Tracy McGrady broke the news of his imminent return via his Facebook account, which may be an NBA first.
Another first - T-Mac and the Rockets were actually on the same page, and McGrady actually appeared when he said he would. McGrady and Rockets management have disagreed - often publicly -- on a just about every issue relating to his injury, treatment and schedule for his return. It wouldn't have been at all surprising if Rick Adelman left McGrady on the bench last night, even after his much-anticipated status update.
His performance didn't really live up to the hype, though. McGrady played just eight minutes in the game, took two shots and hit one of them - a three-pointer. Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks led Houston with 23 points each, as the Rockets beat Detroit, 107-93.
With Trevor Ariza sitting out a one-game suspension for going all "WWE" on Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, rookie Chase Budinger made his first career start and played well, racking up 16 points, 12 boards and 5 assists in 40 minutes.
The Rockets' hot start -- they entered last night's game with a 13-10 record despite the absence of their two highest-paid players, McGrady and Yao Ming - has been one of the best stories of the NBA season to date. They're playing an unselfish brand of basketball and winning without superstars, and it seems clear that Adelman isn't looking forward to adding McGrady to the mix.
That, of course, sets up the next disagreement. Eight-minute cameos won't satisfy McGrady for long.
Houston does have other options. McGrady has the largest contract in the NBA this year - but it expires after the season. That makes him one of the most sought-after players in trade talks - Miami is reportedly interested in pairing T-Mac with D-Wade, while building even more flexibility to make deals in 2010.
As a Houston Rocket, my guess is no, except, perhaps, in the deepest leagues. But if he's traded, there's a chance he could produce useful numbers - depending, of course, on the team and his role. I can seem him playing quality minutes as a sort of point forward in Miami down the stretch - but I'm not at all convinced that the Heat have what it will take to pry such a valuable commodity away from Houston.
The most popular adds in ESPN NBA.com Leagues this week:
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who will typically be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers. The third batch of players will be guys I've mentioned in previous columns that still seem to be available in a lot of leagues and worth a look.
All "percent owned" stats are taken from ESPN NBA.com Fantasy Basketball - your mileage may vary.
Leandro Barbosa (32.3% owned) - Barbosa (sprained ankle) is expected back at Christmas - which, as someone who hasn't finished his shopping can attest - is sooner than you think.
Beno Udrih (28.6% owned) - Donte Greene continues to start for the Kings, but Udrih is putting up far superior numbers while coming off the bench. Udrih had 17 points, five assists and two steals in 31 minutes on Tuesday.
Chris Andersen (14.0% owned) - The Nuggets went with a short rotation in Monday, which meant more minutes for "the Birdman." He responded with his first double-double of the year. If George Karl sticks with the three-man bench, Andersen could be very valuable.
Courtney Lee (21.7% owned) - Lee is making major contributions in the steal category - typically one of the tougher stat columns to fill. He had three more in Friday's game against the Pacers, and is averaging 2.1 per game on the year.
Jarrett Jack (11.5% owned) - Jack is putting up excellent numbers while filling in for the injured Jose Calderon, and playing well enough that some observers are suggesting he should hang on to the starting job even after Calderon gets healthy.
Tyler Hansbrough (5.1% owned) - Indiana's rookie forward is averaging 13 points and 5.8 boards in his last five games, including three straight outings with 17 or more points.
Marreese Speights (3.0 % owned) - Speights (knee) is participating in practices now, and is hoping to return sooner than his original target date of December 26. Before the injury, he was Philly's most effective big man and could push Sam Dalembert for a starting job.
Article first appeared on 12/16/09