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All the reasons the Texans still have something to play for

Let's look at this from another angle. Composite image by Jack Brame.

As if everything we've dealt with in 2020 so far hasn't been hard enough, Houston sports fans have a little more that they're dealing with. We've had murder hornets, Tiger King, COVID-19, social unrest, election year, Kobe died, and the Olympics were postponed among other major events due to COVID-19. Talk about a kick in the crotch!

Add to that the fact that Houston sports fans have had to endure the Astros cheating scandal and its fallout with manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow getting fired, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni not re-signing, and general Darryl Morey stepping down, but the Texans finally liberated themselves of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. All three major pro sports franchises got rid of their head coaches and general managers. Pretty sure this has never happened in one city before.

We all know football is king in Texas. So when your team starts 1-6 while looking like they can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag if armed with an AR15, you don't have much hope. I feel your pain Texans fans. I've been there as a fan before. The uneasy feeling of hopelessness that could last for another couple seasons potentially cripples you mentally. Your fandom is called into serious question. Others openly challenge your commitment to your team when they obviously have their priorities messed up because they allow a modern-day Christian version of Littlefinger to take control of day to day operations.

So I know you're asking yourselves: why in the hell would Jermaine think there's still something to play for this season?!? I'm so glad you asked! There are a few reasons I think fans, and the team itself, shouldn't eject on this season just yet.

For starters, Deshaun Watson is your franchise quarterback. He's only 25 years old, in the midst of his fourth season, and was just signed to an extension. Paying him what they did, they need to get the most out of him at all times. This means fine-tuning and developing his game in order to maximize his output while he's under contract. I don't care who's still on staff, developing Watson, and getting him to realize his potential is the top priority.

Shedding salaries for mid to late round draft picks will only serve to add potential depth to a team that needs frontline starting talent in order to change. Sure, some of those picks can be used to get said starters, but do we trust this regime in its current form to make those selections? While I'd normally be all for trading guys and acquiring more draft picks this team so desperately lacks, I'm leery on it yielding the return of investment needed.

There's also the younger guys on this roster that need playing time. Evaluating the younger talent on this team is huge. Cheap labor is how teams build and keep the salary cap under control. With all the overpaid guys under contract, playing and seeing what young/cheap guys can do is valuable. There are guys from the last couple drafts that could be busts, or could be misused while still having potential.

There's also the remote outside shot of going on a run and getting the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC. As of this writing, the Texans are about four to five games out of that final playoff spot. Their remaining opponents have a combined 30-26 record, so it won't be easy. However, they have a few winnable games and could pull off a run like they did a couple years ago. Stranger things have happened. Will this team pull itself together and be able to make people care again this season? That remains to be seen. Let's see how it goes and take it game by game. The trade deadline will give us a peek into their mindset.

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James Harden returned to Houston on Wednesday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

"James Harden will always be a Houston Rocket" – Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, Tuesday March 2, 2021.

Really?

Then that must have been some other bearded fellow notching a triple double and leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 132-114 drubbing of the Rockets at Toyota Center, Wednesday March 3, 2021.

What a difference a day doesn't make, as the Rockets fell to their 13th consecutive defeat.

The Rockets played a tribute video for Harden, marking his first visit to Houston since the Rockets traded him, practically at gunpoint, to Brooklyn. On the same day Fertitta bizarrely fantasized that Harden will always be a Rocket, the team owner also announced that the Rockets will retire Harden's No.13.

What is wrong with you, Tilman? You sound like a jilted shnook who goes on the Jerry Springer Show to beg his runaround ex-wife to come back. Harden dumped you, remember? He wanted out of Houston so badly that he turned down your contract offer that would have made him the highest-paid athlete in American sports history.

Don't you recall his farewell comments as a Rocket? The Rockets were "just not good enough. I mean it's just crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

That's burning down the house on your way out. Not exactly Lou Gehrig's farewell speech, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," and praising his Yankee manager, teammates and owners.

Sure Harden was a video game scoring machine during his eight years in Houston. But he also chased away teammates. The Rockets never won a conference title with Harden. He stunk up the joint during some playoff games and disappeared in others. Overall, Harden was a spectacular player on a consistently good but never great team. That's his legacy in Houston.

I expected a tribute video for Harden and he probably deserved it. Why not? The Rockets did similar videos for role player Trevor Ariza and Russell Westbrook, who played all of 57 games during his one pandemic-shortened season in Houston and immediately demanded a trade.

A tribute video for Westbrook? What's next, a statue of Moochie Norris outside Toyota Center? Renaming Polk Street … Vassilis Spanoulis Way?

Retiring Harden's number 13 doesn't compare to similarly honored Rockets legends who played their hearts out, brought a title home or loved this team to their last playing breath, like Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Rudy T (45), Moses Malone (24) and Yao Ming (11).

James Harden crapped all over the Rockets on his way out the door. He was the ultimate prima donna during his time here, moody and mopey, demanding special travel arrangements, alienating teammates and taking playoff losses so hard he almost didn't make it to the strip clubs before closing time.

You know the saying, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In Harden's case, he got going to Brooklyn. So much for the captain going down with the ship. Wednesday night, Rockets fans greeted Harden with some cheers, but more lusty boos on his return to Houston.

"I gave him a special introduction, like a home team introduction, but there were way more boos than I expected," said Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas.

Harden finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, a routine triple double for him of late. He controlled the Nets offense and dominated the game.

Of course it was a regular season game. It's what he does.

For those of you scoring at home: the NBA team with the most retired numbers is the Boston Celtics, with 22 jerseys "hanging in the rafters." That's the most of any team in any U.S. pro sport. The New York Yankees are next with 21 retired numbers. The Montreal Canadiens lead the NHL with 15 retired numbers. Not coincidentally, the Celts (17 – tied with Lakers), Yanks (27) and Habs (24) all lead their leagues with the most championships.

The NFL team with the most retired numbers is a strange one. It's the Chicago Bears with 14 jerseys that will never be worn again. The Bears have won nine titles, second to the Green Bay Packers with 13 championships.

Harden's jersey will not be the first "13" hoisted over an NBA court – far from it. Three teams, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Golden State have retired Wilt Chamberlain's No. 13. The Harlem Globetrotters also retired The Stilt's jersey, but I guess they don't count.

The Cavaliers retired Bobby Phills' No. 13 after his fatal car crash. Portland retired Dave Twardzik's jersey. Here's some synergy, the Suns retired Harden's current coach Steve Nash's No. 13. And the Spurs retired the No. 13 jersey of James Silas (no relation to Rockets coach Stephen Silas.

And as Charlie Pallilo – and only Charlie Pallilo – will tell you, the first retired number in North American pro sports history belonged to Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs retired his number in 1934 after Bailey suffered a career-ending injury the year before.

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