Rockets swingman Tracy McGrady, recovering sooner than initially expected from back spasms, returned for last night's game against the Nets and scored 35 points in their 99-91 win over the Nets.

The five-time all-star played in the Rockets' season-opening victory over the Kings and was projected to miss three weeks.

Instead, he was out only three games, all losses.

"I've been out six days and it's tough to get myself back into great playing shape," McGrady said. "It's going to be a test to see how I handle it tonight. The back is fine, no pain, no tightness."

McGrady returns just in time for Coach Jeff Van Gundy. "I think our game stinks when it counts the most," Van Gundy said. "It's random, undisciplined, helter-skelter, Rockets gone wild."

McGrady will provide a steadying influence, as he proved last night.

"What I do is keep the team under control," McGrady said. "The ball is in my hands more so than anybody else. I control the game and how it's played."

* SIDELINED: Grizzlies G Damon Stoudamire was held out of last night's game against the Hawks with an ankle injury.

Stoudamire turned his left ankle during Memphis's loss at Cleveland on Friday night, but was able to continue playing. The injury was not believed to be serious, and he was not listed on the pregame injury report. Stoudamire had more discomfort before the game, prompting the late lineup change.

Bobby Jackson made his first start of the season, replacing Stoudamire.

Stoudamire is averaging 8.5 points and 4.5 assists. The injury prevented Stoudamire from playing against his cousin, Hawks rookie backup G Salim Stoudamire, who also went to Arizona, for the first time.

-- From News Services

Tracy McGrady, left, had been projected to miss 3 weeks because of back spasms.