The Pallilog

On Kelvin Sampson's 21-1 Cougars, the Rockets, Astros and Texans

Kelvin Sampson is rolling along. UHcougars.com

Blackjack for the Houston Cougars! 21. 21 wins just one loss. They will never be a citywide big deal, but they are a heckuva story. With some help this weekend UH could crack the Top 10 when the polls come out Monday. The Coogs get the weekend off ahead of their biggest back-to-back games of the season (at Central Florida then home vs. Cincinnati). Right now they'd likely be looking at a number three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Shooting blanks

It's on to February for the Rockets, who will be challenged in the short term to move on from the stink of the gigantic rotten egg they laid Tuesday against the Pelicans. The Rockets would do fine to split their back-to-back games at Denver and Utah Friday and Saturday, coming off of their worst loss of the season. And remember the Rockets have a loss to the Cavaliers.

Without Clint Capela the Rockets are a simply awful defensive team, but Tuesday night was especially lame as they gave up 121 points to a ravaged Pelicans' lineup that was down superstar Anthony Davis and three of its next four leading scorers on the season. The silver lining in defeat was James Harden extending his 30 point games streak to a crazy 24 in a row, though Harden was part of the night's overall mess in making just 11 of 32 shots. It may just be a shooting slump, or maybe the fact that Mike D'Antoni continues to let Harden lead the league in minutes played per game is taking some toll. Over the last four games, Harden from deep, has been more The Brick than The Beard making just 17 of 63 3 pointers. That's a wretched 27 percent.

Overall, Harden's January was one of the most prolific in NBA history. 14 games played, an average of 43.6 points per game. No matter how you slice it, that is stunning output. But it is also fact that Harden's January shooting percentages both overall and from three finished lower than his season averages.

Speaking of Anthony Davis (and Capela), unless Tilman Fertitta balked at what would become a massive luxury tax bill going forward it's likely Daryl Morey offered Capela to New Orleans as the centerpiece of a Rockets' bid for Davis. Problem is the Rockets have no other assets worth a darn in trade and while Capela has evolved into an elite role player there is no way that an offer of Capela and chaff can compete with what the Lakers and Celtics can offer.

Another arm

Inside two months to the Astros' season opener, General Manager Jeff Luhnow finally fulfilled his objective of adding a starting pitcher. Turns out the Astros still have a bearded soft-tossing lefty in their rotation! It's not that exciting. It's also not Dallas Keuchel. At one year for four and a half million dollars, Wade Miley is a favorable risk/reward investment. The 32 year old Miley basically stunk for four years before reviving his career in 2018 with the Brewers. He posted a 2.57 ERA over 16 starts then was sensational in four abbreviated playoff starts, though a couple of things seem fluky about Miley's '18 results. For the Astros, he's rotation depth who at minimum helps bridge the gap until superstud prospect Forrest Whitley's expected Astros' debut sometime this year.

Miley's signing slams the door on any possible Keuchel return. Keuchel went into free agency with agent Scott Boras "demanding" a five year contract, target range 100 million dollars. Dreams don't always come true. Keuchel may not yet even have a four year offer. He's 31, not as good as he used to be, and there is a long, long list of long term pitcher contracts that have turned out to be huge mistakes for the signing team.

Never blame a player for taking the very maximum money he can get, if that's the choice made. If you were Keuchel would you take two years 30 million guaranteed to stay with a great team like the Astros or grab three years 45 mil from a projected also-ran? You'd probably take the extra 15 million. Me too.

An odd move

Interesting move with now former Texans quarterback coach Sean Ryan leaving for the same position with the Detroit Lions. All else being equal, would you opt to work with the still developing and darn exciting 24 year Deshaun Watson, or middle of the pack guy Matthew Stafford who turns 31 next week? It's not as if the Lions offer some stable and successful franchise environment. First year Head Coach Matt Patricia drew lousy reviews. Maybe Ryan winds up the play-caller in Detroit. Bill O'Brien wasn't going to give Ryan that opportunity here. Will O'Brien cede control of his offense to anybody?

Buzzer Beaters

1. Marquese Chriss asking the Rockets to play him more or trade him is sadly funny. The Rockets would give him away if they could. 2. The Texans hiring two time PED test flunker Brian Cushing as an assistant strength and conditioning coach is funny. 3. Super Bowl predictions: Bronze-Gladys Knight's national anthem performance will be stellar Silver-Maroon 5's halftime performance gets panned Gold-Patriots 34 Rams 31

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TEXANS TRAINING CAMP WATCH

11 Texans training camp observations from August 7th

Houston Texans insider dishes on why Derek Stingley Jr was the right pick

The Houston Texans had a “vanilla” day of light work. Here are 11observations from the workout.

1. It was a light day for the Texans. Some would say sluggish, I wouldn’t agree with that. Did it look like a day off was in order? Yes. Did anyone make mental mistakes because of their energy level? Not that I could see. With it being a lighter day, it might be worthwhile to focus on some of the depth on the roster.

2. Isaac Yiadom (pronounced YEAH-dum) has had some moments in training camp. With rookie Derek Stingley having a light day, Yiadom played opposite Steven Nelson. Yiadom has had a few pass breakups and seems to be physical in coverage. He has a little speed to him, or he’s shown the ability to stick with wideouts. He is a top preseason game target to watch.

3. Phillip Dorset had a very nice back-of-the-end zone catch. It might have, likely even, been a sack for the defense in a live rep or team rep, but Davis Mills ripped the ball out as the whistle was starting to sound. Dorset with two feet in the back after juking a defender. He is squarely behind other wideouts having missed time but being a veteran should catch up quickly.

4. Wideout Connor Wedington had a few nice plays on Sunday. He has an uphill battle to make the roster, but Davis Mills’ former teammate might squeeze his way into the conversation. There are opportunities for him with a few other wideouts banged up.

5. Rookie tight end Tegan Quitoriano bodied his way for a touchdown. The rookie hasn’t done much in camp, but his size is clearly an advantage. Game reps and more padded practice will be important for him this preseason.

6. Chris Moore is a veteran taking yet another swing at making this team. If the Texans played tomorrow, I would have him on the roster. Probably even starting at slot wideout. He had a very nice leaping grab today.

7. Versatility for a couple of backup offensive linemen may lead to them making the team. Well, it certainly won’t hurt their case. Justin McCray has played all three interior offensive line spots. The veteran could start if needed, but I have to imagine he is a key backup inside. Scott Quessenberry (yes related to former Texans lineman David and current fullback Paul) played guard on Sunday. He is a factor to be Justin Britt’s backup at center.

8. Charlie Heck was not a pick I was in love with when Bill O’Brien selected him a couple of seasons ago. Heck has grown a lot in his game and physically and is surely the backup tackle for this team. He can play left and right tackle.

9. Tae Davis plays linebacker and wears 19. It is the strangest thing to see a linebacker in that number. It has not been strange to see Davis make a play here or there in practice. The linebacker room is loaded but Davis is making the most of his chances.

10. Ka’imi Fairbairn HAMMERED a ball right down the uprights after Davis Mills had led the team into field goal range on a last-minute drill. Mills easily moved the team down the field without the normal group of linemen or weapons. Good finish to practice.

11. Jonathan Greenard did some pushups after he couldn’t replicate history. Greenard almost had his second interception of Davis Mills, but the ball fell incomplete. Greenard has been a force in training camp.

Bonus Quote of the Day: “I was a fat guy last year” said Pharaoh Brown as he talked about his leaner and quicker frame compared to last year.

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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