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 Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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