OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Rockets fizzle in Game 1, plus a look at the rest of the NBA, Texans and Astros

Kevin Durant is an unstoppable force. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Rockets were sloppy, tentative and had no rhythm, while the Warriors were free and easy with their ball movement and shooting in their 119-106 Game 1 win.

The Rockets had no swag, made too many mental mistakes, committed 16 turnovers, spent way too much time dribbling with their isolation.

After a tied first half, the Warriors opened up a seven-point lead at the end of the third quarter,

Sure, James Harden was terrific, scoring 41 of the hardest points he has scored. The Warriors shot 33 times over the Beard, wearing him out.

The Rockets did not get the ball to Chris Paul for the mid-range jumper. He scored 23 and dished out 11 assists.

Where were the 3s getting nothing but net?

Regardless who was guarding Kevin Durant, it did not matter. He simply is impossible to stop. The one and done from Texas had 37.

Klay Thompson had 28 while Steph Curry added 18.

Golden State has the rings.  You cannot discount the experience factor.  What the fans do not see is they are the best defense the Rockets have faced.  They forced the Rockets into shot possession mistakes and way off balance, awkward attempts. Then you add the mismatch with Kevin Durant. Unless the bench of Gordon, Green and Mbah a Moute are stellar each night the Rockets will watch the Finals on TV.

That’s why my prediction is Golden State in six.

Jeff Van Gundy was my guest on Reality Check last Friday

Among the topics covered was the career high by Chris Paul in the finale against overmatched Utah.

 "CP 3 is fabulous and he has been so good for so so long. But the focus has been more on negative, rather than how good he his.  Remember, he was dominant since his rookie year in New Orleans. The variety he gives Mike on pick and roll gives him a chance at scoring the best mid-range jumper in the league

“His level of assertiveness offensively has been terrific,” the colorful former Rockets coach stated.

Paul’s friendship with Steph Curry goes back to the great shooter’s rookie season.  Chris went out of his way to help the budding star.  The two still hang out together during the off seasons and text during the year.

Curry missed 31 games during the regular season. The fact he is so well rested is yet another major advantage for the defending champs.

Cav-nots?

The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward early, then Kyrie Irving late, but they beat LeBron and the Cavs by 25 in Game 1. It’s yet another reminder to the world of sports why Danny Ainge is one of the great executives in modern NBA history, and why Brad Stevens is the best basketball coach working right now, in either college or the pros.

Just imagine how much more fun the Eastern Conference finals would be if Kyrie were in the gym, doing the same things for his new team the way he used to when he was LeBron's wingman in Cleveland?

Bad Rap?

Raptors coach Dwane Casey   was named the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year. The choice on its own did not raise eyebrows, as Casey led the Raptors to 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, four games ahead of the Celtics.

A few days later Toronto management fired him. It is important to remember that in life, as well as sports, that the grass can be browner on the other side.

Change can also lead to worse product, worse record or worse balance sheet for the company or franchise that makes the new hire.

Fat chance, Texans

The Texans placed guard Jeff Allen on reserve PUP list.

 If you believe that then you believe in Santa Claus and pigs flying. The Texans are trying to avoid a lawsuit. Cutting the slob was not exactly earth-shattering news.  The former KC Chief guard was signed to take the place Of Brandon Brooks who signed a free agent contract with the Super Bowl Eagles.

It was yet another example of where the former GM Rick Smith Mc Nair made an error.

Allen came here and looked like the Pillsbury Dough boy in uniform.  He was fat, sloppy and not very strong, not exactly looking like an NFL player.  True, he did have both ankle and concussion problems, but losing the Battle of the Bulge cost him a job here.

You bet

Sanity has finally prevailed in the highest court in the land.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been openly meeting with bookmakers from Vegas casinos. The most visionary of commissioners, the NBA’s Adam Silver, has long been in favor of legalized gambling.

Now that Las Vegas has hockey and the amazing Golden Knights, they too can see the future.

All leagues would see an increase in their revenues by getting a percentage of the take.

But not the league that wallows in hypocrisy, the NFL. Why do you think they had the networks put in the ten-minute ticker? The masses still watch in part because of fantasy football.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.

Texas will be among the last states to finally get their heads out of the sand.  We have no casinos, yet the state is content to let millions of dollars go across the border to Louisiana casinos.

On the Astros

Charlie Morton lowered his ERA to 2.03. Two teammates, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, are the only two with lower ERAs in the AL. It was nice to see Evan Gattis finally wake up with a pair of homers and four RBI’s for the streaky DH.

I am concerned about the 0-13 slump of Jose Altuve, sending his batting average to .302.

Dallas Kuechel is now 3-5, as he used his new four seamer to give up only three hits in the Mother’s Day win over Texas.






 

                               




 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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