Rejuvenated in a new environment

Here's what a reunited John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins could look like for Rockets

Here's what a reunited John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins could look like for Rockets
If anything, this season will be interesting. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Wednesday night, the Houston Rockets acquired John Wall from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Russell Westbrook. The trade included a lottery protected 2023 draft pick, which is almost two-years from now. Wall also joins his childhood best friend and college teammate from the University of Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins, who signed with the Rockets last week. Cousins and Wall have not been healthy in three years and have missed a serious amount of time.

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The four-time All-Star, Cousins, has not played a complete season since 2016-2017 when he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans from the Sacramento Kings. In the 2017-2018 season with the Pelicans, Cousins was off to a ferocious start. Cousins averaged 25.2 points per game, 13 rebounds, 5.4 assists, shot 35.4 percent from the perimeter, and was efficient around mid-range shooting 53 percent. He became unstoppable inside the paint hitting 61 percent within the restricted area and 47 percent from the field. Cousins was on pace to become an All-Star again before his Achilles injury.

This injury became crucial for Cousins because it prevented him from getting a max-contract with the Pelicans the following season. The Pelicans gave Cousins a two-year 40 million-dollar offer which he declined. Cousins tested free agency and was recruited by the 2017-2018 champions, the Golden State Warriors.

Cousins played just 30 games with the Warriors but still averaged 16.3 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, but only shot 28 percent from the perimeter. Cousins wasn't as effective as he was in his previous years with the Kings and Pelicans. So, Cousins headed right back to free agency this time signing with the Lakers who became champions in the 2019-2020 season.

Before the season during a workout in Las Vegas, Cousins tour his ACL which caused him to miss the season. Midway through the year the Lakers released Cousins after signing Dwight Howard.

Hopefully, things are different with the Rockets after Cousins told the media at the press conference Thursday he was completely healthy. Cousins is great at stretching the floor, shooting from the perimeter, and being a dominant force inside the paint.

"Man, I feel incredible. Obviously, it was a tough task mentally, physically, but at the same time I was able to rest my body, a much-needed rest, as Cousins emphasized at the press conference Thursday. "Coming back off of that has been incredible. My body is in a great place, my mind is in a great place, and I'm just ready to get back on the floor and play basketball. Play the game I love."

DeMarcus Cousins IS BACK! Boogie Cousins Training For New NBA Season And Looking Better Than EverBoogie Cousins is back!

John Wall's role on the team will be critical because he loves passing the ball which wasn't a strength for Westbrook. The only problem with Wall was the absence he had from basketball for two years. Second guessing the ability of Wall could be a mistake. Wall is a five-time All-Star and made the All-Defensive Second Team in the 2014-2015 season. Before Wall got hurt with the Wizards, in the 2018-2019 season, he averaged 20 points per game, 8.7 assists, and shot a career-high from mid-range of 50 percent.

John Wall Offseason Workout - 10/28/20Here's a look at some of John Wall's offseason workouts.

Wall also shot a career-high 37 percent from the perimeter in the 2017-2018 season. He shoots the three-ball at 32.4 percent for a career average, which is better than Westbrook's 30 percent. Wall wants to become a better shooter from the perimeter this season, so he has been working on that during the offseason. He will become big factor on offense if he pays dividends from the perimeter. Wall mostly relied on his athleticism, which was his blazing speed and quickness like Westbrook. His playmaking skills are truly fun to watch as he averages 9.2 assists per game for his career. Hopefully, that Achilles injury is behind him and won't impact his play moving forward. Below are some takeaways from Adrian Wojnarowski.

Even though Wall has missed two years of basketball, he has worked his way back into shape. Kevin Durant was impressed with Wall's offseason in Miami. "He looked amazing to me. He looked great," Durant said during day one of Media Week. "I know he wants to go out there and play great basketball." Wall was seen with Harden and PJ Tucker during pickup games at Remy's Gym in Miami.

James Harden vs John Wall & Michael Beasley Insane Battle At RemyWorkouts Gym!

One surprising twist

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed that Wall and Harden want to play together in Houston. Both sides seem to be invested since there were early concerns that Harden could be upset with the acquisition of Wall. Harden reportedly preferred Wall to Westbrook this season, which on the surface seems odd because of their history as friends.

