Charlie Pallilo: Rockets stand pat, Houston sports awards, college hoops and more

Daryl Morey, for once, did not make a deal.

Can you imagine Daryl Morey bouncing off the walls Thursday as the NBA trade deadline approached? Muscle memory for him, having swung at least one deadline deal in each of his first 10 years as Rockets’ General Manager. Nothing this year though. When the team he built is 40-13, not much need to wheel and deal. In fact there was NO need, though as terrific as they are the Rockets are obviously not perfect so Morey would have made a tweak he deemed right. One player the Rockets were linked to who would have made perfect sense is guard George Hill. A solid defender who shoots the 3-pointer better than any of the Rockets’ merry band of gunners, Hill would have been great insurance if heaven forbid Chris Paul or James Harden went down for a spell (as both have already this season). I imagine Mike D’Antoni may have enjoyed the idea of running out a super-small lineup of Paul, Hill, Eric Gordon, Harden, and Clint Capela.

Likely the only way the Rockets could have gotten Hill is if Sacramento or a third team in the deal would have taken Ryan Anderson’s contract which has two years and over $41 million guaranteed dollars left on it after this season. That just wasn’t going to happen. The Rockets’ quality and chemistry is such that not tinkering with it in any way affecting the core rotation is a highly reasonable way to go. Though push comes to shove, if Anderson for Hill would have been on the table I think it’s a trade Daryl Morey would have and should have made.

There is one more flurry of personnel moves to be made post-deadline. A number of players will be bought out of contracts and have until March 1 to sign elsewhere and be eligible for the playoffs. Daryl Morey will certainly check on at least one or two of them. Joe Johnson has already been mentioned as one possibility.

Bad news from trade deadline day for anyone Rockets-minded clinging to the fantasy of LeBron James coming on board this summer. The Lakers have cleared out enough salary for Magic Johnson to be positioned to lavish two max dollar free agent offers this summer. If LeBron leaves Cleveland for a second time, he’s taking his talents to Hollywood. Amusing if the LeBron to L.A. scenario comes to pass, it’s the Cavaliers who greased the skids enabling it with the deal the Cavs and Lakers made Thursday.

Houston sports awards

The inaugural Houston Sports Awards was a fabulous event Thursday night with a staggering amount of greatness in the room. Going forward it will be difficult to have another Houston Sports Awards gala with the same oomph. Only once can you build the event around honoring the “34s,” Hakeem Olajuwon, Earl Campbell, and Nolan Ryan. And having a first time World Series Champion to celebrate.

The 34s of Houston are nearly unrivaled as a threesome to have played for the same city. Los Angeles can mount a legitimate case with its 32s: Magic Johnson, Marcus Allen, and Sandy Koufax.  Chicago is 2/3 there with 23s Michael Jordan and Ryne Sandberg, but Devin Hester (while arguably the greatest return man in NFL history) can’t swim with these sharks.

JEOPARDY! style: The answer is…Gordie Pladson, Willie Rodgers, and John Shumate.

Who last wore #34 as an Astro, Oiler, and Rocket before Ryan, Campbell, and Olajuwon?

College hoops update

Quick: what color do you associate with the University of Houston? Right you are, Cougar Red! Hence it was dopey for UH to wear black uniforms on national television while visiting SMU then wore red. Better to have substance in your favor than style, so the Cougars winning the game outrates the fashion faux pas.  A home loss vs. an SMU team playing minus its best player would have been damaging to the Coogs’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Instead, next week UH gets a second crack at Top 10 Cincinnati where a win could come close to sealing an at-large bid. The Cougars have made the Tournament exactly once in the last quarter century.

The Cosby Show was the No. 1 show on TV the last time Texas missed the Tournament in consecutive seasons. It’s been 30 years. The Longhorns better be careful. At 5-6 in the Big 12, a loss at TCU Saturday and the Horns have collapse potential.

Texas A&M meanwhile should beat Kentucky Saturday night at Reed Arena. That would get the Ags back to 6-6 in SEC play, after an 0-5 start.

Play ball

This time next week Astros’ pitchers and catchers will be working out at spring training. Yay!

Buzzer Beaters

1. Roy Jones Jr. fought Thursday night. That’s just sad.  2. Bill Belichick is the greatest NFL head coach ever, but not playing Malcolm Butler at all on defense in SB LII was just dumb.  3. Houston’s 34s:  Bronze-Nolan  Silver-Earl  Gold-Hakeem

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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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