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McGrady, Rockets At An Impasse Over Star's Return

News has been relatively quiet on the McGrady front since last week, but even then, it seemed a conflict might be brewing. And after McGrady's targeted return this past Wednesday came and went with no sign of the superstar on the court, it seems that the conflict has boiled over. McGrady reportedly got into a heated argument with his head coach Rick Adelman, and is having serious doubts about whether the Rockets want him back. (See earlier update?)

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story:


The argument was precipitated when McGrady arrived at the Target Center in Minneapolis so determined to have a substantive discussion with his coach that he dressed in his game uniform and undertook his pregame routine as though he hadn’t been activated after missing 41 straight games with microfracture surgery on his left knee.

As McGrady walked back to the locker room after shooting with his teammates on the court, he passed Adelman in a corridor and his appearance in uniform appeared to surprise his coach. The fact McGrady had asked the equipment manager to bring out his uniform – especially on the Nov. 18 date that he had recently told Yahoo! Sports was his target for a return – clearly had his coach’s attention. [...]

“Tracy was just determined to make Rick talk to him,” a source close to McGrady said. “That’s why he put on the uniform and went through all that. … He wanted to get his attention. He’d like to know if he’s wanted back or not.”

Sources say McGrady has started to wonder whether the Rockets want him back with this team, or whether they’ve been motivated to let him sit and collect on insurance money. Assuming that McGrady is covered under the NBA’s Temporary Total Disability (TTD) insurance policy, Houston can start to collect up to 80 percent of his prorated per-game salary after he’s missed 41 consecutive games. McGrady sat out his 42nd straight game Wednesday in Minnesota, and the league insurance plan would reimburse the Rockets for any additional missed games.

For the rest of the season, the insurance policy could cover 80 percent of his per-game salary of $282,946.

As we mentioned earlier, it's not entirely unreasonable for McGrady to wonder whether the Rockets really want him back. Just the same, it's reasonable that the Rockets don't really want him back. They've got unparalleled chemistry right now in Houston; What they've lacked in pure talent they've made up for with cohesion and effort, leading to a surprising 7-5 record. With the franchise inevitably feeling the effects of a down economy--and insurance covering most of an injured McGrady's salary--it just compounds the issue. Do the Rockets want him back? Maybe not, and it might be best for everyone if McGrady stayed away.

That is, everyone except Tracy McGrady. He's been plagued by injuries and disappointment for the better part of his 12-year career in the NBA, and last year may have been the biggest setback yet. He didn't handle the injury well and, indeed, the way he abruptly announced to the media--not the Rockets--that he'd be getting surgery was downright unprofessional. But he's still a basketball player that loves to play basketball.

So while you can understand the Rockets' stance, here, it's hard not to likewise sympathize with McGrady. He's been injured for the last 12 months, endured terrible surgery and rehab, and now, he wants to get back on the court and play. If he can't do that in Houston, then it might just have to happen elsewhere.

McGrady's $22 million salary expires after this season, and contrary to a malcontent like Stephen Jackson, this sort of conflict with Adelman is pretty much an isolated incident. Under the Adelman-Morey regime, he's bristled, but partly because there's ample evidence that neither coach nor GM really likes the superstar. Tolerates, would be more accurate. Now, though, comes the real question:

Given all this, could McGrady and his expiring salary find a home elsewhere this season?