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Tracy McGrady's return harmful?

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Modified: November 29, 2009 at 6:06 pm •  Published: November 29, 2009
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No Yao Ming. No Ron Artest.

No chance for the playoffs?

That was the pre-season consensus on Houston.

The Rockets, though, are proving the sum sometimes can be greater than individual parts. Rick Adelman, one of the league’s underrated coaches, has Houston playing .500 basketball heading into tonight’s game in the Ford Center.

But how will early season momentum be affected once Tracy McGrady returns?

McGrady underwent microfracture knee surgery in February and says he’s ready to play. Team officials say he’s not. Which has some asking an intriguing question: Could McGrady actually hamper the Rockets, who are thriving with a new up-tempo style?

"There’s no doubt he’ll damage the good thing they’ve got going,” said New York Post NBA writer Peter Vecsey. "I love the way they’re moving the ball, sharing shots, setting honest-to-goodness picks. Who needs even a healthy McGrady hoisting up 3s without anyone else touching it?”

After he was told by team management he’s not healthy enough to play, McGrady accused team owner Leslie Alexander of wanting to collect insurance money rather than let him suit up.

Assuming McGrady, 30, is covered under the league’s temporary disability policy used for most stars, the Rockets were eligible to collect 80 percent of his per-game salary once he missed 41 consecutive games. That date arrived two weeks ago.

In theory, the Rockets are collecting roughly $225,000 every game McGrady doesn’t play the remainder of the season.

McGrady, earning a league-high $23.2 million this season, has missed 129 games with back and knee problems in six seasons with Houston.

Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice said the organization doesn’t want to alter the rotation until they’re convinced McGrady is fully healed.

"He wants to finish his rehab in games.