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Tuesday September 30, 2008 6:13 PM

Training Camp Begins


McGrady and Yao on the road to recovery

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - There's been a lot of talk - and rightfully so - about the Rockets' offseason additions of Ron Artest, Brent Barry and Joey Dorsey. Everybody wants to know the new guys; especially since their mere presence offers the promise and potential of bigger and better things.

And yet, while there's no denying the importance of that threesome, this Rockets team ultimately remains reliant upon the dynamic duo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. They are the superstars, the lightning rods and the foundation upon which all else has been built. At the end of the season, fair or unfair, they'll receive the lion's share of the credit or blame for whatever fate befalls the team. Both players know and accept this. It comes with the job.

It's also why fans and media members devour and dissect every bit of information when it comes to their health. McGrady created a bit of a stir on media day when he revealed that his surgically-repaired left knee was only at about "75 to 80%" while his surgically-repaired left shoulder suffers from arthritis. To be sure, that's hardly ideal news for Rockets fans. But it's also worth noting that T-Mac spent the two weeks prior to training camp participating in scrimmages at the Toyota Center practice facility. So it's not as if we're talking about a player on his death bed here.

"I feel pretty good," says McGrady. "I aint ready to play, but as far as getting up and down the court, I can do that. My lateral movement is a little difficult right now and jumping is a little difficult, but I can get up and down the court... Talking to the doctors, I had an MRI done during our physicals and they say I can’t hurt anything, and that’s a good thing to hear."

As for Yao, the news is even better. He's already declared himself completely recovered from the foot fracture he suffered in February.

"I can't wait to go, for the first preseason game, the first regular-season game," says Yao. "The Olympics was a very good tryout for me to prepare for the Rockets season. Some Chinese fans probably won't be happy, but that's just being honest. It feels great to come out of the injury. I had a good recovery. I feel fresh and ready for next season."

And as coach Rick Adelman alluded to on media day, part of keeping Yao fresh means getting the big man to ease up on his rigorous workout regimen.

"I need to learn something from the last three years, seriously," says Yao. "Maybe I need to be careful with my pregame workout or something, lay down a little bit, not get my body too tired before a game. Let's try some new schedules, put my best shape into the game."

And if he and T-Mac can do that, then they - and everyone else - can fully focus on the fun stuff; you know, like integrating those new guys into the gameplan.

"We’ve got a great group of guys, we really do," says McGrady. "We’ve got guys who are very unselfish and that’s a good thing to have. When you’ve got coachable guys and guys who are willing to sacrifice, it’s quite easy to put it together.

"I think the most important thing is that each one of us has to sacrifice something. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. I think we all have to sacrifice. There’s going to be some nights, because we have so much talent and guys who can do so much for us, that I’m going to have to sacrifice on the offensive end, because we can have different guys each night able to score and carry the load. But the most important thing is that we get great chemistry going right away and I think, as difficult as our schedule is, we’re a great team… on paper. Now we’ve got to put that together in training camp."

And 1's: It's no secret that the Rockets face a brutal schedule to start the season. It represents a challenge to be sure, but also an opportunity to send a statement to the rest of the league. Says McGrady: "I think if we take care of our business and come out with a little swagger then, yeah, when it comes that time toward the end of the season, we’ll feel like we belong.

Newly re-signed Carl Landry is happy to be back in Houston and says his much-discussed knee issues are not a concern: "This team is definitely a special team if we put all the pieces together. Houston is my first love, the first team I ever played for, and I love the city, the team, the guys in the organization and everything about the Houston Rockets, so I’m happy.

"My knee, I’ve passed several examinations on it and they say the bruise and the things that were happening last year are completely gone. They say that I have the exact same knee now that I had before the injury. That brought a smile to my face and I’m pain free and one hundred percent and just ready to get this thing rolling."

Coach Adelman on rookie big man Joey Dorsey: "Any big guy coming into the NBA, the toughest thing for them is defensively. He may think he’s a good defender, but he hasn’t played in this league yet and he’s got to understand what he’s got to do. But like any other player, he’s got to play to his strengths. He’s very aggressive, he’s athletic, he’s quick – he’s gotta learn how to use those."

Have a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com.