Falcon Points

With latest Rockets news, is Houston sports headed for the dark ages?

All good things come to an end. Composite image by Jack Brame.

By now, you have likely heard Russell Westbrook wants out with the Rockets. James Harden is not returning phone calls. Daryl Morey is gone and no one knows if his replacement can do the job. Mike D'Antoni is gone and no one knows if his replacement can do the job. The rest of the players are grumbling.

The Westbrook era is likely over, and maybe Harden goes next. For a city that has been buoyed by stars for the past several years, that era may be coming to a close as all three major franchises face big challenges in the coming years. (Sorry, Dynamo fans, you were already in the dark ages). A look at all three:

THE ROCKETS

The off-season has been one of turmoil. In a perfect world, the Rockets would hope a new coaching staff could make things work with the two stars. But if Westbrook wants out, it might be time for a total reset, and that would include moving Harden. It would be painful, because the Rockets are a playoff team with Harden. Without him? It could be a long reset. But it has to happen sometime, and maybe now is the time. Rockets fans have gotten spoiled, so a big step back might hurt the bottom line for a while, but you can't rule out the possibility. The turmoil might just be the beginning of a brutal stretch.

THE ASTROS

George Springer is the biggest loss of the off-season, and Justin Verlander won't pitch at all in 2021. They are down two outfielders, although it is possible they bring back Michael Brantley, which would leave only one spot to fill. Yordan Alvarez should return and provide some of Springer's production, so the offense should be OK. They got enough out of the pitching staff last season to be a playoff caliber team once again. The bullpen needs to be fixed, but that's not all that difficult.

But there are still real concerns. Jeff Luhnow built a roster that made it to the ALCS four straight times. We don't know if James Click can maintain that. And is Jim Crane backing off on spending? It would not be a shock considering the loss of revenue from the Rona. They should still be good in 2021, but beyond? Carlos Correa will be a free agent after next season. Verlander might never pitch again. Zack Greinke will be a free agent. The farm system is uncertain. The Astros could easily fall back to the pack at that point. Right now, they are still a safe bet to stay relevant. But for how long?

THE TEXANS

We all know what a mess Bill O'Brien left behind, and while a shrewd GM and a better coaching staff could get them competitive pretty quickly, does anyone believe that will be the case? A poor hire at GM, another unpopular coach...things could get ugly quickly. J.J. Watt, perhaps the most beloved Texan ever, will probably not be a part of it no matter what. Texans fans will have a hard time with that, but it's going to happen, and it should.

It might be difficult to swallow, but it's not inconceivable that when 2021 rolls around, some of Houston's biggest sports names - Watt, Harden, Westbrook, Springer - will be gone. And the bad thing is it could very well get worse from there.

Hopefully, the Rockets rebuild quickly. The Astros retool. The Texans get their hires right. If not? Things could get really bleak very fast.

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers 400. MIS is one of the fastest racetracks in the country, as cars are capable of reaching speeds of 201-205 miles per hour. Hopefully, we will see a safe race considering the speeds we see here. We will more than likely see a race that is vastly different from what we saw last here when the drivers utilized the draft to pass around this track. This year, the cars are less aero-dependent and will be much more spread out. The drivers will need to continue to manage their tires as they have been doing all year.

Last weekend at Indy, Tyler Reddick captured his second victory of 2022 in dramatic fashion. The race came down to numerous restarts where drivers would drive way too deep into the first corner and run into each other each time. This was the central theme of the race, as restarts pretty much decided everything. We saw drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get swept up in wrecks in turn one. On the final restart, Ross Chastain decided he didn’t want to be a part of these shenanigans and took the access road that skipped turn one. This moved catapulted him to the lead with Tyler Reddick as the two battled for the lead in a two-lap shootout. When the dust settled, Reddick came away victorious and Ross Chastain was black flagged for shortcutting.

The finish of this race sparked a serious debate among drivers and fans alike about ditching the Indianapolis road course and returning to the oval in 2023. Personally, this doesn’t make any sense to me. While yes, turn one is difficult to maneuver, it’s mainly because drivers all decide to send it as deep as they can, not because of the racetrack configuration. It’s also a bit disingenuous as for years, drivers and fans have been saying they don’t want to see the oval and that the track is designed for IndyCar. If I had to choose, I would say NASCAR just stop going to Indy and go to the short track down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. We have seen so many great races there, and I think the Cup Series would be perfect for that track. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how NASCAR responds to this and what they decide to do for next season.

Kurt Busch will be out for the third consecutive week as he continues to recover from a concussion. This has been tough to hear about, and now there are legitimate concerns that he will not return to racing. There is a good chance however that 23XII could be saving him for the playoffs which are coming up.

For now, Ty Gibbs will continue to fill in for Busch. In his two starts the young phenom has performed extremely well, finishing 16th at Pocono and 17th at Indy. It’s clear that this young man can drive these cars, the only problem is finding a place for him to run next season.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. By any other standard, the season that Truex is having has been great. Constantly up front, leading laps and just overall contending. Unfortunately for him, 2022 hasn’t been just any average season. With 14 winners and Truex not being one of them, he is on the playoff bubble even though he is fourth in points. While his playoff future maybe uncertain right now, there are some good racetracks he is going to where can easily get that first win, and Michigan is one of them. Over the last four races here, he currently has the highest average finish, the highest percentage of laps led, but no victories. I see that changing this week. Toyota and Gibbs have been fast this season as Truex’s teammates have all punched their tickets to the playoffs. Look for Truex to be next in line.

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