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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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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