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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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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