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A very nostalgic post about 2005 and Houston sports at large

  • James Harden turned 26 this past week, the age which ushered the end of Tracy McGrady’s place amongst the league’s elite.  The year was 2005, McGrady’s second with the team.  It was also the year the Houston Astros went to the World Series and were last relevant.  The Houston Texans, on the other hand, went 2-14 that year and were again irrelevant, as they have been for the entirety of their existence.  And thus, I’ve found a way to open this column by arbitrarily tying all 3 of Houston’s major sports teams together to the year 2005.
  • McGrady’s demise seems a lot more sudden in hindsight than it did at the time, while living through it, partly because we were all in denial.  He still had a few more All-Star level years, leading up until 2008, but he was never again the MVP caliber player the Rockets acquired from Orlando, and the level of player James Harden is today.  It’s absolutely crazy thinking back.  Imagine signing Kevin Durant next summer, witnessing one typical Durant season, and watching him steadily decline from there on out.  As I’ve written at length, Harden should age very well, due to his style of play.  But I would like to see a few less drives to the rim, even at the cost of efficiency.
  • Even for a basketball junkie such as myself, there’s really nothing quite like October baseball.  Basketball is joy and excitement.  Baseball is anticipation and agony.  Even turning one’s head for a mere moment to check one’s Twitter feed can prove reckless, in a game where a misplaced fastball left a little too high can end the hopes of an entire season.  And so here we are, inching closer to what is appearing to be an almost inevitable postseason appearance by the Astros.  Even if they somehow blow this division lead, where are the people who lambasted general manager Jeff Luhnow every step of the way?  Apologies are due, and I haven’t read or heard too many.  Daryl Morey, of course, also endured the same sort of short-sighted criticism before building a team that has climbed to the top of the Western Conference.  The problem is that too many people with voices don’t understand the obvious dichotomy between process and results.
  • I’ve remarked before, it’s fascinating to observe the stark contrast between the two aforementioned Houston teams and their counterparts on Kirby.  The Rockets and Astros are forward-thinking, cutthroat and process oriented, in line with the modern ideologies of business management.  The Texans, mired in their own ineptitude since their inception into the league, are the polar opposite, exhibiting everything from front office nepotism to reckless cap mismanagement with seemingly no real plan in place.  The Texans are the fossil of team sports, a vehicle which slowly has moved towards extinction with the rise of MBA GM’s.  One empathizes now, in watching J.J. Watt, with the late 80’s Houston observer, witnessing Olajuwon waste away his physical peak on also-runs with no chance at the title; except, as sacrilegious as this may sound, Watt’s legendary greatness right now is more apparent than Hakeem’s was then, before the two titles.  To echo the sentiment voiced by some of my favorites on the Houston airwaves, I’m just not quite sure I understand what the hell the Texans are doing with regards to their masterplan, as evidenced by their quarterback decisions.  If the assumption is that in 2015, one cannot win a Super Bowl with merely a game managing quarterback, what exactly are they doing?  If that premise stands, isn’t every snap taken with someone who isn’t the long term guy an utter waste of everyone’s time?  Shouldn’t the team be taking chances on wild cards, no matter how long the odds may be?  I’m not really sure what the appeal is in going 8-8, aside from gate receipts and merchandise sales, but history has shown those revenues won’t be diminishing regardless of the product on the field (see: 2005).  Mediocrity is something very frustrating to me.
  • I suppose the thinking might be to build inside-out, having the rest of the team in place, until an appealing option at quarterback presents itself in the draft.  But with the time it takes these days to learn the position, your opportunity cost is the risk run of losing critical pieces to free agency, by the time you’ve found your guy and gotten him up to speed.  Wouldn’t sound logic dictate just flipping the order?
  • If they get in, the Astros have as good as chance as anyone to win the World Series because that is just the nature of baseball.  All it takes is a couple of arms getting hot, and the bats staying steady, and a team can go the distance.  How about that for a story?  From worst to first.  Would that change opinions on Sam Hinkie’s project in Philadelphia?  Of course ascendency into the league’s upper crust is much tougher in basketball because of the dependence upon singular generational talents (as opposed to a full crop of great prospects).  But doesn’t that make tanking even more logical in that sport?  Without being awful, it’s much harder to get that one great talent than it is to find a lot of really good players.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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