Paul Gallant goes through history - world history - to see how this superstar duo could fare in 2019

Harden & Westbrook: A historic power couple?

You guys have called me out for it. So I'll admit it. I'm hard on the Houston Rockets. Why? Because when it comes to Houston sports teams, they're my middle child.

"You don't have any kids PAWL, ain't nobody making babies with you…"

The Astros are my successful older child. They can actually provide for me. Buy me a house please, kiddo. I'm hoping they'll eventually put me in a nursing home with attractive grannies when I look like this.

The Texans – my baby – might be cute with Watson, Hopkins, and Watt. But with the constant losses on big stages, strange game management decisions by Bill O'Brien, and now the lack of a GM, I always feel like I'm cleaning up a dumpy diaper. Getting canned from 610 sucked, but at least I'm not a baby sitter anymore...

Meanwhile, the Rockets are stuck in the middle. They're Jan from the Brady Bunch (bet you didn't think I could drop a 60s reference IN YOUR FACE). Sure, they're a pretty impressive child. But THEY'RE ALWAYS whining. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia." Sorry kid. I expect oldest child level success from you.

And ultimately, no matter how impressive James Harden can be in the regular season, they've been pretty forgettable come playoffs (Except that one time. Thanks, Chris Paul's hamstring). Just like Jen. Or…Meg? I forget my child's name.

Also, the Texans just two-sied again while trying to hire Nick Caserio from the Patriots. Gotta go…

Kidding. The Rockets did get better by dumping CP3 – along with practically the rest of their draft picks – for Russell Westbrook. It's this simple: no matter how many bad shots that monomaniacal triple double addict shoots, Russ is simply better than Chris. He's a durable player that'll go all out for close to 82 games a night, and a guy that physically CAN take control of a game when Harden has an off night.

Still, bringing two ball dominant guys together is tricky. Yeah, Mike D'Antoni was able to get James Harden and Chris Paul play pretty well with one another while CP3 was healthy. But is HE going to be the guy to shake Russell Westbrook out of his extremely bad habits? And is Russ – who last played with James Harden when he was a sixth man – willing to defer to ole Jim as the lead dog? I'm EXTREMELY skeptical.

Power duos are the new norm in the NBA. And I suppose I could try and compare what James and Russ could be to some of the marvelous marriages and disastrous divorces of recent NBA history. But my nerdy self would MUCH rather compare the possibilities of these two to . . . historical figures? After all, they say history tends to repeat itself . . .

Caesar and Pompey: 60 – 45 BC

IN A NUTSHELL:

Caesar and Pompey – two of the greatest military leaders in Roman history – had an informal alliance (along with this rich guy named Crassus) towards the end of the Roman Republic. It was called the First Triumvirate. The first Big 3, and together for one cause: helping each other "seek personal advantage." And it worked. Pompey even married Caesar's daughter, Julia. But when Julia died (54 BC), then Crassus died (53 BC), their relationship began to sour, eventually leading to war. Caesar won, and Pompey would later be assassinated after fleeing the defeat.

COULD THIS BE JAMES AND RUSS?

Harden wants a title. Westbrook wants a title. And I think they both know that their best chance to get one is by playing with one another, not against each other in Houston and Oklahoma City. THAT is the "personal advantage" they seek.

…Unless Russell views Harden as a key to more triple doubles. Which I doubt. Because if he disrupts the Harden-centric offense, he'll likely leave the Rockets the way Pompey did.

PS: If you liked Game of Thrones, you need to check out Rome on HBO. It covers the Great Roman Civil War between Caesar and Pompei through the eyes of two soldiers who just stumble into some of the most important events in Roman history. It's basically a period themed buddy cop with all the sex and violence of GOT.

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen: ~700 AD

"PAWL, they weren't REAL."

"Enough with the HBO plugging PAWL, you wannabe Bill Simmons. They aren't going to pay you"

IN A NUTSHELL:

(SPOILER ALERT)

Jon (desperate for soldiers to fight an army of zombies) made a visit to Casa Daenerys asking for help from the self-proclaimed Queen (who somehow has three dragons for children). In classic Cocky Dany fashion, the Mad Queen imprisons Jon until he decides to bend the knee and recognize her as Queen. Speaking of bending, some more bending goes on (hehe), and these two become lovers even though Daenerys is actually Jon's Aunt. Together they defeat the army of the dead, and team up to win Dany control over all the land. Unfortunately, Dany got upset that her best friend died and murders 500,000 people on a whim. Classic. So, Jon makes out with her and stabs her to death while doing it. This actually happened like 1000 or so years ago!

COULD THIS BE JAMES AND RUSS?

I can confirm this: James Harden will not stab Russell Westbrook to death while making out with him. Also, I can confirm the vice versa. But I do know that ole Russ could easily do the equivalent of murdering 500,000 innocents come playoff time: a patented 8-24 game from the field with 9 turnovers. For this partnership to work, Russell will need to bend the knee to James when they're both on the court.

Isabella and Ferdinand: 1469 – 1504 AD

IN A NUTSHELL:

Their marriage unified the Spanish Kingdoms of Castile and Leon, and ultimately established Spain as a dominant Global Power. Over their reign, they:

  • Funded Christopher Columbus' discovery of America
  • Defeated the Moors and ended Muslim rule in Spain
  • Forced all the Jews and Muslims out of their country
  • Tortured / killed everyone who didn't convert to Catholicism in the Spanish Inquisition.

What a lovely couple! Basically, these two could and would ruin you.

COULD THIS BE JAMES AND RUSS?

THIS would be the best-case scenario for the Harden and Westbrook (minus those invading / persecuting / torturing things): a whole lot of conquering over a long period of time. I'd be shocked if their partnership pays off that way, but I won't rule the possibility ENTIRELY out.

USA and the Soviet Union: 1941 – 1945

IN A NUTSHELL:

They hated each other. But for 4 years, they hated Nazis more.

The US delivered $11 Billion in materials (17.5 million tons in weight) to the Soviets as part of the American Lend-Lease program during World War 2. And the Soviets – who bore the brunt of what they call the "Great Patriotic War" (~27 million combined citizens and soldier deaths) – held the Eastern front, eventually over-powering ~200 German divisions. The two combined to crush Germany, and Russia ultimately helped speed up the unconditional surrender of Japan by invading Manchuria.

But afterwards? A nearly 45 year passive aggressive "Cold War".

COULD THIS BE JAMES AND RUSS?

Yeah. It's how I see this playing out. Minus taking down NBA Nazis. Those don't exist.

I can see Harden and Westbrook winning A LOT of regular season games. I can see Rockets fans talking themselves into a title run because of those regular season wins. Hell, I could even see the Rockets beating up on the NBA's star-less peasant teams and sporting the league's best record heading into the playoffs.

But do we really believe that these two super-powers can co-exist when the regular season war is over? Can their ball dominance overcome fatigue? When Mike D'Antoni shrinks his rotations, and Harden and Westbrook are on the court together 40+ minutes a game, will they actually complement each other? Can a team led by two elite guards beat teams with superstar wings? I'm having a hard time seeing any of those working out. And I could easily see Harden and Westbrook getting extremely frustrated with each other's play.

Paul Gallant hosts the "Gallant Says" podcast (Mondays & Fridays on iTunes), "Just Sayin'", Fridays on Kube 57, and contributes to SB Nation Radio. Have any questions? Get after him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.



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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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