THE PALLILOG

Here's why we should all keep an open mind about James Harden

He's not the first, and won't be the last to request a trade. Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Texans at Colts Sunday. Yippee! Off one of the most embarrassing showings in franchise history (and that's saying something) the Texans are left with three for them essentially meaningless games. Some foolhardy types might talk about building momentum for next season blah, blah, blah.

The off field stuff is of vastly more importance these days, most prominently the better finally get it right hire of the next General Manager. 2021 carries little promise for the Texans. The new GM should basically be granted a redshirt year on his contract to clear dead salary cap weight off the books before 2022 and sit around during next year's Draft with no pick in the first or second round. The first named candidate to interview this week was ESPN analyst and former NFL personnel man Louis Riddick. Riddick also has dates with the Lions and the Falcons. If offered all three gigs on similar terms, which does he take? The Texans have Deshaun Watson as their beacon of hope. The Lions' quarterback is mediocre Matthew Stafford, the Falcons have Matt Ryan who turns 36 before next season. On the other hand while the Texans are thumb twiddling through the first two rounds of the draft, the Lions and Falcons will be making picks.

Countdown to liftoff

The Rockets start their season Wednesday night. Will James Harden finish the season as a Rocket? Probably not. For all the sturm und drang around Harden, as long as he's around one should expect him to continue scoring bushelsful of points, for the Rockets to win a decent number of games, and then for a 26th consecutive season miss the NBA Finals.

This is a common occurrence in the NBA

Harden's actions have made him a not inappropriate target for some scathing criticism. That he wants out because he doesn't see a path to an NBA title as a Rocket? You think his vision is off about that? His showing up in less than peak condition, and absurd answers to some press conference questions, and seeking an easier route toward a title are off-putting to many. Nothing wrong with that but that Harden is committing mind-blowing treason is a bit much. Once upon a time Hakeem Olajuwon demanded to be traded from the Rockets. That was before the Dream-led back-to-back titles of 1994 and '95. Kobe Bryant demanded the Lakers trade him. So did Magic Johnson way back when. Charles Barkley demanded trades in both Philadelphia and Phoenix. Even deeper in the time machine, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told the Milwaukee Bucks to deal him. Before him Wilt Chamberlain did the same to the 76ers. More recently Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis pushed hard for deals. A couple of months ago they played in the Finals against each other.

Chris Paul years before Davis in New Orleans. Carmelo Anthony in Denver. Vince Carter in Toronto. Superstar basketball players matter more to their teams than individuals in other team sports. Franchise quarterbacks don't play defense (insert Harden D joke here). Mike Trout comes up four or five times per game. Since the greatest hoopers matter more, they are catered to more, become divas more, and make demands more. Distasteful when your team is on the short end, of course.

How did the Rockets land Tracy McGrady in 2004? He demanded a trade from Orlando.

Why they do it? Because they can. Harden is just the latest contestant singing the common NBA star refrain: "Get me outta here."

College football playoff picture

What a joke that Florida lost at home to a bad LSU team and dropped one spot (to seventh) in the playoff rankings. Even if the Gators beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game Saturday they will not belong in the top four. Not over 8-1 Texas A&M they wouldn't (presuming the Ags win at Tennessee). Had Florida beaten LSU and then Alabama, the Gators would have deserved to vault over the Aggies. A&M's three point home win over UF in the first month of the season would not (and should not) have trumped an otherwise unbeaten Gator team that just beat number one in the nation to win the SEC title. Losing to a 3-5 team late in the season should be disqualifying, certainly so when it's a team's second defeat.

The fifth ranked Aggies best hope of crashing the playoff party is for Notre Dame to beat Clemson for a second time. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney would probably whine away, that his team still deserves to be in, but the selection committee's job then should include basically telling Dabo to shut up. Clemson has exactly one win over a team that finished with a winning record. If Notre Dame loses reasonably competitively the Fighting Irish should stay in the top four.

If Ohio State beats Northwestern for the Big 10 crown, it's quite clear the Buckeyes are going to the playoff despite having played only six games.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Guessing George Springer becomes a Met, shortly after the New Year.

2. Anyone else really like the smell of brewing coffee, but not like drinking coffee?

3. Best Italian restaurant desserts: Bronze-Zabaglione Silver-Italian cream cake Gold-Tiramisu

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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