TRADE ALERT

Here's why the Rockets are now in panic mode

Big changes are coming. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Late Monday night word broke that the Rockets had traded Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for former Rocket Trevor Ariza and a pair of first round picks.

Translation: the Houston Rockets are in panic mode.

Things have gone very south on Polk Street ever since Stephen Silas was announced as the Rockets new head coach three weeks ago. That interesting, yet innocuous move would ultimately turn out to be a fuse connected to a cache of explosives seemingly nestled right underneath the entire franchise.

Despite the simultaneous GM and coach turnover this off-season, Rockets fans were still able to find solace in the fact that they still, at the very least, had James Harden. At least until late Sunday night.

When Russell Westbrook made it known he wanted out last week, I didn't bat an eye. Outside of a short stretch in the regular season of vintage Brodie, nothing I witnessed last season suggested that Westbrook was some sort of missing piece that would be putting Houston over the top. An aging star with a mammoth contract, one could only hope that the Rockets would be able to move on from said failed experiment.

Harden wanting out, though, is an entirely different story.

Say what you want about his play style or aesthetic. He is still one of the top five players in the league. Houston is lucky to have him as an asset, and they should be doing everything they can to repair the situation.

If Harden's cryptic IG story is any indication of his leaning, then it looks like the Rockets chances of salvaging the confidence of the best player they've had since one Hakeem Olajuwon are all but gone:

If the message is "no cap," then it basically means "Yes, what you've heard is true."

Here's another less cryptic bit of evidence that Harden might want out:

Turning down $50 million per year is pretty clear statement. Now the Rockets can say that they're not listening to trade offers for Harden as much as they want, but the Covington trade signifies one of two things: they're either trying to use the assets they've received to make a move to appease Harden, or they're all but gearing up to make the numbers work for what is looking more and more like an inevitable separation between the two parties.

If there's any silver lining to be gleaned from the possible departure of one of the greatest players to ever wear a Rockets uniform, it's that the divorce would allow first year head coach Silas to install a scheme unhindered by the demands of one player with disproportionate leverage. A team with James Harden becomes a scheme designed around James Harden. That scheme typically boils down to a deluge of visually unappealing isolation plays with Harden dribbling the air out of the ball. With Harden potentially gone, Silas will be able to develop a more complete and creative scheme.

Simply put: if Harden's gone, we're going to find out real quick just how good of a coach Stephen Silas is.

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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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