THE Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Rockets are forced into an "all-in" scenario

Bringing back Chris Paul means the window is now. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So now what? Is it time to make wide-ranging changes or is it time to sit tight? Figuring out where the Rockets go from here can be tricky unless you really think things through. Well hang on… Daryl Morey is responsible for building this team, not us. Morey crafts team building plans two years in advance so I guess you and I trying to figure things out is irrelevant.

But I’m still going to get my two cents in.

Before we talk about Lebron James or any other “solutions” to the Golden State problem, we have to figure out where the Rockets stand in the grand scheme of winning a title. The “Clutch City” Rockets obviously had great success, but they believed a changing of the roster was necessary to beat Seattle. They added Charles Barkley to the mix, but sprung a leak against the Utah Jazz and the Rockets run ended in quick death thanks, in part, due to Barkley’s inability to get in shape and stay healthy. Plus they just got hella old.

Before you make any moves at all, you have to have an honest accounting of where you stand as an organization. Let’s delve.

Window shopping

The Philadelphia 76’ers and Boston Celtics are built for long-term runs since their teams are built through the draft. All their best players are still young and they have roster flexibility where they can deal talented, young players for quality veterans whenever they need.

The Rockets don’t have that same luxury. The Rockets “window” is very fluid. If we acknowledge there was a better than average chance that Chris Paul may have helped right the ship in the third and/or fourth quarters of games 6 or 7, then the Rockets would have found themselves in the Finals.

But do you just hang your hat on that knowledge and keep rolling? Yes and no.

Re-signing Chris Paul is a must thanks to his ability to control the offense when needed, find points with mid-range jumpers when the 3-pointers are clanking, and provide the leadership and mental toughness this team needed.

But once you lock in with Paul, you better realize that your window for a title is very small. For as much as we love Paul, he played in just 58 games, which is the second lowest of his career. He began the season with a soft-tissue injury and ended the season with a soft-tissue injury. He’s talented but older players don’t get more healthy, only less healthy.

Once Paul is re-signed, Morey must realize that the window for winning is much tighter and will require a roster being built around the understanding that Paul is likely going to miss several games. Some of the games Paul misses could be in the playoffs. Because of this, the pursuit and recruitment of another high-end talent like Lebron James will go into overdrive.

Re-signing Paul and Clint Capela along with allowing guys like Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza to walk will still creates a status-quo situation unless the Rockets find a significantly better scorer and creator. Finding better point guard depth is a must now as well. I’m not big into small windows for success, but as long as you are going to rely on Chris Paul in 2018-2019, the Rockets have to go all-in.

 

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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