Every-Thing Sports

Calculating the next bright spot for Houston sports

Photo by Matt Patterson/Houston Texans

The major pro sports are the big three: Football, basketball and, baseball. No disrespect to the others, but they don't move the needle in this country like the NFL, NBA, and MLB do. Sure, things are shaky because of the pandemic, but this isn't up for debate.

When it comes to winning a title in one of these leagues, you probably have better odds of getting bitten by a shark than seeing your team win a title in your lifetime. Those of us that have experienced that emotion are beyond blessed. Houston has experienced that feeling three times: back-to-back titles by the Rockets in 1994 & 1995, and the 2017 Astros. The Oilers got as far as the AFC conference title game, but could never get through. The Texans haven't advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs. So which one of these teams is currently poised to bring Houston it's next championship moment?

The Astros have the most recent title and still have the core from that team. But they're quickly becoming just another team in the race instead of a contender. Losing Gerrit Cole, the mounting injuries, a drop-off in play, and dealing with the fallout of the cheating scandal has turned them into also-rans. They're a game under .500, six games out of first place, and only a game and a half up on the Mariners for second place in the division. That's key since second place makes the playoffs. They also have big roster decisions to make with regard to who to pay and who to let walk. Factor all of that in, and I think their window may be closed or in the process of closing.

The Rockets are a complete mess. James Harden has the team by the jewels in a vise grip. I remember doing a radio show back in 2015 with Craig Shelton when he said Harden doesn't have championship DNA. I wanted to agree with him, but thought Harden could get it done eventually. I later came to realize Craig was right a season or two later. The Rockets are hamstrung with big contracts for players not many, if any, teams will want. Please stop calling into shows with ridiculous trade proposals. Use ESPN's Trade Machine and some common sense. In the next seven drafts (this year's included), they only have two first round picks ('22 and '23). Don't look for them to win big any time soon.

My odds on favorite of the three to win a title next is oddly enough the team without a championship history at all: the Texans. Yes, Bill O'Brien has made questionable moves as a coach and general manager. Yes, I know Houston has been cursed with failures with both of their NFL franchises. However, I believe Deshaun Watson is special enough to overcome some of O'Brien's shortcomings. I also think O'Brien would put his ego aside if it meant making a move (hiring a GM) to win a title. Either that, or the McNair's will put it aside for him.

Some will disagree with me here, and that's to be expected. But I will die on this hill. The Astros look to be in sharp decline and the Rockets are in purgatory. If either one turns it around, I'll be the first to eat my words. With the way the Astros completely fell apart this season, I've lost/losing hope. The Rockets performance in the bubble versus the Lakers confirmed what I've known for years. The Texans look to be in the driver seat of the three to bring that special feeling back to Houston, and I think it happens sooner than you think.

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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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