I’ve been calling this the golden era of Houston sports for some months now. Other people have as well but I’ve been hammering it home so I will try to take credit for it. The Astros won the World Series and have a team of phenoms under club control for the next several seasons. The Rockets won 65 games and would have won the title had Chris Paul’s hamstring not gone out. And the Texans are still largely a laughingstock, but offer an unprecedented (in their forgettable history) glimmer of hope in the form of an electrifying second year quarterback who was on pace to have one of the greatest rookie seasons ever before injury. It’s been quite the time to be alive.
But one thing that just hit me is how every one of these three teams’ most recent marquee acquisitions not only met expectations, but wildly exceeded them. When has that ever happened?? Justin Verlander has been virtually unhittable since joining the team, guiding them to the World Series last year. And now the team hasn’t just turned Gerritt Cole around – they have him throwing like 100 miles per hour, keeping the ball in the park and fulfilling untapped potential long considered squandered.
Deshaun Watson was like amazing and was putting up seemingly 50 points per game, evading tackles despite this putrid offensive line, and allowing me to forget for a glorious few months that I’m a Texans fan.
And then there’s Paul. His numbers stayed strong and the team obviously had success, but the part that’s most amazing to me is that there wasn’t a single hiccup. Recall that the big question regarding the Paul acquisition wasn’t so much about his performance but rather the growing pains he may have with another ball-dominant superstar in James Harden. And they didn’t have a single one! They just went out and crushed the entire league, with Paul seamlessly transitioning into his new role. Like, the absolute low point of the Paul/Harden relationship was when Paul made an angry gesture to Harden during a Drew League game and everyone [outside of Houston] celebrated citing it as foreshadowing of later problems. And then we never saw anything like that ever again! I honestly think Chris Paul’s complete and total selflessness in taking a back seat this season is the story that hasn’t been written about nearly enough. It’s like he came in and knew exactly that this was James’ team and that the big possessions went to James. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I even remember seeing Paul call for the ball on a possession called for Harden. And conversely, when James just didn’t have it going on, it was just understood that it was Chris Paul’s turn. That’s what happened to close out Utah and at the end of Game 5 against the Warriors. Incredible.