TROUBLE IN PARADISE?

Here are some interesting trade scenarios if the Rockets decide to move Westbrook

It looks like Russ is on his way out. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After the dismantling of the Houston Rockets in game 5 versus the 2020 NBA champion LA Lakers, the narrative of the offseason was luxury tax. Will Tilman Fertitta explore the luxury tax so the Rockets' front office can build around Russell Westbrook and James Harden? Early Wednesday morning, there were reports of Harden and Westbrook being uncertain about the Rockets' future.

As the day went on, we came to learn that Westbrook wanted out because of the uncertainty of the Rockets' culture and style of play on offense, but Harden remained optimistic about staying in Houston.

Since Westbrook wants out, it makes free agency, trading for players, and possibly receiving draft picks realistic for the Rockets. Getting rid of Westbrook's contract clears up enough cap space for the Rockets to make some moves, which is ideal for the new GM, Rafael Stone.

The Rockets now have a legitimate shot to build around Harden since Westbrook wants out. So, where is the best place for Westbrook to go? Hopefully, when the Rockets trade Westbrook, they are able save money and receive key players. On Tuesday, the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers had the most interest in Westbrook.

The Clippers are attractive because of their six-time All-Star, 2018 Steals Champion, and five-time All-NBA player, Paul George. Even though George seems attractive, he had a decrease in play with the Clippers as he went from averaging near 30 points per game to 22 points per game. George missed the start of the season because of a hampered shoulder. When the NBA furlough was over, the rest of the season took place in Orlando inside the bubble. George struggled in the playoffs by only averaging 20 points per game and shooting 33 percent from the perimeter.

George also struggled with depression as he said after a tough series against the Dallas Mavericks. But keep in mind George was a finalist for MVP in the 2018-2019 season for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bright lights big city

The Knicks also have a promising future with Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox, including Frank Ntilikina. Those three names have been mentioned with the Rockets this offseason. Robinson could be a tough grab because of his 7'0 ft presence, outstanding reach, and decent handles. In the 2018-2019 season, Robinson made the All-Rookie team by only averaging 7.3 points per game. Robinson could be the traditional big man Stephen Silas is looking for.

Motor City

The Rockets could also trade for former ROY and six-time All-Star, Blake Griffin. Griffin is a quality all-round player but has dealt with several injuries throughout his career. Stone acquiring Griffin could be questioned if injuries occur throughout the season. Griffin's best season with his recent team, the Detroit Pistons, was the 2018-2019 season, as he averaged 25 points per game and shot 36 percent from the perimeter.

Hopefully, the Rockets come up with some answers soon as training camp starts Dec. 1st.

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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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