ROCKETS WILL BE TESTED

How Rockets season can be salvaged by leaning into history

The Rockets can't afford to win. Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images.

NBA insiders, and anybody with two eyes, believe the Houston Rockets have thrown in the towel and will spend the rest of the season desperately clawing their way to the bottom of the NBA standings, hoping to land a top draft pick for next year.

Reportedly the Rockets are ready to part ways with Victor Oladipo, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and others in exchange for draft picks, expiring contracts or gift cards to Twin Peaks. An NBA official told Bleacher Report, "I keep hearing they're going to (have a) fire sale."

So they're going to break up a team on a 13-game losing streak and make it even worse on purpose?

Might as well. The Rockets currently own an 11-23 record and are shooting for their 14th consecutive loss Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings. Only two teams have a lousier record than the Rockets: the Pistons (10-26) and, God love 'em, the Timberwolves (7-29). Vegas oddsmakers pin the Rockets' chances of making the playoffs this year at less than 1 percent.

You wouldn't know from this year's squad, but the Rockets are one of the NBA's most consistent winning teams in recent history. Since the turn of the millennium, the Rockets have had only two losing seasons, 2001-02 and 2005-06. They've had 14 straight winning, at least non-losing seasons – there was a relative 41-41 clunker in 2015-16. A whole generation of fans has never seen the Rockets in rebuilding mode.

The Rockets' commitment to losing will be tested tonight. The Kings have an almost equally paltry 14-22 record and are gunning for a top lottery pick, too. The Rockets can't afford to get sloppy, make mental mistakes and win.

If the Rockets truly want to lose, and go on a record-breaking losing streak (current mark is 28 games by the '76ers between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons), they'll have to focus and keep their eye on the ball … as it clanks off the rim en route to another double-digit defeat. The Rockets have lost by 10 or more points in 10 of their last 13 defeats in a row.

I am qualified to help the Rockets on their journey of despair. Two times, I hit the hardwood for the Washington Generals, whose team photo should be next to the word "losers" in the dictionary. The nightly patsies for the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in 1952. Since then, their record against the Globies is three wins and something like 17,000 losses. But who's counting? The last time they beat the Globetrotters was in 1971. I imagine they got a tongue-lashing in the locker room after that game.

For a couple of years, the Generals had a gimmick. As they crisscrossed America, they'd ask a local media type in each city to play as their "secret weapon." Both times they played in Houston, I was the designated Washington General.

I met the Generals during the afternoon and practiced with the team on a portable hoop in the arena garage. They had a couple of plays designed for me. I remember coach Red Klotz saying, "Here's your uniform. You have to give it back after the game because we need it for tomorrow night in San Antonio."

There was no chance I was returning my authentic, game-worn Generals uniform either time. Let the record show that I scored in both games, including a 3-pointer.

OK, my 3-pointer never went through the hoop. They told me to shoot the ball as high as I could and a Globetrotter caught it mid-flight. He was standing on another Globetrotter's shoulders and the referee called goaltending. Hilarious. Count it.

I also made two free throws despite Globetrotter "Sweet Lou" Dunbar screaming at me and threatening to pull down my pants. I was warned that he might do that, so I had my pants tied tighter than a tourniquet.

During practice the second year, the Generals' center said he couldn't play that night because he ate too much fried chicken on the bus to Houston and felt nauseous.

Anyway, here are 5 tips for the Rockets if they want to lose out the rest of the season, Generals-style.

1. Trade the whole roster and sign a bunch of guys who couldn't beat a pickup team at Fonde Rec Center on Sabine Street in Houston.

2. If LeBron James starts chasing the referee with a pail of confetti, just stand to the side and let it happen.

3. If Luka Doncic suddenly thinks he's playing a football game and steps off a 5-yard penalty against the Rockets, do not challenge the call.

4. When James Harden covers the ball with enough Stickum to wallpaper Mar-a-Lago and does that dribbling between his legs bit, instruct the Rockets new 5 ft. 4-in. guard (he will be introduced to the crowd as "Shorty") to dive for the ball and miss it every time.

5. If Bradley Beal shoots a free throw and he's got a rubber band attached to the ball, it's a lane violation on the Rockets. Be careful, the next ball could be filled with helium.

OK Rockets, you know what to do. Now go out there and commit turnovers, shoot bricks, get T'd up, flop, violate COVID protocol. Do whatever it takes. Remember this is a team sport. Everybody has to do their share for the team to tank a season.

In other words, just keep doing what you're doing.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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