Tracy McGrady Makes His Season Debut
Rick Adelman, who downplayed the possibility of McGrady's return when asked by reporters on Monday, didn't tell McGrady he was playing until after McGrady arrived to the arena 90 minutes before tip-off.
"It surprised me," he said. "I went in there and talked to him, he said he was going to play me about seven minutes and just try to work our way through this. Tonight was that night."
For McGrady, it was a night that couldn't come fast enough. Sidelined since last February after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee, McGrady was eager several weeks ago -- and was clearly annoyed when Adelman refused to give him a timetable.
But all of that is in the past, and McGrady seems happy to be living in the moment.
"It's been so long since I've played, it was just a great feeling to be back on the court," McGrady said. "Just to get up and down the court with these guys and to be back out there competing is what I missed. To have that back, finally, and feel good and have fun doing it, there's nothing better."
The Rockets are obviously intent on bringing McGrady along slowly, so it's unclear when he might return to the starting lineup. Fortunately, there's no rush, especially after seeing how well rookie Chase Budinger played in his first career start. Filling in for the suspended Ariza, Budinger played 40 minutes, the most of his young career, and tallied 16 points (6-11 shooting) with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Budinger, the 44th overall pick last June, has experienced the ups and downs you'd expect from any rookie (he's shooting .412 on the season) but seems to be hitting his stride: he's broken double-digit scoring in five of the last seven games, shooting .483 in the process.