THE PALLILOG

Rockets are set to pick up where they left off

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

While Major League Baseball and its players jerk around with regard to coming to terms that yield a 2020 season, the NBA path back to the hardwood is firmed up. An on or about July 31 resumption with a postseason running as late as October 12 has risks and all kinds of logistics to navigate, but we're almost certainly getting there.

When we last saw the Rockets, they were at 40-24 in the sixth seed slot in the Western Conference. They can move up (or down) as one of the 22 of the 30 NBA teams that will gather in Orlando for a partial schedule conclusion to the regular season before it's on to the playoffs. The basic outline for the schedule is teams will pick up where they left off when the season was shut down and play the next eight games on the schedule as of March 12, minus games against the eight teams not heading to Florida. That should make the Rockets' first game back against the Lakers. Their other opponents would be the Trail Blazers, Kings, Mavericks, Bucks, Pacers, 76ers, and Raptors.

James Harden has evidently dropped somewhere from 10 to 20 pounds and is said to be fitter than he's ever been. Russell Westbrook is always in peak physical condition. Could make for a fun couple of months. Or the Rockets could get bounced in the first round.

MLB

As for baseball, the two parties seem as close together on a deal as Muggsy Bogues and George Muresan are close on the all-time NBA height chart. The owners offered an 82 game season with huge additional player pay cuts. The players responded with a 114 game season and no additional cuts. Both proposals were wastes of time. The owners' latest proposal is no further pay cuts, but for only a 50 game schedule. Rome is burning and we have dueling Neros fiddling away.

NFL

I am a white man who cannot possibly on the same level as a black man (or woman) feel or comprehend the struggle, pain, and anger that comes with facing endemic racism both overt and covert. If you are white like New Orleans Saints' quarterback and icon Drew Brees, you can't either. In the ongoing aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Brees struck another nerve Wednesday with his remarks iterating his position about what he considers "disrespecting the flag." Outrage response was swift including from several of Brees's teammates. His comments were not evil. Brees can feel how he wants about the flag/anthem, as can any person. Brees's remarks were insensitive and as he put it "missed the mark" and "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy." His Thursday apology was comprehensive and reads fully genuine, and was accepted by every teammate who commented. If lasting positives are to emerge from this sorry episode in American history, millions of white Americans are going to have to deal with (maybe embrace is a better word) uncomfortable conversations. I fear the unfortunate reality through this is that most of those who most need to change and for starters really listen, are least likely to have any interest in doing so.

Citing the flag as a symbol of unity is a nice notion. Realities supersede symbols and notions. Those who pour out disgust at anything short of complete oath and fealty to the flag and national anthem would be well served to remember or learn that the Star-Spangled Banner was written in 1814. The "land of the free" didn't mean a damn thing to the slaves of that time. The Star-Spangled banner officially became our national anthem in 1931. 33 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Lenny Dykstra in the news again

Lenny Dykstra was one heck of a baseball player for several years. His 1993 season with the Phillies is one of the greatest ever put up by a leadoff hitter. As tremendous as he was on the field for significant stretches, off the field Dykstra has been as big a slimeball of a human being. He's done time in federal prison for money laundering and fraud, and has a long list of character stains on his record. Dykstra sued former Mets teammate Ron Darling for defamation and libel over information about Dykstra included in Darling's autobiography. Dykstra's suit was dismissed last Friday by a judge who said Dykstra's "reputation for unsportsmanlike conduct and bigotry is already so tarnished that it cannot be further injured." Beautiful.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. There sure have been a lot of NASCAR races lately. At least gas is cheap these days. 2. Probably not as interesting as the Lance Armstrong doc, but I'm in for the Bruce Lee 30 for 30 Sunday night. 3. Greatest sports Bruces happen to all be football: Bronze-Isaac Silver-Matthews Gold-Smith

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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