END OF AN ERA?

Here's why trading James Harden might be best for everybody

The time may have come to trade James Harden. Composite image by Jack Brame

Was it something Houston said? In the past week, J.J. Watt, the greatest football player in Houston Texans history, made it perfectly clear that he'd rather play his home games elsewhere, preferably with a team contending for a Super Bowl.

At the same time, while the Rockets swear no, chatter persists that James Harden, the No. 1-a (with Hakeem Olajuwon) basketball player in Houston history, may be available in a trade if the price is right.

You know, maybe the Rockets should do it. The Beard has played eight seasons in Houston producing three scoring titles and one MVP, more than $100 million in salary, a $200 million shoe contract, but no Western Conference titles and not a sniff of the NBA Finals.

As a distinguished medical expert once suggested taking a drug proved ineffective against coronavirus … what the hell do you have to lose?

Next season will be a new start for the Rockets, with a new coach, new general manager and possibly a new style of offense. Sure Houston fans get off on James Harden's iso dribble-dribble-dribble 3-pointers and free throw shooting contest, but around the league, fans are falling asleep or clicking the remote.

How about a trade, Harden for 76'ers point guard Ben Simmons and a bunch of first-round draft picks? Sure, that'd be trading one of the most prolific 3-point bombers for someone who's shooting range is "dunk and closer" (a tip of the hat to Charlie Pallilo).

Having Simmons join Russell Westbrook in the Rockets backcourt might be the worst 3-point shooting tandem but a marketing dream. Bill Worrell: "That last shot was brought to you by Acme Brick, 5020 Acorn Street in Houston."

Harden-Simmons isn't only a possible NBA trade, it's a misspelled D3 college in Abilene (Hardin-Simmons).

The Rockets scheme of acquiring superstars (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard) to pair with Harden hasn't worked. And Harden is on the dirty side of 30. So, yeah, what the hell do they have to lose by trading him?

There happens to be a lovestruck Harden fan in the City of Brotherly Love, former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose desire of spending more time with his family lasted about two weeks. I had the over/under at three days. Ask anybody who works at home these days.

In his farewell to Houston, Morey wrote: "James Harden changed my life. He not only transformed my life but also revolutionized the game of basketball, and continues to do so, like almost no one has before. The game is played differently because of James, and on every playground in the world, the next generation of talent is studying and imitating his game."

Hey, why don't you two get a room? I've seen less romantic Valentine's cards.

Obviously Morey would love to angle a trade for Harden. First, Harden would provide an outside scoring threat to go along with All-Star center Joel Embiid. Perhaps more important, it's only human nature to want to stick it to your former employer. How's that saying go? Hell hath no fury like a general manager scorned.

Here's something the Philadelphia welcome wagon might use to entice Harden: according to Yelp, the Top 5 strip clubs in Philly are Club Risque, Delilah's, Pleasure Garden, Cheerleaders and Cheeks Lounge.

Cheeks Lounge … hilarious.

It's not like the Rockets, as is, will be favorites to win the Western Conference next year. First clue: LeBron James plays in that conference. King James' teams have won their conference nine of the past 10 years. The only year that James' team didn't get to the NBA Finals was 2019, when James was injured and played a career-low 55 games. Also, the Golden State Warriors will have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back, plus they have the No. 2 draft pick.

That's tough sledding for the Rockets, with or without Harden. Without might be best for everybody.

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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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