By CHRIS DUNCAN
HOUSTON -- Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey stepped away from reporters to answer a phone call Wednesday afternoon. He returned a few minutes later with no big announcement to make.
One day before the NBA draft, the Rockets still had no picks in the first or second round.
Morey said he was listening to and considering all potential deals, including those involving injured All-Star Tracy McGrady.
"We do like some players high in the draft, where we would think about giving up some player assets," Morey said. "I wouldn't forecast that as very likely. Buying a pick looks like it's got a pretty decent chance, somewhere around 50-50, maybe a little less.
"We're just going to be opportunistic. That's how you have to be with the draft. It's difficult to do anything but that."
McGrady, the two-time scoring champion who has been largely a disappointment since he was traded from Orlando to the Rockets in June 2004, sat out the last two months of the season and the playoffs after risky microfracture surgery on his left knee.
The Rockets beat Portland in the first round, then pressed the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games without him. But Morey said he still believes the 30-year-old McGrady is a top-tier player who can carry the Rockets to a championship -- if he stays healthy.
But McGrady has one year left on his contract that will pay him over $22 million next season, an attractive offer for a team looking to clear salary before next summer's free-agent bonanza.
Morey said teams have made "very aggressive" offers to acquire McGrady, and Morey would not definitively say that the seven-time All-Star would be back in Houston in 2009-10.
"We're getting a lot of interest in Tracy, and I do have to listen," Morey said. "It's my job to make this team as ready to win the title as possible."
Morey added that a team would have to make a blockbuster offer for the Rockets to consider parting with McGrady, even though he could miss the first three months of next season to recover from his injury.
"I think the reason we are going to have a pretty high bar on moving him is cause he still provides exactly what Coach and I thought we were missing, which is a guy who can get a high-quality shot at the end of a game," Morey said. "That said, if we want to position ourselves for the playoffs, it looks like it's going to be hard for Tracy to be here for a good chunk of the year. So if we could get a talented player that helps us all season, I think we've got to look at it."
Doctors said McGrady would need 6-12 months to recover from the knee surgery, and Morey said he still doesn't have a more specific timetable.
Morey reiterated that the Rockets will not deal Yao Ming, no matter what a team might offer. A group of Chinese investors recently became minority owners of the Cleveland Cavaliers, fueling speculation that Yao might be headed there. But Morey said the Rockets will work to renew Yao's contract, which expires after next season.
Yao is back in Houston undergoing tests on his left foot, which he broke in Game 3 against the Lakers, about six weeks ago. Doctors set his recovery time at 8-12 weeks.
"We'll know when we get the results how things are progressing with his injury," Morey said.
Morey has fared well in his deals since becoming the Rockets GM in May 2007.
The Rockets drafted Aaron Brooks and traded for Carl Landry during the 2007 draft and both played key roles last season. Houston gave away its picks for this year's draft in separate deals that netted Ron Artest and Luis Scola.
Last year, the Rockets made a complicated draft-night deal that brought Joey Dorsey from Memphis and Donte Greene from Syracuse. Dorsey hardly played last season and Greene went to Sacramento in the trade that landed Artest.
Less than 36 hours before this year's draft, Morey didn't sense much momentum for a headline-grabbing trade by any teams.
"Right now, no one wants to move ahead of the draft," he said. "That's why I'm sitting here without any real answers of where we're at."