McGrady surprised at Byrant's scrape with the law

Updated: August 7, 2003, 3:24 PM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tracy McGrady is surprised that Kobe Bryant didn't know better.

"If you're married, stick with your wife," McGrady said Thursday. "Don't do anything crazy that's going to cause problems in your household. Keep a happy family."

Bryant is charged with one count of felony sexual assault on a 19-year-old worker at a Colorado hotel on June 30. The Los Angeles Lakers guard has said the sex was consensual.

"I hope he beats this and he can get back on the right track, stay focused and just concentrate on basketball," McGrady said.

Before being accused, Bryant enjoyed a sterling image and was showered with adulation from fans, advertisers and his peers -- McGrady included.

"Kobe's a great guy, he really is, and I never thought this would occur," McGrady said. "I just thought he was that perfect guy with a good, clean image.

"One minute, you're on top of the world. And then the next, endorsement people are backing off of you."

Bryant already has lost one of his many endorsement contracts; the maker of Nutella chocolate spread is phasing out ads featuring Bryant in part because of his legal troubles.

McGrady and Bryant, each a superstar at age 24, engaged in a season-long duel for the league's scoring crown.

Bryant racked up nine consecutive games in February with at least 40 points. But McGrady rose to the challenge, averaging almost 36 points that month and the next to capture the title with 32.1 points per game to Bryant's 30.

"You'd hear everywhere, 'Who's the better player out of Kobe and T-Mac," McGrady said. "It just so happened you had those guys going for the scoring race, just competing every night at a high level. I thought it was good for the league."

The two were to play together on the U.S. Olympic qualifying team later this month, but Bryant pulled out of the tournament less than a week after the charge was filed against him July 18. He still plans to play for the U.S. team at the 2004 Olympics.

"Hopefully, a lot of fans tune into what we're doing over there in Puerto Rico and not so much worrying about what Kobe's going through," said McGrady, who will be making his debut in international competition. "Every time you turn on the channel, it's Kobe this, Kobe that. Hopefully, we can draw some of that attention to us."

Replacing Bryant on the U.S. team is McGrady's distant cousin, Toronto guard Vince Carter. The two played together on the Raptors for two seasons before McGrady signed with Orlando as a free agent in August 2000.

The Olympic qualifying tournament begins Aug. 20 in San Juan.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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