Counterpoint: how holding on to James Harden might pay off for Rockets

Good things come to those that wait. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I'm sure by now most of you are aware of the saga surrounding the Rockets and their enigmatic star James Harden. If you aren't, here's a quick rundown: The Rockets failed to re-sign the coach (Mike D'Antoni) who allowed Harden to become a ball-hogging MVP candidate; they parted ways with the general manager (Darryl Morey) who allowed Harden to run the franchise; when they didn't hire the coach he wanted, he decided to demand a trade and list several contenders in the Eastern Conference who he'd like to play for.

Everyone seems to have an opinion as to what the Rockets should do with Harden. Some say trade him and get what you can, some say keep him, others are so done with the whole thing they've become indifferent. I fall in the middle because I want them to keep him, but trade him later. One of my colleague's here at SportsMap, Zach Allen, wrote that he feels they should trade Harden ASAP. I disagree, and here's why:

Harden has no leverage

He's under contract this year and two more after that, although the 2022-2023 season has a player option he likely wouldn't exercise. If he decides to sit out games and practices, he can be fined. This would only make things more contentious with the Rockets and further damage his already off-putting reputation around the league. When Anthony Davis did this when he wanted out of New Orleans, he had a rep for being a good guy. People took it as he wanted out of a bad situation and wanted to find himself in a winning organization. If Harden were to do the same, which seems like he's already doing, it will make him seem more malcontent and diva-ish than he's already perceived to be.

With the offseason additions the Rockets have made, they have some pieces in place to be a playoff team. How far up the ladder can they climb in the uber competitive West? I'd say their ceiling is 3rd seed and their floor is either the 8thseed or just missing out on the playoffs. That said, Harden may start to play with and buy into the system new coach Stephen Silas has going. If he sees the potential in this roster to win, he stays. If not, he could come in and play at his typical high level, elevating his value, then allowing the Rockets to trade him to the highest bidder. The only thing would be selling everyone on the fact that Harden is here to stay for the long haul. The media will be asking those questions often of everyone in the organization. Everyone would have to be on the same page as far as answers are concerned.

While I highly doubt Harden is going to stick around Houston much longer, I'd much rather see the organization take their time in finding the best deal for them moving forward as opposed to bending over for the first offer they get. Trading him ASAP doesn't work because his value wasn't high to begin with given his style of play and dropped with his recent actions and demands. Wait it out. Create the illusion he's staying. Drum up interest and get the highest price you can for him. And remember, Harden doesn't have the leverage he thinks he does. Stay woke.

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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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