The seven-time All-Star underwent a risky microfracture procedure on his left knee on Feb. 24, and doctors said his recovery could take up to 12 months. McGrady said he hasn't set a date for his return, but he can already run and jump several weeks ahead of doctors' expectations.
"It's only seven months out, post-op," McGrady said at the Rockets' media day Monday. "It's not time to really rush it back. Confidence-wise, running, cutting, jumping -- I have that right now."
General manager Daryl Morey said McGrady will have an MRI exam Nov. 23, and the team will have a better feel for when he'll return after that.
"We're just taking it each step at a time," Morey said. "If he can play after Nov. 23, I think he'll still be ahead of schedule. But we don't know what the MRI is going to show."
Yao Ming, Houston's other seven-time All-Star, was a no-show as he recovers from surgery to repair a hairline fracture in his left foot.
Yao isn't expected to play this season. When the Rockets open training camp on Tuesday, they'll hardly resemble the team that pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the second round of the playoffs last year.
"So much has changed. The people that we're missing are huge pieces," coach Rick Adelman said. "It's going to be interesting to see how the guys respond. We've become a very young team, guys are going to have to accept different roles and we're going to have to see what people can do."
Adelman will leave it to the doctors to tell him when McGrady can come back.
"If he can play, that'd be terrific," Adelman said. "If Tracy McGrady can get healthy and play, he's going to make my life a lot easier."
McGrady played in only 35 games last season, opting for season-ending surgery at the All-Star break. The Rockets made a surprising late-season run without him, then knocked off Portland in the playoffs before taking on the Lakers.
McGrady spent his summer in Chicago, rehabilitating with Tim Grover, the former personal trainer of Michael Jordan. McGrady called the grueling workouts "the hardest thing I ever had to go through" and conceded that he passed out from exhaustion during one of the sessions.
"He pushed me to a level that I've never been," McGrady said. "There was a point that he saw where I was going to be before I even saw it. It took me a while to really understand and really gain the confidence in myself that I was going to reach that level."
McGrady said from the first day of training camp last year that he wasn't totally healthy. He averaged 15.6 points and five assists per game, but was sluggish and tentative on the court.
He said dealing with his balky knee every day wore him down mentally, and he started to lose his desire to play.
"Going through that injury and going through just everything last season, I got frustrated," he said. "When you've got to deal with injuries like that, it's hard to love the game of basketball, it's hard to get up in the morning and go play a game, because you can't be yourself.
"That's how it was last year," he said. "It was hard to come here, knowing that I can't be me."
McGrady is entering the final year of his contract but said he's not thinking about his future beyond this season. He is switching to No. 3 as his uniform number, in reference to his documentary, 3 Points, which addresses the Darfur crisis in Africa. No. 1 will go to Ariza.
McGrady acknowledged that he probably shouldn't have played at all last season and said he won't come back before doctors say he can.
"I don't want to rush anything," he said. "When I feel like I can go every day without having to play a night and then sit out, until I feel that way, I'm not going to play."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.