The Couch Slouch

The NBA season is here, and it's the West's World

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Tip the world over on its side and everything will land in Los Angeles."

(Why not Sacramento?)

LeBron James landed last year, followed this year by Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

When you say "La La Land" now, one "La" is for the Lakers and the other "La" is for the Clippers.

Staples Center is no longer big enough for the two of them – the Clippers intend to move to the Lakers' old stomping grounds in Inglewood, with a new arena planned for 2024 down the street from the Great Western Forum.

The NBA traditionally is divided into the Western and Eastern Conferences. But in 2019-20, it is now divided into Los Angeles and Points East.

(By the way, if everything did land in Sacramento, I'd be able to get to In-N-Out Burger quicker.)

Anyhow, here's a not-quite-comprehensive look at the new NBA season:

* Let's get this nasty replay-as-an-officiating-tool business expanding again out of the way first. NBA coaches this season have the right to challenge one call per game (on limited situations), plus replay can now be triggered by the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., without the involvement of the game referees.

Here's a thought: One day the NBA Replay Center might also handle pass-interference disputes for NFL games being played at the same time as NBA games.

* Memo to the Brooklyn Nets: You are one short of a dynamic duo. Sure, everyone is excited by the arrival of Irving and Kevin Durant. Except Durant will miss the entire season; as a rule, I like my $164 million superstars to be ready to play within, oh, three months or so of joining the team. And when Durant does return in 2020-21, he might be a shadow of his former self. Take it from me: I've been a shadow of my former self since 1993, and it's not a pretty sight.

* The cheesesteak contingent says this is the year The Process leads to The Finals for the Philadelphia 76ers. Uh, no. Yes, Ben Simmons hit a three-point shot in preseason, another wacky and inexplicable effect of climate change. And, yes, the Toronto Raptors lost Leonard and the Boston Celtics lost Irving. But The Process remains an irrevocably corrupt, contaminated, contemptible entity, and it will never be rewarded.

* James Harden, you remember Russell. Russell Westbrook, you remember James. This could be the greatest pairing since Simon & Garfunkel. Or it could be the biggest flop since the AOL-Time Warner merger. Whether it's a tour de force or a train wreck, watching the Houston Rockets alone is the worth the price of NBA League Pass.

* If you are a disgruntled L.A. fan, you might want to latch onto the New Orleans Pelicans – they have ex-Lakers Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, plus ex-Clipper J.J. Redick (and the head coach is ex-Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry). And why stop there? Why not move to New Orleans? Less traffic, lower taxes, no Kardashians.

* The Golden State Warriors have moved into a new arena, but they forgot to bring most of their team. Gone: Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and, until he is healthy, Klay Thompson. Was it something Steve Kerr said? No – life happens. And as long as Stephen Curry is still in town, the Warriors are still happening.

* Let's be very, very honest about the Dallas Mavericks. The only reason to mildly root for the team the past 20-odd years was Dirk Nowitzki; the main reason to root against the Mavs was Mark Cuban. Nowitzki is gone, Cuban is not. Case closed.

* With column space at a premium these days, Couch Slouch cannot justify writing lengthy items on the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards. They always stink.

* A billion Chinese people can't be wrong, can they? In A Few Good Men, Col. Nathan Jessup shouted, "You [messed] with the wrong Marine!" Well, Adam Silver, you [messed] with the wrong regime!

Ask The Slouch

Q. Several years ago, you ran a question that said, "If Dan Snyder really loved the R*dsk*ns, wouldn't it make more sense for him to have bought the Cowboys and run that franchise into the ground?" If you print that one again, I will send you $1.25. (Doug Pratt; Kensington, Md.)

A. You really should send the buck-and-a-quarter to Jeff Brown of Arlington, Va., who submitted that gem.

Q. If replay review had been afforded to either of your first two wives at the ceremonies, would the "I do" have been reversed to "I don't"? (Jack Drury; Cumberland, Md.)

A. Actually, I believe one of them did try to back out on our wedding day without the benefit of replay.

Q. Is it true that the NCAA was fully supportive of the "pay to play" idea until they couldn't agree on how much the players should be charged? (Steve Cullen; Richmond, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Does the signature of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on player paychecks constitute written proof of attempting to fix NFL games? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay this wise soul, too.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

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