Time for Relaunch

How the return of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Gordon will impact the Rockets

The Rockets should be back at full force. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Recently, the Houston Rockets struggled defensively and offensively against the Denver Nuggets. Even though James Harden and Christian Wood were dynamic on offense, it still wasn't enough. James combined for 78 points in the last two games, while Christian had 54 points. The good news is the Rockets get back John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Gordon Thursday night, which is New Year's Eve.

Defensively, the Rockets needed Gordon and Wall against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Nuggets, because of their on-ball defending skills. Gordon and Wall show the true importance in defending the pick-n-roll, fighting screens, and making it extremely hard for guards on the perimeter. Gordon's defensive rating was a 101.7 in the 2019-2020 season, while Wall averaged 98.6 on a bad knee two years ago before his injury. Wall and Gordon would have made it tough for Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jamal Murray, and Portland's role players as well.

The Rockets second unit will improve with Cousins back in the rotation. Cousins provides a spark off the bench because of his shooting. In the preseason, Cousins shot 46 percent from the perimeter, which is extremely valuable to the Rockets' offense. Hopefully, Cousins will be able to mix it up more because of his versatility on offense. Cousins' potential on offense will maximize the Rockets' second unit. Houston could easily have one of the best second units in the NBA because of Gordon and Cousins.

Hopefully, Gordon can transform back to the Sixth Man he was in the 2017-2018 season. In the last two years with the Rockets, Gordon struggled with injures and/or shooting. During training camp, Gordon seemed optimistic and determined to return to averaging 19 points per game and shooting 48 percent from the 3-point line. Gordon averaged 15 points per game during the previous preseason with the Rockets.

Wall will add another scoring threat in the Rockets' starting five because of his athleticism and playmaking skills. Like Gordon and Cousins, Wall will be able to help Harden and Wood. Wall could possibly average 18-20 points per game for the Rockets' offense this season. He still has his explosiveness off the dribble and is able to get by his defenders quickly. Throughout the preseason defenders had a tough time staying in front of Wall, which allowed him to score 16.3 points per game in three games.

Hopefully, the Rockets go on a winning streak starting with the Sacramento Kings Thursday night. The Kings are 3-1 and one of the hottest young teams in the Western Conference, which will be a good test for the Rockets because of their guards and perimeter shooting.

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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