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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After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

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