THE PALLILOG

How the Rockets are counting on a lot of ifs this season

The new-look Rockets have a lot to prove. Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook out. John Wall in. The Rockets' Westbrook Era sure was brief. It was an entertaining failure. The team got worse, and the Rockets' return from the Washington Wizards for trading Westbrook to them is vastly less than what the Rockets gave to Oklahoma City to get him. On top of that, while Westbrook was brilliant for a couple of months early in 2020, Chris Paul was a better player in his one season with the Thunder than Westbrook was here.

In desiring the deal to D.C., Westbrook has admitted (without admitting it) that winning is not his highest priority. He wants to dominate the ball, The End. However, it's not as if he's foregoing a realistic championship run with the Rockets to go be the lead Wizard. Westbrook and James Harden may have been besties off the court, but their games/egos obviously didn't mesh well on the hardwood for each of their tastes. Paul lasted two seasons before Harden wanted him gone, Westbrook one. How long before Harden decides that Wall cramps his style? This given the non-secret that Harden already would love to become an ex-Rocket if he could get to Brooklyn or Philadelphia.

Westbrook's contract was pretty much untradeable except in exchange for another ridiculous contract or contracts. Wall's is essentially a carbon copy, three years left at about 133 million dollars. The Rockets are crossing their fingers that somehow Harden takes to Wall and has rejuvenated good feelings about staying, and that sign and trade acquisition Christian Wood lives up to high hopes pinned on him.

Wall last played in an NBA game December 26, 2018. Since then he's had one season ending heel surgery, and then a season costing Achilles tendon tear. At 30 Wall is two years younger than Westbrook, but that is worthless if he doesn't have back most of his speed and quickness. Pre-injuries Wall was as fast as Westbrook, but less forceful. Some might say less ball-hoggy. He's a better three point shooter than Westbrook, but who isn't? In his nine NBA seasons (the last two partial seasons) Wall has shot league average from three, once. He was not a good defender the last season or two before his major injuries.

If Harden doesn't have one foot and half his head out the door, and if Wall is healthy and 85 percent of what he was, and if DeMarcus Cousins is healthy, and if Wood is worthy of three years 41 mil, the Rockets should be pretty good. That's a lot of ifs. Regardless, the Lakers won't be shaking in their sneakers over this incarnation of Rocketball.

This is all another reminder that ex-General Manager Daryl Morey failed the smell test when he set forth wanting to step back and desire for family time as his reasons for leaving the Rockets. I don't blame him for wanting out to take the 76ers job, but am not a fan of BS.

The Colts come to NRG this Sunday

The 4-7 Texans are home Sunday versus the 7-4 Indianapolis Colts. Stifle that yawn! The Colts come to town off Derrick Henry and the Titans trampling them last Sunday. That in itself shouldn't spike local optimism because the Texans basically have no running game. The Colts also played without stud d-lineman DeForest Buckner who was out after a positive COVID test. Buckner's status for Sunday is undetermined.

The Texans are only three and a half point underdogs as they play without their best wide receiver (Will Fuller) and their best cornerback (Bradley Roby) after each flunked a PED test. Classic. That's one way for Fuller to finally get through an NFL season without a major injury.

College hoops

Sadly, college basketball isn't much of a thing around here. Doesn't change the facts that Baylor looks tremendous and is ranked number two in the nation. The Bears play number one Gonzaga Saturday at noon our time in Indianapolis. The Houston Cougars cracked the top 10 this week. The Texas Longhorns may crack the top 10 next week. SARCASM ALERT. It's a good thing UT is a hoops first fanbase or Longhorn fans might be really disgruntled with Tom Herman.

MLB free agency

Major League Baseball's winter meetings open (virtually) on Monday. Next week could be the week George Springer picks a new team. Ditto Michael Brantley. It's ridiculous that with free agency underway MLB still hasn't settled on whether the designated hitter sticks in the National League. That would almost certainly expand Brantley's market, and possibly Springer's as well.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. I wonder what Westbrook would have said if the Rockets asked him are you in if we trade Harden for Bradley Beal? Then, as a Rockets fan would you rather have Wall/Harden or Westbrook/Beal?

2. Did you know James Harden has a restaurant named "13" opening in town New Year's Day?

3. Harden restaurant questions: Bronze-Does the dessert menu offers a variety of turnovers? Silver-Think Harden has any idea who James Beard was? Gold-Suppose delivery range includes Brooklyn and Philadelphia?

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