The Palillog

Despite nice win over Lakers, no end in sight for Rockets title drought

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General Manager Daryl Morey's preseason assertion that the Rockets were the favorites in the Western Conference was dubious when he said it, and in hindsight, ridiculous. The Rockets confirmed as much with the trade that shipped Clint Capela and a first round draft pick to Atlanta with the Rockets netting Robert Covington and the already ex-Rocket Jordan Bell. The Lakers and Clippers are not shaking in their sneakers, despite Russell Westbrook's brilliance leading the Rockets to a doozy of a win over the Lakers in L.A. Thursday night.

The Rockets had, and have, a good team, but not a great one, and certainly not one to take seriously as an NBA title contender. They weren't going to win the West with what they had, so they roll the dice with super small ball, which in all likelihood won't be good enough to do the job either. They'll continue to jack up three point shots like no other team, too bad they've not acquired one close to elite three point shooter. The Rockets were a bad rebounding team with Capela's nearly 14 boards per game. It should be a worse rebounding team without him. The Rockets now have zero legit shot blocking or rim production. Their mediocre defense likely remains, mediocre.

It's also obvious that Morey had marching orders from owner Tilman Fertitta to dump some salary going forward and avoid the luxury tax this season. No one likes to pay taxes they can avoid. And remember, Morey's moral but for business moronic China tweet is costing Fertitta millions of dollars.Capela has more than 50 million guaranteed dollars guaranteed left on his contract after this season. Covington has about 25 million. Nene and Gerald Green outgoing, simply salary dumps.

Two seasons in a row the Rockets have passed on using their mid-level exception. Two seasons in a row the Rockets have had a below average bench. In the coming weeks they will shop the buyout market from which last year they added Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert. Yippee.

This June will mark the 25 year anniversary of the Rockets having last played in the NBA Finals. Who next plays for their sport's championship first: the Rockets or the Texans?

Seems a good time to note the Astros open spring training next week.

Another body

In what amounts to a meaningless swap the Rockets traded Jordan Bell to Memphis for Bruno Caboclo, who has shown basically nothing to suggest he's an NBA player. When the Toronto Raptors drafted Caboclo in the first round ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla had the great line "he's two years away from being two years away." Fraschilla said that over five and a half years ago.

XFL, part deaux

The second version of the XFL launches Saturday, including the Houston Roughnecks playing the Los Angeles Wildcats. An eight team, 10 game late winter-early spring football league can be of only limited interest, but the Roughnecks will not arrogantly and/or absurdly have a closed roof for any of their home games. They'll play at UH's stadium. The XFL is trying some interesting rules. Among them, offenses can throw two forward passes on the same play provided both passes are made behind the line of scrimmage. There will be no kicks for points after touchdowns. The scoring team can go for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five yard line, or three points from the ten yard line.

Chiefs set the standard

So the Texans had a 24-nothing lead over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Hail to the Chiefs for snapping Kansas City's 50 year drought between Super Bowl victories. Next season, Houston will probably make it 0 for 50 in pursuit of winning a Super Bowl. Probably 0 for 50 in getting to a Super Bowl. The Oilers were 0 for 31. The Texans are 0 for 18.And counting. Only three other existing franchises have failed to reach a Super Bowl: the Browns, Lions, and Jaguars.

Or just maybe next season, the Texans produce a little football miracle. Hey, the 49ers went from 4-12 last season to the Big Game the just concluded season. For your planning purposes, Super Bowl LV will be played in Tampa.

Watt vs. The Emperor

Which is funnier: J.J. Watt's Saturday Night Live host performance, or the idea of Bill O'Brien coaching a Super Bowl winner? J.J. was okay in the comedy realm. O'Brien delivering a Super Bowl seems more the science fiction realm. However, keep in mind It took Andy Reid 21 seasons as a head coach to finally clutch a Lombardi Trophy. Bill O'Brien has 14 seasons left to beat that! Of course, Emperor O for eternity is more likely.

Buzzer beaters

1. Maybe the Roughnecks win the XFL championship this spring! 2. Good in town hoops doubleheader Sunday: UH-Wichita St at 2, Rockets-Jazz at 6. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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