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.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome