The Houston Rockets acknowledge they are trying to trade Tracy McGrady, after the two-time scoring champion's representatives asked the team to deal him.
General manager Daryl Morey said Tuesday the two sides have had "multiple conversations" and that the Rockets "have agreed to look into trade opportunities and have granted him an indefinite leave from team activities."
McGrady was unhappy with his playing time in six games since returning from off-season knee surgery and left the team before two road games over the weekend.
The seven-time all-star is due to make about $23 million US this season in the last year of his contract.
McGrady played a total of 46 minutes in six games this season, his first action since undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee on Feb. 24.
While McGrady had been insisting since training camp that he was ready to play again, the Rockets were hesitant to return him to the regular rotation.
Houston coach Rick Adelman said before Tuesday's game against New Orleans that McGrady never progressed to the point where he was ready to increase his minutes.
"He's been hurt for over a year," Adelman said. "The thing that people want to write about is who he was two years ago and he isn't that right now.
"We have a whole team here and it's not just about what he wants or what he was going to want or what was going to happen. It was about what can he do to help us win and that was the bottom line to me."
Houston is off to a surprising 18-13 start and Adelman said it became increasingly clear that McGrady didn't fit with the Rockets or the up-tempo style they're playing.
"He wanted to play, he wanted to push it," Adelman said. "Unfortunately, you've got to deal with the whole group, not just one individual.
"He's coming back from major surgery, he's rehabilitating and who knows when he's going to get there. Right now, he wasn't there.
"I don't think the explosiveness was there," Adelman said. "He didn't get to the basket like he used to, he didn't have that first step where he could blow by people.
"It wasn't unexpected to me. But we don't know what timetable he has or if it's going to come back."
McGrady averaged 7.7 minutes in his six games and hit only 7-of-19 shots in his brief return. He was granted permission to leave the team before weekend games in New Jersey and Cleveland and returned to Houston.
In February, doctors said McGrady would need up to 12 months to fully heal. Adelman said he stuck to that timeline all along, figuring McGrady still needed a month or more. He said McGrady wanted to accelerate that timeline, and that led to the impasse over playing time.
"I had to make that decision as to when to bring him back," Adelman said. "We looked at it and he wasn't satisfied with that, so we decided to go this way.
"We'll see what happens now."
"It didn't work out'
The Rockets acquired McGrady in June 2004, hoping that he would team with Yao Ming and return the franchise to prominence, but his five-season tenure was marked more by injuries than team success.
He averaged 25.7 points and 5.5 assists in his first season, but the Rockets lost to Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets also lost in the first round in 2007 and 2008 and the blame for the failures, whether deserved or not, increasingly fell on McGrady, who's 0-7 in post-season series.
His health had become an annual issue since 2005-06, when he missed 34 games with back injuries that lingered into the following season.
He hurt his elbow and his knee early in the 2007-08 season and missed a total of 16 games. He was in and out of the lineup last season and finally opted for the risky, season-ending surgery around the all-star break.
Without him, the Rockets won their first playoff series since 1997, then fought the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the second round.
McGrady spent the summer working with Tim Grover, Michael Jordan's former trainer. The Rockets, meanwhile, acquired Trevor Ariza to fill McGrady's role in the lineup. Ariza even took McGrady's No. 1 and is the Rockets' third-leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game.
The Rockets already knew they'd play this season without Yao, who underwent foot surgery after the season. They've survived this season playing a scrappy, energetic style and relying on balanced scoring. McGrady's locker was cleaned out before Tuesday's game, except for a pile of white towels, a pair of gym shoes and two pairs of socks.
"His reputation in this league is tremendous as far as his talent," Adelman said. "But what you can do on the floor is what we have to look at.
"It didn't work out. He wanted more minutes and I just did not know what the answer was.
"I wanted to be positive that whatever we did was going to go in the right direction for this team," Adelman said. "When we sat him down, he decided he wanted to move on and maybe that's the best thing."