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 losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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