Hopefully, the Rockets get the past versions of Wall and Cousins if not better. Wall and Cousins both say they're completely healthy and anxious to play basketball again.

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One presumes the Chicken Littles have stopped clucking about the Astros’ season being a goner, or if not gone, on life support. It wasn’t when they were 7-19. It wasn’t when they were 12-24. It certainly isn’t now that they’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine. Another three or four weeks of inept play could have doomed them, but the worm has turned. A 20-25 record is no cause for celebration, but it has the Astros within four games of first place. Yes, getting to play the A’s four times this week helped. And?

I detailed the schedule issue on our Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast this week. The Astros were flat lousy for the season’s first six weeks. But… Starting the week the Astros had played a whopping 32 of their 40 games against teams with a winning record as of Monday. The Seattle Mariners had played 23 such games, the Texas Rangers only 16. The Philadelphia Phillies have been sensational so far and are fully legit. But… The Phillies entered the weekend having played three games vs. teams now sporting a winning record. Three! Out of 45 games. Going into this weekend's series only the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels had played more games against winning teams than had the Astros. It’s not mere coincidence that the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels are the three last place teams in the American League. The Astros were not up to the challenge of their first quarter schedule, but by no means did it render them dead, particularly in the thus far Mild, Mild, American League West.

A good Brewers team visits Minute Maid Park for three games this weekend. The Astros beat their best starter Friday night. Next the Astros get the pathetic Angels here for three before a three-game series at Oakland. Meanwhile the West leading Mariners start a ten-game road trip this weekend: three at the excellent Orioles, four at the excellent Yankees, three at the respectable Nationals. The Astros stand a good chance of overtaking the M’s by the end of this month if they can win the four-game series they open Memorial Day in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers snapped a five game losing streak Wednesday to eke back over .500 at 23-22. The reigning World Series champs hope to get somewhat well vs. the Angels in Arlington this weekend but dropped the series opener to drop back to .500. For their sake they better because the Rangers then hit the road for Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Naturally, many Astros fans are upset with Ronel Blanco serving a 10 game suspension for illegally using whatever substance on his glove and non-pitching hand. The suspension is basically automatic. The suspension is also not a big problem. Blanco has been fantastic since getting a starting rotation spot only because of Justin Verlander’s delayed start to his season. It’s said that all life owes us is opportunity. Man, did Blanco seize his. With just seven big league starts to his name before entering this season as a 30-year old, Blanco has made eight this season with a sparkling 2.09 earned run average. So, what’s that about the suspension is not a big problem?

Blanco will miss one start and have another pushed back a day or two. That’s just not a big deal. In fact it may be helpful in the bigger picture. With last year being the first time in his professional career that Blanco topped 100 innings pitched (125 1/3), the Astros need to be wary of Blanco’s workload which is on pace to blow past last year’s career-high innings total. J.P. France probably pitched over his head for a while last year, but went well past his prior career-high innings total and faded badly. Cristian Javier was tremendous in 2022 while pitching more than in any previous year, but he pitched even more in 2023 and faded badly.

Alex Bregman lives! After being nearly inconceivably inept through the first quarter of the season, the Alex awakening in the Oakland series was not shocking but most welcomed. Over his first 37 games Bregman had a paltry seven extra base hits. Even with a feeble .201 batting average and .534 OPS, that Bregman had scored just eight runs over those 37 games was hard to believe. Then Monday and Tuesday saw five extra base hits and four runs scored.

In a trade not commanding any headlines, Dana Brown Wednesday sent outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox for 20-year-old low minor league pitcher Luis Rodriguez. There is now no reason to call it a great Astros trade but Brown made a smart deal. Julks had no future here, hence he would have been released if no deal was struck. Taking a flyer on a young arm can’t hurt. Frankly, the White Sox are dumb to trade a young arm of any promise whatsoever for a 28-year-old outfielder with limited value. Julks was a nice story for parts of last season. The Clear Brook High School grad and UH product had a couple windows of production, highlighted by a sizzling nine game 17 for 34 stretch straddling June and July. Alas, not two weeks later Julks began what would become an 0 for 36 nightmare. He was sent to the minors for good in late-August.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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