HARRIS COUNTY – HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Biggio makes a difference through longtime relationship with Sunshine Kids

Craig Biggio is still making a difference. Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

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It was a day filled with hugs and smiles.

A day to forget the hospitals and treatments, the pain and the fears that come with cancer.

A day to see old friends and meet new ones, to run the same bases their hometown heroes run and get a hit off of one of Houston’s favorite sons – Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.

Yes, it was the annual Sunshine Kids Party at Minute Maid Park, hosted by Biggio and his wife Patty. It’s a party they’ve been hosting for more than 30 years now and they probably will host for 30 more.

“It’s a lifetime commitment they’ve made to be here for the kids,’’ said Jennifer Wisler, Sunshine Kids director of children’s services. “ . . . I don’t know where we’d be without him. He’s been an incredible role model for family and friends.’’

The party started at a high school field, then moved the Astrodome. Now, it’s at Minute Maid, home of the 2017 World Champions.

Each year, the party fills up the second the RSVPs go out and each year the Biggio family is there to make sure these patients have a couple of hours where they can just be kids.

“These kids get to come out and forget about some of the things going on in their lives and just run around,’’ Biggio said. “They can get a good hot dog and a coke and enjoy themselves.’’

And relax.

This isn’t a day when the kids stand in awe of Biggio. It’s one when they greet him like an old friend.

“We’re family,’’ he said. “As much as they look at me as family, they’re family to me too. I love them to death.”

Biggio started this to honor an old childhood friend who battled cancer and it just took off.

“I got into this with the intent of having fun and seeing where it goes,’’ he said. “For they city to embrace the Sunshine Kids and have my teammates embrace it, it’s been fun, its been great.

“We count our blessings with it.’’

The Sunshine Kids do as well.

“It’s giving these kids the opportunity not only to get away from the hospital visits and thoughts of cancer, but to meet other kids who are also struggling with a cancer diagnosis,’’ Wisler said. “It’s knowing they’re not alone.

“And for the once in a lifetime part of it, they’re down here and playing baseball against their hometown hero Craig Biggio.’’

The interaction between the Biggios and the Sunshine Kids is amazing. Jillie started coming to the event when she was 15 and had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Today, she comes back to volunteer and help out other children battling a variety of cancers.

“I wanted to give back to the people who have given to me,’’ she said. “It’s fun running the bases and acting like an Astro.

“And I find Craig Biggio an amazing person. He really treats you like family. I really find that special.’’

Wisler said the only tough part of the day is knowing there are children who can’t be there.

“Sadly, we have kids who were too sick to make it here today,’’ she said. “It breaks your heart.’’

But for those who are here?

“It’s special to be around your best friends who know what you’re going through,’’ she said.

And to get a Hall of Fame hug, an autograph and a hit off one of your heroes.

For more information on volunteering with the Sunshine Kids or to make a donation, go to www.sunshinekids.org.

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5 questions on the John Wall trade

The Rockets made a big move. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets point guard carousel continued to spin Wednesday night, as the Woj bomb-iest of Houston-related Woj bombs erupted in the Space City:

For the third year in a row, the Rockets will begin the season with a new point guard, in an attempt to finally find someone that can play alongside James Harden. Let's take a look at how the Rockets got to this point, and what it means moving forward.

What led to the trade?

Russell Westbrook simply wanted out. Westbrook is the type of player that needs to be the number one ball handler and that simply wasn't ever going to happen on a James Harden led team. Other reports cited Westbrook's frustration with the lack of accountability and casual atmosphere within the locker room. Ultimately if anyone was going to be moved between Harden and Westbrook, it was always going to be Westbrook.

Why John Wall?

This one is another fairly straightforward answer: they both have relatively similar contracts. Each is making an absurdly overpriced $40 million this season, and both were disgruntled with their current team. Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard tossed the idea around a few weeks ago, but couldn't find a deal they liked. It was reported that discussions resumed Wednesday afternoon and within a few hours the deal was done in an almost one-for-one swap.

How does Wall fit?

This is a little more complicated because it's not exactly known what head coach Stephen Silas' game plan is. It's also difficult to predict whether or not Harden will still be on the roster when the season starts. But let's assume that Harden takes the court for the Rockets and that Silas' system resembles something similar to what we've seen in Houston for the past few years. In that case, Wall would be a slight upgrade to Westbrook. Westbrook is more athletic than Wall, but when healthy Wall was no slouch. In addition he's a much better defensive player and has much better court vision than Westbrook. Westbrook's assists were usually a bailout after attacking the lane with his head down, while Wall is more likely to set up a teammate.

This isn't to say that Wall doesn't need the ball though. He's fairly ball dominant, but not nearly as much as Westbrook. Harden proved last season that he's capable of effectively playing off the ball if necessary, so it seems like a better fit from a distribution rate alone. If they can find that sweet spot like they did with Chris Paul and stagger the lineups so that each star gets their own time to create, there's potential for an improved Rockets team more reminiscent of their 2018 run than the past two years.

What are the best and worst case scenarios?

The worst case is that the Rockets were sold a lemon. Wall has potential to be an upgrade, but comes with huge risk. He last took the court in 2018, where he was sidelined with a knee injury. He subsequently ruptured his Achilles in an accident at his home while recovering from the knee injury, forcing Wall off the court for almost two years. It's possible an extremely unfortunate Wall reinjures something and completely derails the machinations of the trade. Even if he's recovered fully, it will take time to get him up to game speed which could frustrate Harden on a team that can't afford a slow start in their stacked conference. Harden has managed to cultivate drama with just about every co-star he's played with, so there's no reason to assume this attempt would go any better.

The best case scenario is that Wall arrives ready to play team basketball and resembles the better part of his pre-injury form. Wall and Harden buy into Silas' new system, space the floor, and take turns carving up the lane with dribble drives and kick outs to players who can actually hit from distance. This version of the Rockets could potentially be a 3-seed in this year's Western Conference.

Who won the trade?

At the moment the Rockets. Not only did they remove at least one of their locker room distractions, but they also gain a first round pick. If Wall can stay healthy and Silas can keep both stars happy, this team should be a lot more fun to watch than last season's clunker.

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