On November 23, the Texans signed quarterback Kellen Clemens to take over third-string duties. On December 4, the Texans signed Jake Delhomme and two days later they cut Clemens.
I never thought there would be a less satisfying era for a Houston player than the Kellen Clemens Era.
Then along came the Pau Gasol Era, which lasted about two hours yesterday.
If you've been living under a rock, then a quick recap -- yesterday afternoon, the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets consummated a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and a package of Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Lamar Odom and the Knicks' '12 first-round pick to the Hornets.
Reports went out, goodbyes were said, travel plans arranged. And then, presumably under the pressure of some irate owners (including Cleveland's Dan Gilbert, who sent Volume 2 of his Maniacal Rants in Comic Sans to the commish himself), Stern squashed the deal.
Today, the commissioner explained his reasoning in a statement:
Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the commissioner's office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.
My quick thoughts on the most bizarre sequence of transactional events that I've seen since Jose Cardenal was traded in between games of a doubleheader between the Mets and the Phillies that I attended at Shea Stadium in 1979. (Yes, he was in uniform for two teams on the same day in the same ball park. Weird shit.)
1. This would have been a good trade for all three teams, yes, even the Rockets There were a lot of Rockets fans who were actually thankful that the commissioner pulled the plug on this deal, thinking that the package of Scola and Martin (and to a lesser extent, Dragic and the pick) was too much to give up for Gasol, who at 31 with three years and $57 million left on his deal is neither young nor inexpensive. But he is productive, and he is an elite offensive player who can hurt you from all over the floor and requires double teams. He's on the bottom tier of elite players in the league, which makes him an upgrade over everyone on the Rockets roster and, with the right surrounding cast, the best player on a highly competitive Western Conference team.
If that trade doesn't get squashed, I feel like the Rockets go to bed Thursday night a better team than when they woke up that morning. But many disagree. Look, the goal the last three years (pretty much since Yao's feet decided to break monthly) has been to upgrade the "best player" spot on the roster. Darryl Morey has shown he can find second- and third-tier guys. Short of bottoming out in the draft, Gasol is about as good as you could expect to get to be your alpha dog if being competitive now is a goal, which Les Alexander has clearly stated it is. List a better player available right now that wants to come to Houston and/or is locked up beyond this year. You can't.
2. Stern's smothering this deal is his way to remind all of us he has the largest appendage. He can say what he wants about maintaining the value of the Hornets. That's a garbage argument. So the Hornets are better off with Paul ready to walk at the end of the season than with a starting five of Scola, Martin, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Jarrett Jack (with Odom coming off the bench)? Come on. Also, we can read e-mails all day long from owners angry over the Lakers fortifying their roster while reducing costs (i.e., luxury tax), but the Lakers would have quickly escalated back into tax territory when they extended Paul, signed another free agent, and/or traded for and extended Dwight Howard. Stern did this to show everyone who is boss, and remind the players that there will be no more Carmelo Anthonys telling teams where to trade them while they are still under contract.
3. This decision was a thousand times more damaging to the league's integrity and public relations than the lockout. So basically, under the guise of "acting in the best interest of the Hornets" (despite allowing the teams to spend hours negotiating), the commissioner can just squash a deal that all parties involved agree is in their best interests, and that even the most biased of fans can agree is not a whitewash for any one team. It's stupefying, and it wouldn't surprise me if Paul (and maybe others) litigated at some point. Stern is acting like a crazy dictator. A fun exercise -- watch this video of Vince McMahon revealing himself as the "Higher Power" in an old WWE angle and pretend that McMahon yelling at Steve Austin is actually Stern yelling at Chris Paul. It's fun!
All right, so the Rockets are back to the "ninth in the Western Conference" drawing board. Let's get to something more uplifting -- my picks! (14-4 the last three weeks!)
DOLPHINS -3 over Eagles Both of these teams are 4-8, and that's all the proof you need that when you're handicapping a game, pay no attention to a team's overall record. However, pay great attention to their record over the last five weeks. Looking at the last five weeks, the Eagles are 1-4 and have lost their last two games by a combined score of 69-34; conversely, the Dolphins are 4-1 with their only loss on a late field goal to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
In their four wins, they've outscored their opposition 120-34. In short, the Dolphins have been one of the best teams in football over the last month. You would think Vegas has finally caught up with the Eagles by not making them a favorite on the road in this game (which as recently as two weeks ago they would have done without thinking), but three points isn't nearly enough. Not even close.
Texans +3 over BENGALS The Texans are riding a six-game winning streak and proving that, as long as they protect the football, their running game and defense are enough to win games. The Bengals are 1-3 over the last four weeks and 1-5 this season against teams with winning records as of Week 14. I think the Texans get it done in a tricky spot (the final time this season they will be an underdog, by the way), and possibly clinch their first division title and playoff spot in franchise history, if.....
TITANS +4 over Saints ....if the Saints beat the Titans, which isn't happening. The Saints have steamrolled two teams at home on national television, prime time games the last two weeks. Outdoors on the road, this is a classic spot for the Saints to lay an egg. And they will.
BRONCOS -4 over Bears Tebow has won five straight games as an underdog, so it will be interesting to see how he does as a favorite. My guess is that he has no idea what a betting line even is, so I'm not really worried. All I know is I am 1-0 since converting to Tebowism last week. My new religion has enriched me greatly.
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PACKERS -11 1/2 over the Raiders If I weighted my Best Bets each week, I would find a way to put as many stars as possible next to this game. I'm not going to beat you down with all kinds of situational statistics about the Packers or Raiders. I'm merely going to paint this picture -- Carson Palmer and the Raiders on the road, in the cold, going against an undefeated team with an unstoppable offense and a turnover-forcing defense. I mean, are you picturing the five Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes and two pick-sixes from the Packers' secondary like I am? You are, aren't you? In fact, it would be stupid not to hook this play to this play....
Raiders/PACKERS over 51 1/2 .....so there you go.
Last week: 4-2 Season record: 47-31
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.