There's still time smooth things over with Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange
In what might be a week filled with the most drama in recent Houston sports history, big things are afoot.
The Rockets sent James Harden packing in a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Short term, it will be painful, but in the longterm, the Rockets made the right move for their future. They got as far as they could with Harden, who is not going to get better at this stage of his career. Harden pouted his way out of Houston and acted like a petulant child. He got his wish, but the Rockets will be better for it down the road.
Of course, national media compared Harden's case to that of Deshaun Watson, who is not happy with the Texans - and he shouldn't be. As usual, that's a lazy, hot take narrative.
The situations could not be more different. Harden has had his way with the Rockets for years. They have brought in multiple stars to try to appease him and win a title, and none of them worked out. Harden is near the end of his dominance as a player, and time is running short for him to add a title to his resume. The deal made sense for both parties. Harden gets to try again with Kevin Durant, and the Rockets move on.
As great of a player as he was, Harden never saw that he was the problem. There's that old poker adage, put so well by Mike McD in Rounders - "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." Harden was the sucker at the table.
Deshaun Watson is not. He has not publicly said anything other than a cryptic tweet. He has not demanded a trade. Watson does have a right to be angry as the Texans have made one dumb move after another, and they clearly lied to him about having an input on the GM search. Andre Johnson's flame-throwing tweet only added to the drama.
SO of course rumors are already swirling about potential Watson trades. But unlike the Harden mess, Watson's can be fixed.
New GM Nick Caserio will have to smooth things over, but he has already made strides by requesting an interview with Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Watson's reportedly preferred choice at head coach.
While the Texans could conceivably trade Watson - and you could make a pretty good case for doing it - this isn't in the same ballpark as Harden. It's not in Watson's DNA to not show up for camp and cause discord, which is the only way he could force a deal. The more likely scenario is he gets his voice heard in the coaching search, and that appeases him. It's on Caserio to make that happen. It also means it is time to part ways with Jesus Jack Easterby, who has become the city's latest sports villain. Johnson's tweet made sure of that.
Watson has every right to be miffed. He had to live with Bill O'Brien's dictatorial rule for three-plus years. His best weapon was traded away for peanuts. And the goofball owner, Cal McNair, lied to him about keeping him in the loop on hires. In short, the Texans have become a joke of an organization.
But that can be fixed. Caserio is a sharp guy, and he will figure out how to smooth this over. Getting the coaching hire right - with Watson's input - could easily change the narrative. The more Caserio and the new coach get out front, the less McNair and Easterby can screw up.
In the end, it should get worked out, and all of this will be meaningless. Sure, Watson could decide enough's enough and pout his way out of town like Harden. But that's a long shot. Harden's time had passed in Houston. Watson is still getting started. His best years are ahead of him.
But it's time for the Texans to stop stepping on their own cranks and get the right coach and players in house, and stop letting Easterby have any say whatsoever. McNair needs to have the right people in place and trust them to do their jobs. Hopefully Caserio is that guy, and we will find out when he hires a coach. If they ignore Watson again? Then you can compare it to Harden. But it's hard to see that happening. Then again, hardly anything surprises with the dysfunctional Texans these days.
Until then, the drama continues. But don't expect it to end the way Harden's tenure did.
With a new season on the horizon, the Astros have high hopes for 2024 after coming just one game shy of being in the World Series for three consecutive seasons.
If Houston wants to get back to the Fall Classic in 2024, they're going to have to rely on their pitching. Owner Jim Crane believes the club has 8 starting pitchers when Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. return mid-season.
Which allows several of the starters to move to the bullpen and provide even more depth. Add those guys to Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly, and Josh Hader and you have a recipe for success.
Check out the video above as ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham goes through the entire staff and makes his case for the Astros having the best pitching staff in baseball.
You can listen to The Killer B's with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank every weekday on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 from 3 pm - 6 pm!