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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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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