McGrady, Adelman disagree on role

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tracy McGrady left the Houston Rockets and returned home Saturday after being told by coach Rick Adelman that despite McGrady's wishes, his playing time would not increase.

In a strange twist to a story that has had its share of weird plot turns, the Rockets said McGrady received the team's permission to fly back to Houston, in part so that be could be home for his the birthday of his young son, Laymen.

But there clearly was an impasse between McGrady and Adelman about what the next step should be in McGrady's comeback from microfracture knee surgery, and the Rockets said the situation would be readdressed Monday after the team returns home from a back-to-back set against New Jersey and Cleveland.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out: Where do we go, and still keeping the rest of the guys moving forward?" Adelman said. "It's kind of a balancing act in trying to figure it all out, and I do not have the magic answer. I wish I did."

McGrady played short stints of 7 or 8 minutes in each of Houston's previous six games, then asked that his workload be increased. Adelman refused, and the situation reached a new juncture after the team's morning shootaround Tuesday.

"I'm a player, man," McGrady told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't make these decisions. I just abide by whatever they bring to me. That's the plan. I'm not going to argue and fight with them -- just run with it. I felt it was time [to increase the routine of playing seven to eight first-half minutes].

"I'm not going to cause any confusion or confrontations. As a player, that's what I felt. They obviously feel different. That's what I have to roll with."

McGrady has the highest salary ($23.2 million) of any player in the NBA and is in the final year of his contract, and several other teams assumed the Rockets were showcasing McGrady for a trade. But Houston general manager Daryl Morey has insisted that is not the case, saying the decision to bring back McGrady and limit his minutes was Adelman's, and there was no urgency whatsoever to trade McGrady.

Where the situation goes from here is a mystery.

"It's just an unknown," Adelman said. "And I don't have the answer for it. I just thought he was unhappy with that situation, and I was uncomfortable trying to go forward and jump-start it again.

"I don't blame any player for saying I want more, and that's basically what he wants, and right now I'm not sure how to do that."

This is the 30-year-old McGrady's sixth season with the Rockets, who have been one of the NBA's surprise success stories this year as they go through a season of transition without Yao Ming (foot surgery) and with McGrady two seasons removed from being a productive player. The 12-year veteran appeared in only 35 games last season before undergoing surgery on his left knee Feb. 24.

Of McGrady's six appearances this season, only one could reasonably be called a success -- a 10-point outing at home against the Clippers last Sunday.

"You know, he was a great player," Adelman said, "and you could go and run the offense through him and all the other guys benefited from it. But now if you're going to do that, because of the injury and the rehabilitation coming back, he suddenly can't do that and we can't go to that. And now that that's happened, it's tough. So we're trying to see if we can't keep a flow where he can still get his touches yet we don't have to put the whole onus on him right now, and that's the dilemma. We need to play a certain way, and he needs to get a feel for what we're doing. And we knew it was never going to be easy."

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.