THE PALLILOG

Let's examine what the Rockets could get in return for Russell Westbrook

Let's make a deal. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That Russell Westbrook wants out (as The Athletic first reported this week) from the Rockets is actually good news for Tilman Fertitta. It's not as if the Rockets are legitimate NBA championship contenders as constructed with Westbrook. Since he wants out, blowback from dealing him should be diminished even though the Rockets likely get a return that from a purely basketball player standpoint will look weak. Westbrook is still breathtakingly explosive and was named third team All-NBA in the shortened season, but his game has conspicuous holes and the three seasons nearly 133 million dollars left on his contract are onerous. While there may be some teams happy to acquire Westbrook, the Rockets are dealing from a position of weakness. Charlotte is said to have interest. The Hornets would likely want the Rockets to take back the laughable one year more than 27 million dollars left on Nicolas Batum's contract. If not Batum, mediocre point Terry Rozier at two years nearly 37 mil left on his deal. The Knicks aren't including young stud R.J. Barrett or big man Mitchell Robinson for Westbrook. Think more like Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, and Taj Gibson. The Clippers aren't swapping Paul George for Westbrook.

Fertitta's biggest addition in a Westbrook deal will be the subtraction of the nearly 47 million dollar option Westbrook holds for the 2022-23 season when he'll be 34 years old. As Tilman's other business holdings have hemorrhaged money this year while he's also carrying enormous debt, he'd be foolish to not take that into consideration. Fertitta is not foolish. From a strictly Rockets' future roster-building perspective getting out of the Westbrook obligation would also be a very good thing.

As for other Rocket rumblings, if Eric Gordon is disgruntled, so what. He stunk last season and should be thankful for the bloated three years 54 million left coming his way thanks to one of Daryl Morey's dumbest General Manager moves here. If P.J. Tucker is "irate" as reported about lack of a contract extension, well, suck it up. As tough as Tucker is, guys with huge offensive limitations who'll be 36 years old when hitting free agency don't get to call all their shots.

Whither James Harden?

Good luck new Head Coach Stephen Silas and new GM Rafael Stone! As measured by being "all in" in pursuit of an NBA championship they're both being set up to fail.

No one should blame Daryl Morey for having cut and run before the walls started caving in. It's a separate matter that Morey came across as disingenuous about wanting to step back and enjoy family time before taking a job with the 76ers roughly 45 seconds later. He left a team on the downhill slope for a personally refreshing and better situation in Philadelphia. Those Rockets' walls have serious cracks showing.

Must-win game for Texans

The Texans play at Cleveland Sunday in a game that even the most blindly loyal Texans' optimist (and/or team Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) knows that without a win the last nail is driven into the coffin against the faintest viability whatsoever of making something of the 2020 season. Even if they win to improve to 3-6 Texans' playoff hopes are closer to none than to slim, but slim exists if they win. With the expanded playoff format this season of three wild card teams per conference, the Texans find themselves needing to climb past at least three of the following: Ravens, Colts/Titans non AFC South winner, Browns, Dolphins, Raiders. It's more likely they go past none of them than three or more, but a win over the Browns gets the Texans within two games of them while taking the head-to-head tiebreaker. They get two shots at the Colts and would need to win both. The Dolphins or Raiders would need to fall apart over the second half of the season. The Ravens, forget it.

Can you believe I managed to type that paragraph with a semi-straight face? When the only team you've beaten is Jacksonville you simply are not good. However, it is fair to note that setting aside the Vikings, the other five teams to beat the Texans (Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Packers) have a combined record of 34-8. That's certainly part of why the Texans are only three point underdogs at Cleveland despite the Browns being 5-3.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. James Harden comes across as being down with flings but flawed in handling longer term relationships. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, now Westbrook.

2. Unless he can prove Jim Crane knew of the Astros' cheatin' ways I don't see Jeff Luhnow winning his lawsuit against the Astros, but sitting in on the depositions sure would seem fun.

3. RIP Alex Trebek. Greatest all-time game shows: Bronze-Password Silver-Pyramid (only when hosted by Dick Clark) Gold-Jeopardy

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Keep an eye on Kevin Harvick. Photo by Wiki Commons

It's been a season of surprises as the NASCAR Cup Series begins its West Coast swing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is one of NASCAR's many mile and a half tracks, but this one is different as it is much more bumpy and when this track gets in the sun, it gets slippery as well. The track is a lot more narrow than the other mile and a half tracks as well, so there will be a lot more close quarter racing.

Last week at Homestead, William Byron pulled away from the field and went on to claim his second career victory. The Charlotte native battled back from early tire issues and ran as low as 31st until he was able to claw his way back to the front around stage 2 when he drove around the two JGR teammates of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to take the stage victory. There has been a lot of expectations and hype around this young phenom but in his first three years, it took him a while to grow into a race winner. It wasn't until last year when Byron claimed his first win at the Daytona fall race. This year he was paired with crew-chief Rudy Fugle. This pair amassed tons of success when they worked together in the Truck Series back in 2016 when they won seven races. It seems now that the pair could be back to their winning ways. This looks like this could be a good pairing down the line.

As we all know, this has been the season of surprises and those surprises continued last week as Michael McDowell went on to his third consecutive top ten finish as he finished eighth. McDowell has been sort of a journeyman driver. He has raced for teams such as LeaVine Family Racing and the now defunct Michael Waltrip Racing where he got his start. While it has only been three races, he's in the midst of a career year beginning with a victory in this year's Daytona 500. Many thought that victory was a fluke and that he was "wasting a playoff spot," but since then he has proved his haters wrong as he currently sits fourth in the points. Will this streak continue? I think it can. His string of good runs puts him in an advantageous position as he gets to start up front each week and knowing how important qualifying was, he has really been able to take advantage of this. Look for the #34 Loves Ford Mustang to build on this.

The favorite for this week's race has to be Joey Logano. In the fifteen races Logano has started in here, he has ten top fives and two victories including last season's spring Vegas race in February. He hasn't got off to the best start as it's been three up and down races for him. From finishing second at the Daytona road course to following that up with a twenty-fifth last week at Homestead. This week though I believe he can get everything back on track with a good run or a victory.

The driver that I am picking to win this week is Kevin Harvick. The future Hall of Famer has been stout this season with a 6th and 5th place finish. The speed for Harvick and his team have been there, but they just haven't been able to get the win. But this week he's going to a track he has excelled at big time. He will start from the pole this Sunday and that should really scare the whole field. He has two victories here and twelve top tens since his beginning back in 2001. I look for him to get his third victory here and begin another run for his second championship.

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