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McGrady coping with undisclosed personal problems

HOUSTON -- All-Star weekend has come to Houston during one
of the worst times of Tracy McGrady's life.

The 26-year-old Rockets star, who'll play in his sixth All-Star
game Sunday, won't divulge what's bothering him, but said his
personal crisis is as trying as anything he's ever faced.

"I'm human, I'm going through some things in my life, things
I've got to deal with, and I'm just trying to handle it the best
way I can," McGrady said. "It's wearing and tearing at me. This
weight has gotten heavy for me and it's taking a toll."

Even Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy is concerned, making a recent
unscheduled visit to McGrady's house to talk to him about his
issues. McGrady told Van Gundy he was considering taking some games
off and disappearing from public life.

"I told my coach that's how I felt -- that I really felt like
leaving and not tell people where I was going, just getting away
for a few days and just clearing my mind," McGrady said. "I need
peace of mind right now. It's all just piled up on me and broken me
down."

McGrady has missed 13 games this season with back spasms and
left another game in late December to see his fiancee, Clerenda
Harris, give birth to their second child, a son.

But McGrady wouldn't say whether the issues were health-related
or who they involve.

"I've dealt with family members passing away, best friends
getting killed," McGrady said. "This is a lot worse than that
because it's a combination of things in different areas.

"I'm in a tough stage of my life right now."

Whatever is bothering him, it's affected his play.

In his last 12 games, McGrady has shot worse than 32 percent
from the field six times, including a 4-for-15 night in Houston's
109-75 loss to Phoenix on Thursday. He went 3-for-20 against New
York last Sunday and refused to speak to reporters afterward.

"At times, I don't even want to be in the arena or a uniform,"
McGrady said. "It's just been so frustrating. In the past, I've
usually done a great job of keeping things to myself and really not
letting things affect me.

"I am going through some things and it does affect my
professional life. I try not to let it, but I can't really control
it."
McGrady had planned to skip Friday's media availability. Friends
convinced him to go and McGrady said he hopes the weekend
festivities in his backyard will take his mind off the personal
problems.

"It really took a lot for me to come down here with the things
that are going on," McGrady said. "They told me it was the best
thing for me and I realize this is in the city I perform in every
night."

McGrady said friends are helping him work through the issues,
and he feels better than he did a few days ago.

"There, for a while, I wasn't really myself in games, after
games, and everybody noticed it," he said. "I just felt like
sharing with people what I was going through -- things that wear and
tear on me physically and emotionally."

Across the room, McGrady's All-Star teammate, Yao Ming, was
answering less personal questions -- most of them in Chinese. A
swarm of Asian media mobbed the 7-foot-6 Yao, the top vote-getter
for the All-Star game, as soon as he ducked under a black curtain
and appeared in a hotel ballroom.

Yao will play in his fourth All-Star game and compared his
experiences since he was drafted in 2002 to earning a college
education.

"The NBA life has made me grow up a lot," Yao said. "I have
not just grown up in my basketball skills, it's made me stronger
and tougher."

For one thing, he's become more confident in his English, doing
interviews without a translator for the first time this season.

"It's getting a lot easier," Yao said. "I'm getting used to
it."