PAUL MUTH

Rockets interest in Jimmy Butler makes perfect sense

Jimmy Butler would be a big acquisition for the Rockets. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Houston Rockets were looking to get back to the Western Conference Finals. Today, they're looking for answers. As the Rockets welcome the return of Chris Paul back into the lineup, they do so in exchange for an injured James Harden and a team that could be staring at a 1-5 record by early next week. The answers are coming, but they might not make it in time.

The multitude of early season tweaks and pulls and twists and strains has become laughable, but their collective effect on the Rockets 1-3 record is anything but. A team with championship aspirations can't afford to be hamstrung (no pun intended) so early in the season.

Enter Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ savant general manager, who clearly sees the writing on the wall:

This is a great team, and this is their window.

Last night word leaked that the Rockets had offered four first round draft picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for all star guard Jimmy Butler. A Houston team previously content to wait out Butler's high asking price had suddenly become very aggressive.

The move makes sense. The Rockets can survive with one or two guys out, teams do that all season long. When six guys are out though and your starters are forced into 40 minutes of playing time, it's easier to understand why the Jazz were able to run away with the game Tuesday at the end.

Charlie Pallilo said it best earlier this morning on his show: “It's not ok to overreact, but it's ok to react.” The truth is that the Rockets need reinforcements at the moment due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, and there happens to be a power shifting option staring them in the face.

I was neither here nor there when word initially broke that the Rockets were interested in acquiring Butler a few weeks ago. That's because the Rockets are reportedly interested in everyone all the time, and also because I saw a great team that would benefit but not necessarily need a third star to remain competitive. The situation has changed, however. Adding Butler isn't a move to put the Rockets over the top anymore. It's a move to keep them afloat.

Now is it too early to panic? Yes, absolutely. I still contend that, when healthy, this is one of the league's best teams. What these first four games have done, however, is expose the Rockets’depth (or lack thereof). A trade for Butler would address that issue in spades by allowing knicked up players to rest without sacrificing victories.

Whatever the case is, it's clear that the Rockets are all in on getting Butler now. I can't envision a scenario where acquiring such a top tier talent - provided he stays healthy - doesn't ultimately develop into a massive coup for the Rockets. Circumstances have a funny way of playing out, and the irony would not be lost in me if a Butler acquisition and possible title run were sparked by the worst possible way to start a season. A possibly great ending to a terrible beginning. Either way we'll find out sooner than later whether the Rockets will be welcoming Butler into the locker room.

Stay tuned.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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