After an injury-plagued 2005-06, Tracy McGrady bounced back last season. Two games into 2007-08, he looks determined to elevate his game again.
McGrady looks to continue his hot start on Saturday night when the Houston Rockets go for their first 3-0 start in more than a decade in their home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers.
McGrady shot a career-low 40.6 percent from the field while limited to 47 games by a back injury in 2005-06. Despite concerns about ongoing back troubles last season, he played in 71 games - averaging 24.6 points, a career-high 6.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent.
He's been even better in the early part of this season. He had 30 points in a season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, then scored 47 to lead the Rockets (2-0) to a 106-95 victory over Utah on Thursday. Houston hasn't lost under new coach Rick Adelman, who replaced Jeff Van Gundy in the offseason.
"This is the start of a new season. I'm just feeling good mentally, physically and having fun playing basketball with my new teammates and coaching staff," said McGrady, who's 27-for-47 (57.4 percent) from the field. "This is a fun system to play in."
Adelman was just as complimentary of his star player, who's among the early league leaders in free throws made and attempted.
"Tracy was just unbelievable," Adelman said. "What I liked about him was he had a really good mix. He made jumpers, but he attacked the basket and went to the free throw line."
McGrady's strong start has the Rockets in position to open a season with three straight wins for the first time since 1996-97, when Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley led them to a 57-25 regular-season record before a Western Conference finals loss to the Jazz.
McGrady, though, is careful not to take too much stock in Houston's early success.
"It doesn't really mean anything. It's only the second game of the season," he said.
The Blazers (0-2) will gladly downplay the importance of the season's first games, which they've lost by an average of 14.5 points. They're shooting 49.1 percent from the field as a team, but giving up 109.5 points per game.
Last season's rookie of the year Brandon Roy, who struggled in the season opener, had 23 points while shooting 10-for-15 from the field on Friday, but Portland's other starters combined to shoot 9-for-31 as the Blazers fell 113-93 at New Orleans.
"We didn't play well. They were the aggressors," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "When you leave the perimeter open against these guys, they have shooters who can knock down shots. ... They picked us apart."
The Rockets and Blazers split four meetings last season, but the Rockets won both games in which McGrady played. He averaged 30 points while shooting 51.2 percent from the field.
Roy had 24 points in the Blazers' 85-78 win at the Toyota Center on April 6 - their first victory in seven games in Houston since the beginning of the 2003-04 season.
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