Barry Warner: Enough with the prelims; it's time for Rockets-Warriors

Clint Capela is going to get paid. Jason Miller

By 9:30 tonight, the heavily favored Rockets will put the JV team from Utah out of their misery. Even with a healthy Ricky Rubio, the Jazz simply cannot score with the Rockets.

Clint Capela has turned Rudy Gobert into a bench player during crunch time. The Swiss born center will become a very rich man this summer as a free agent. It would not shock me if he got between $16-18 million per year.  With his ability to set pick and rolls for the guards, plus defend the rim and get double digit rebounds, he will be highly sought after.

Golden State and the long awaited Western Conference Finals are next.  When it starts is anyone’s guess, since it’s up to the TV networks.

Save the debate

There is no sense getting into a Michael vs LeBron debate as to who is the greatest.

Different times and conditions for each new generation in all of sports makes these arguments far more difficult.

Then there was Kareem, who like LeBron a high school All American. But James did not go the collegiate route, where Mr. Sky Hook was three-time Player of the Year and an 18-time all-star.

The greatest winner of all-time, with 11 rings, was Celtic legend Bill Russell.  And it’s certainly understandable if most do not even remember this shot blocker and rebounder. He starred in the late 50’s and 60’s, when Boston dominated the NBA.

Be careful what you wish for

David Fizdale latest in the long line of Knicks coaches to work for James Dolan, who is a member of the lucky sperm club. The controversial owner of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and cable network inherited these assets from his late father.

Dolan rarely meets with the media, as he spends more time jetting across the country with his rock and roll band. For those keeping score, Fiz is the 11th coach in the last 14 seasons for the once proud Knicks.

His rift with Marc Gasol was the big reason Memphis fired the former Heat assistant.

"I get it, you want Gregg Popovich, and I want LeBron James," the coach told his star player, according to a source.

Astros struggles

Gerrit Cole’s 77 strikeouts in the first seven starts with a new club are the most by a player in Major League history. This year’s Astro team is getting phenomenal pitching, but the hitting sucks.

Every starter except 2-5 Dallas Kuchel has been tremendous. But the bullpen leaves so much to be desired.  What has happened to normally reliable Will Harris? Joe Smith has been a big disappointment, while Brad Peacock’s slider is flat.

Besides Chris Devenski, the most reliable reliever has been former starter Colin Mc Hugh

Leadoff hitter and last year’s World Series MVP, George Springer seems to be addicted to swinging from his heels, while last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve would not be among the top 10 in the MVP voting, based upon the sample size of 2018.

The popular second baseman looks like a wanna be home run hitter with every swing.

Through 35 games thus far, Carlos Correa appears to be leaving too many pitches in the zone.  

Evan Gattis has now struck out 29 times in 95 at bats, has one homer and just 8 RBI’s.

Marwin Gonzales is a mere shadow of himself, while Alex Bregman has failed to take the next step.

Clutch hitting is simply not there and the bottom third of the order is a joke.  It is both too early to panic and way too early to bring up minor league star Kyle Tucker who is still trying to figure out Triple A pitchers.

JD Davis, who made the opening day roster, would be brought up first.

I’m not panicking, just merely concerned about a pattern that does not look like the way they were winning in last season’s magical moments.

Pujols joins 3000 hit club

One of the truly great people, as well as a major league star, 18-year veteran Albert Pujols got his 3000th hit in Seattle.  In the process, he joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and A-Rod the cheater as the only men to have 600 career home runs in addition to the cherished 3000 hits.

How many years has Albert Pujols struck out 100 times in a season? Yep. Zero. You won’t find a single 100-whiff season on his baseball-reference page. And how many other members of the 3,000-Hit/600-Homer Club (or even the 3,000/500 Club) can say that? Only one: Mr. Henry Aaron, the elegant Hall of Famer.

Around the NFL

Safety first? The kickoff rule reccomendation is yet another example of where the NFL hides behind “player safety.”   It is a violent sport, played by semi violet men, making millions for themselves and the owners, who do not want any more lawsuits.

It is part of the wussification of the game.  From the last collective bargaining agreement about two-a-days, the number of practices where contact was allowed, the longer off season away from coaches...the game is not the same.  

Faded star: Colorful former Dallas star Dez Bryant turned down a three year $27-million-dollar deal from the Ravens, figuring he was worth more.

The diva is still waiting by his phone for a deal.

Still out of work: The Raiders singed former UT and Kansas City star linebacker Derrick Johnson.  That was bad news for ex-Texans star Brian “The Cheater” Cushing. It was Cushing’s first reported meeting with a team since he visited with the Seahawks in early March.

Big deal: Matt Ryan sets the bar for quarterbacks, signing a five year $150 million-dollar deal with Atlanta.  Gee, I can hardly wait to see a bunch of guys running around in t-shirts and shorts.



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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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