Years of carrying the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic are beginning to take their toll on Tracy McGrady.
T-Mac is far from done, but there are legitimate concerns as McGrady embarks on his 11th season in the NBA.
Incredibly, McGrady will turn 30 next year, having joined the league of millionaire hoopsters as a teenager with the Raptors in 1997.
He led the Rockets in scoring last season with a 21.6 average -- albeit his lowest since his final season in Toronto -- but injuries to his back, shoulder and knee have prevented him from practising at full speed with Houston.
The trouble with Tracy is that he refuses to defer, a common trait among players who believe they are that good.
McGrady remains an elite player because he can get off virtually any shot he wants and can score in the post and on the perimeter.
But Father Time is beginning to catch up to T-Mac, whose window of leaving a legacy is closing slowly, and he is at an age where he has to start paying closer attention to his body.
On the weekend, McGrady was encouraged by the fact that he was able to complete a full practice for the second day in a row. And the Rockets are hopeful of having their star in the lineup when they open the regular season a week today against the Memphis Grizzlies.
T-Mac also must change both his game and his approach. The point forward is becoming a lost position in today's game, where point guards are more inclined to shoot than pass. McGrady, much like Scottie Pippen before him, has an opportunity to assume that role. He can see over defenders and, in late shot clock situations, is more than capable of creating.
In Houston, the Rockets have a problem, but it's one that can be corrected by being prudent and patient.
They figure to be one of the better teams in the NBA this season but, like many, ultimately will be judged by post-season success. The addition of Ron Artest by the Rockets will help McGrady shoulder the burden, as will a healthy Yao Ming, who is coming off foot surgery.
But as he approaches his 30th birthday, McGrady has to realize that he isn't getting any younger. His body is certainly telling him as much.
TURN FOR THE WORSE
A coach's worst fear in the pre-season is an injury to a rotation player.
Already this exhibition season, ankle injuries have stricken the likes of Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams, all point guards whose teams rely on their leadership.
Williams' setback is considered the most problematic on a Utah team that should be among the elite in the West.
Nash is a two-time league MVP and Billups, another ex-Raptor, is an NBA final MVP.
Williams, assuming his ankle sprain doesn't linger, should receive consideration for MVP honours.
To illustrate the depth of the Jazz and Lakers, consider that Andrei Kirilenko will be coming off the bench for Utah coach Jerry Sloan this season while, in L.A., Lamar Odom will serve as Phil Jackson's sixth man.
The recently announced retirement of Jason Williams proves just how bad Stu Jackson was in running the Vancouver Grizzlies. Jackson traded Mike Bibby for Williams, who will go down in history as one of the most three-point happy players of all time.
It boggles the mind that Williams actually won a championship ring riding shotgun with Dwyane Wade in Miami.