Losing Ground

The time is now for Morey to make a major move to improve Rockets

Daryl Morey is not likely to sit idly by as the Rockets struggle. Rockets.com

Daryl Morey knows this team as currently constructed doesn't have enough to win a championship. In fact, it already looks like this team isn't as good as the one that came one hamstring away from potentially winning it all. It's actually a good thing if Morey can look at his roster, look in the mirror and realize there is work to be done for a roster that was expected to be top 4 in the league. The biggest loss was when assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik walked away and decided to call it a career. The timing of his departure was even more unfortunate as it came on the heels of the start of training camp with little to no time to find a replacement. Without him at the defensive helm, the team looks unorganized, uninspired and completely checked out of the defensive end.

The addition of Carmelo Anthony has proven to be more of a distraction than a success. Anthony is the main focus of the media and he is quick to oblige with comments centered on his mental struggle with the lesser role he has been given and time for him to adjust and accept the changes. It's exactly what everyone hoped would not happen, but was what most experts and basketball minds predicted when he was bought out by the Hawks and decided to join the Rockets. Eric Gordon in in the midst of a horrible shooting slump to start the year and don't think for a second that the addition of Anthony has nothing to do with it. The fact is, it has everything to do with it as EG struggles to play a different role with other players getting the shots and crunch time minutes that used to belong to him. The truth is there are more problems than answers and all the while the team everyone is chasing quietly got better and continues to roll.

The Warriors have won back to back NBA titles and yet they continue to get better, add more pieces and win at a high level while playing both ends of the floor. They also know that most players that have attempted to beat them and have failed, welcome the chance to join them and chase championships. Golden State was able to add Boogie Cousins in the off season and it's just unheard of that a World Championship team could go out and add an All-Star center at a quarter of the usual price it should have taken to sign him. They have the titles and the swagger and the Bay and that has made them the premiere destination for free agents and veterans that are fading a bit, because they know if they go, chances are they will walk away with a ring. As long as they still have Durant, Curry, Green and Thompson and they stay healthy, they are going to be extremely hard to beat. The Rockets had the ideal chance last season and the perfect storm brewing to knock the "Dubs" out and get themselves in The Finals and we all know how that story ended. Smart people in high ranking positions with other teams in the league know that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best and that means off the court in the draft and free agency, as well as on the court.

Morey is a smart guy and as much as he is the master of the media and propping up his team and organization by saying all the right things to make people believe this team is better than a year ago and more equiped to win a title, quietly we all have to hope he sees a squad with too many flaws to compete for a crown. The Jazz are better and so are the Spurs and if you haven't heard, the Lakers got LeBron James. Teams all around the West have improved their roster and with it, their chances of moving ahead of Houston.

The good news is that there is still plenty of time and at least one guy out there that could instantly take you and your title hopes up a notch to a more realistic chance to win it all. Jimmy Butler has been on Morey's radar for quite a while and unlike Melo, if he can get him in his prime and get him in here with plenty of time, the team elevates to a totally different level of title contender. Morey is now rumored to be willing to give up four first round picks, Eric Gordon and others to bring the Tomball native back home and no one should be shocked or think that an offer like that is too much to do.

If the Rockets are at the level they expect to be for the next several years, those picks would not bring players that could play significant minutes and they might not even be able to crack the rotation. If not Butler, there are others out there that can help and the opportunity to acquire them needs to be right now. That's right, there is no more flexibility to wait for talent to develop and personalities and abilities to mix.

The time is now for Morey and the Rockets to go for it all and with CP3 older and only signed for a few more years, it's full blown go time for Red Nation and "NBA title or bust" must be the mentality. No excuses or substitute will be acceptable to the city and its fan base, not to mention the teams' owner Tillman Fertita. It's only October and this can all be forgotten if the right moves are made to insure that the team is playing in late May and June for the second straight year.

