The Texans and Suns Still Have Hope (But Not Much)

This glass is half full, at least for today.

The Houston Texans begin OTAs (Organized Team Activities) this week, so in the spirit of fresh starts and unbridled optimism, I’ve decided to jump on board and purge my soul of five years worth of ill will and negativity generated by our floundering franchise. Of course, a large part of this exercise means letting go of the 2006 draft day debacle, so I suspect this will be much easier said than done. Nonetheless, I’m willing to give it a shot. Here goes nothing.

Look, no one hates the fact that the Texans passed on VY and Reggie more than I do. This franchise is desperate for starpower and dynamic playmakers, and either player would have provided a heaping helping of both. But perhaps we can find solace by examining the history of our draft-bungling brothers from the Pacific Northwest. No franchise in North American professional sports history has endured more ridicule for a disastrous selection than the Portland Trailblazers when they opted to select Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. But despite being confronted with the ubiquitous specter of what might have been, that potentially catastrophic decision did not cripple the franchise forever. In fact, the Trailblazers still managed to be pretty damn good. They were a perennial playoff team and among the league’s best for nearly a decade. Of course, we won't talk about some of their memorable postseason choke jobs, the fact MJ destroyed them in the '92 NBA Finals, or even how they eventually became known as the Jailblazers. The point is, they still managed to find success even though they passed up a chance to draft the greatest player of all time.

Speaking of Portland, the Rockets apparently are talking to former Trailblazers coach, Rick Adelman. You know, when I begged the Rockets to ignore the Dark Lord, I didn’t mean I wanted them to chase a guy notorious for overseeing multiple playoff collapses in both Portland and Sacramento. Haven’t we seen enough of that around here lately? And is it really a good idea to pair a coach who can’t deliver big wins with Mr. One-and-Done himself, Tracy McGrady?

Elsewhere in the NBA, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth in Phoenix after the NBA came down hard on Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. Not surprisingly, many have already handed Game 5 to San Antonio. But Houston fans should know better than to completely count out the shorthanded Suns because, once upon a time, the Rockets found themselves in a similarly hopeless situation.

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Think back to 1995 (ah, the good old days). Down three games to one and facing Game 5 in Phoenix, Houston was in dire straits. Already battling a flu bug, the Rockets were dealt another blow when Clyde Drexler got kicked out in the first quarter thanks to two bogus technical fouls courtesy of referee, Jake O'Donnell (who never officiated another NBA game, by the way). Series over, right? Not even close. Thanks to inspired efforts from career journeymen like Chucky Brown and Charles Jones, the Rockets managed to steal the game from a stacked Suns team and ended up winning the series when Mario Elie delivered his kiss of death shot in Game 7. The lesson: Don’t dismiss a pissed off Phoenix team tonight.

Just for the record, I still think this series is going the distance and, yes, I still think the Spurs will pull it out. Remove the cheap shots and controversy and you’ll find that San Antonio has simply done a better job imposing its will and preferred pace on the Suns and, overall, has just been the better team through four games. Whatever happens, I’ll be sad to see this series come to an end. It just doesn’t seem right to send one of the league’s top two teams home a month early.

And finally, for those of you sick of watching MLB pitchers drop like flies, I suggest you read the story of Mike Marshall. He says he’s developed a pitching technique that would eliminate all elbow and shoulder-related injuries. True or not, it’s a fascinating read and definitely makes you wonder if his methods will ever find their way to the big leagues. -- Jason Friedman

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