T-Mac is Back

McGrady on return: 'I feel the difference'

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Tracy McGrady pulled the plug on himself when he didn't like the way his body responded to eight minutes of play in the preseason opener. He played five-on-five basketball for the first time since that Oct. 5 game on Sunday, 19 days later, and liked the results a lot more this time around.

"During the course of the preseason, I was able to strengthen my leg, get my body in good shape and do some things to strengthen other areas around my knee and kind of take the load off," he said after a two-hour practice with the 2010-11 opener at New Jersey three days away. "Working with Arnie (Kander) has been a blessing. I can't thank him enough and to come out here today, I feel the difference.

"It was a pretty good day. I got a chance to go up and down, contact, five on five. Felt pretty good. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but for the most part I think I was moving well."

"Tracy had a good practice," John Kuester said. "He played with great intelligence out there and he obviously can pick things up pretty easily. We'll take it day by day. We want him for the long run. I was very encouraged by what I saw today."

McGrady said after Friday's preseason finale that he anticipated he would be ready to go for Sunday's practice - the Pistons took Saturday off - and Kuester, also on Friday, said he would need to see McGrady play in five-on-five situations before considering whether he would be able to help the Pistons at New Jersey.

McGrady wasn't the only Piston who returned to the court after a rash of injuries reduced Kuester's options to nine able-bodied players for the final two preseason games. Will Bynum (hamstring) and Jason Maxiell (knee) also returned. Ben Gordon, who bruised his left shoulder in a collision with Memphis' Marc Gasol on Friday, participated in part of practice and also did conditioning work.

If everybody's healthy, Kuester has as many as 11 candidates for the playing rotation: point guards Rodney Stuckey and Bynum, shooting guards Rip Hamilton and Gordon, small forwards Tayshaun Prince and McGrady and five players up front - Ben Wallace, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye, Greg Monroe and Maxiell.

"We have an idea, but we'll see how the next couple of practices go," Kuester said. "We're constantly going to be evaluating for the entire year. You're going to see things that happen and all of a sudden, 'Why did you put him in?' Well, he's been practicing great. It's a long season and as you witnessed last year, lots of players got an opportunity to play."