star appearance "won't be a problem", McGrady declined the invitation.
"I never announced anything. How could the club make the decision for me?" he responded to a question about his availability for the All-Star Game at practice on Sunday.
McGrady averaged 25 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game but the Eagles finished last in the league with a disappointing 8-24 record.
Missing out on the playoffs, McGrady's fourth-month China adventure ended in sharp contrast to his preseason ambition of bringing a league title to the eastern coastal city.
Still, his last performance, against league powerhouse the Guangdong Southern Tigers, lured hundreds of Guangdong fans to the final practice session. Many were dressed in his jersey and waved posters while waiting for a glimpse of their idol.
Even Guangdong's head coach, Du Feng, asked McGrady for an autograph for a "T-Mac fan".
The former Houston Rockets' All-Star forward, who became one of the most recognized NBA players in China after playing alongside hoops icon Yao Ming from 2005-10, praised his Chinese fan base.
"From the first to the last game, my fans have made my journey the best experience any athlete can imagine. You all have made it worth it. You have truly inspired me to work harder and playing here in China has helped me regain my love for this game," said the 33-year-old.