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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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