 

 


 

Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Texans Saturday play a lousy 4-9 Jets team Saturday now without its leading rusher (Isaiah Crowell) and leading pass catcher (Quincy Enunwa). Then they face a probably Carson Wentz-less Eagles team seeing its Super Bowl championship defense die away. Then the awful Jaguars come to Houston. 12-4 is right there for the Texans, but that will only be enough for the number three seed in the AFC and a Wild Card weekend home game unless the fading Steelers rise up Sunday to knock off the Patriots. That game is in Pittsburgh. The Patriots' final two games are both at home against the Bills and Jets.

With the Patriots losing their game to the Miami Miracle, on one hand you can say the Texans blew a massive opportunity in losing at home to the Colts. On the other hand the Colts were clearly the better team in ending the Texans' nine game winning streak.

The loss to Indy was a reality check. The Texans are a pretty good team, but glaring areas of weakness keep it from being a reeeeally good team. The offensive line is flat lousy in pass protection, though sometimes Deshaun Watson makes it look even worse by holding on to the ball too long. Pending free agent moves in the offseason, one of the Texans' top two draft picks next spring MUST be spent on an offensive lineman, the other on a cornerback (if not on another o-lineman). Even in their zone-heavy scheme, the Texans lack corners who run well enough. If the pass rush isn't raising hell, the secondary is Swiss cheesy. Remember, the Texans have an extra second pick this spring, acquired from Seattle in last year's Duane Brown trade.

If somehow the Texans chump up two of their remaining three games, as long as one of the losses isn't to the Jaguars they still win the AFC South even if the Titans or Colts win out.

Coogs' house

None of the Phi Slama Jama era Houston Cougar basketball teams started a season better than 5-0. Sunday Kelvin Sampson's Coogs go for a Bo Derek (perfect 10, anybody remember Bo?) start. Only UH team ever to open 10-0: the Elvin Hayes-led '67-'68 squad that went 31-0 and along the way beat UCLA in the Game of the Century before the Bruins obliterated the Cougars at the Final Four.

The new Fertitta Center is a modest-sized gem, and currently offers the hands down best sports environment in town. Non-Cougars are never going to embrace UH in big numbers especially not in a major league sports town, so UH's "For the City" slogan doesn't hit the mark. But so what? Drawing more of the Cougar base, plus any outside of it who might have some interest piqued by intensely played quality college basketball is good enough.

Rockets rumors

The Rockets have been vastly less excitement-inducing this season, though James Harden's closing brilliance in a 50 point explosion Thursday night to put away the Lakers was a doozy. Getting back to and then over ,500 is the Rockets' near term goal. A good month of sustained quality play is needed to restore credibility. Chris Paul's overall level of play remains a serious concern. The rumor this week of their interest in Cleveland malcontent J.R. Smith, egads! That would render Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey Desperate Daryl. Morey is trying to recover from his awful offseason, but I can't believe he sees J.R. Smith as worthwhile.

Speaking of Morey's offseason work, the Rockets Saturday gain the right to trade Carmelo Anthony. What a bonanza must await in return!

Astros still armed

Not a great look for the Astros that they tugged on their purse strings while the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams guaranteed Charlie Morton $30 million dollars over the next two years. The Astros did not err. Morton was on balance outstanding in his two Astro seasons but he wore down badly this year, and at 35 years old his arm is a ticking bomb. The Astros should add an established starting pitcher, but even if Jeff Luhnow doesn't, the Collin McHugh/Brad Peacock/Josh James/Framber Valdez quartet isn't an indefensible plan to cover three rotation spots while waiting on elite prospect Forrest Whitley's arrival during the 2019 season. If poor performance/injuries are issues, nothing precludes a notable in-season trade. That Verlander fellow worked out okay a couple of seasons ago. A left handed hitter is the obvious other logical Astros' target.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Pipe down Tony La Russa. Harold Baines making the Baseball Hall of Fame is ridiculous. 2. La Russa also used to lambaste those who dared to believe that Mark McGwire might have been a steroid guy. 3. Best teams in the AFC: Bronze-Patriots Silver-Chargers Gold-Chiefs (but barely post-loser Kareem Hunt).

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