THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Texans will go as far as their health will carry them

Deshaun Watson's health is the biggest key for the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hi. It’s been a while. Hey, I used one vacation day in 10-plus months so summertime was my time to catch up on time down. Besides, while I love living in Houston, leaving for any place cooler in July is a smart play. The Texans aren’t in West Virginia for training camp again this year for the scenery. And on we go…

There is a ten-ton elephant of an issue in the room that impacts the Texans’ 2018 prospects more than do the next five issues combined. Will Deshaun Watson stay healthy? In four years as Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s offense has ranged from mediocre to atrocity, except for during Watson’s five game explosion last season. The guy was torching the NFL, then Watson suffered his second ACL tear and the Texans’ offense and season were as hopeless as former General Manager Rick Smith’s typical third round draft picks. New GM Brian Gaine imported multiple question marks as possible new offensive line starters. The answers from the likes of Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson might not be great, but they can’t be worse (right?) than what the Texans put out most of last season. Watson will not survive having to run around and make chicken feathers out of chicken you-know-what on a series-in series-out basis. A healthy Watson is not going to come close to having the Texans average the 39 points per game they did during his five game phenom run (remember the Texans went 2-3 in those games). But one can conceive a 10 or 11 win thrill ride with him.

A horrifying reminder that Brandon Weeden is Watson’s backup.

If right now you could lock in a 14 game, nine sack regular season from J.J. Watt, would you take it? I would in a heartbeat.  After playing every game of his first five seasons, the majority of the time at an all-time great’s level, Watt’s last two years have been a disaster. He is now 29 years old. After two major back operations and last year’s horrible leg injury Watt is unlikely to approach being the dominant force he once was. In the four and a half games he played before the injury last season Watt was very average. Sacks are far from everything in judging a defensive end, but they darn sure aren’t nothing. Nothing was Watt’s sack output. Was he just more slowly than desired rounding back into form, or did the cruel combo of traumatic injury and Father Time shove him irretrievably past his prime? If superduperstar Watt is a goner, a merely above average J.J. can still add value to a defense that needs it.

Turning back the clock

In 2008, the Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony would have been spectacularly exciting. In 2018, well… You may know that I am a Syracuse University alum, so Carmelo will always hold a verrrry warm place in my heart for the national championship he was primarily responsible for delivering for the Orange back in 2003.

Anthony joining the Rockets is interesting for the “let’s see how this works” aspect of it. Any idea that Carmelo, Chris Paul, or anyone else may hold that the Rockets now have a Big 3 is ridiculous. Anthony is 34 years old, has never been noted as a defender, and for his career is a mediocre 3-point shooter. He could be a valuable role player, but will he accept the role? Melo chafed, and did not thrive in a complementary role alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George for Oklahoma City this past season. Anthony’s play in the Thunder’s first round playoff loss to Utah was downright awful.

Frankly, James Ennis is probably the more significant Rockets acquisition, because if Daryl Morey turns out to have successfully replaced the 3 and versatile D roles vacated by Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute’s free agency departures, it’s Ennis with the more matching skills.

Add in the Rockets not reaching contractual accord, yet, with Clint Capela, and this has not been a stellar offseason. If Capela really rejected five years $85 million, he needs to get a grip. There was basically no market for him in restricted free agency. If Capela signs the one year 4.75 million dollar tender offer he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. That could be a big uh oh. The Rockets’ chemistry, mojo, esprit de corps was so magnificent last season. It will be difficult to match in 2018-19.

Lots on the Astros next week. And everyday I’m on the radio show 11-1.

Buzzer Beaters

 1. Don’t panic yet, but Carlos Correa having back issues at 23 is definitely troubling.  2. I love Alex Bregman’s fire (and talent), but he was wrong about the fan interference call in Denver Wednesday night.  3. Best summer fruits: Bronze-Blueberries Silver-Honeydew Gold-Watermelon

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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