While COVID-19 provided a huge impact on the 2020 sports scene, this year will also be remembered for some of the stunning departures the promising arrivals when it comes to Houston sports. We won’t soon forget the frustrating exists of Texans star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Russell Westbrook after just one season with the Rockets. Some of the positive arrivals include Dusty Baker coming aboard as the Astros manager and coach Stephen Silas and guard John Wall joining the Rockets, giving us much to look forward.
Sports world speaks out against racial injustices
For years, the establishment in sports, aka ownership, sports leagues and even coaches have wanted to brush off the senseless violence and coast-to-coast killings of African Americans by the hands of law enforcement. But George Floyd’s death seemed to put the establishment and the athletes on the same page in ways that had not been seen before. The NFL, which blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of the league for taking a knee against racial injustice, all of a sudden found itself on the same side as the players and demanding justice against the senseless killings of African Americans. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made an impassioned speech from the basement of his home. Athletes across all leagues like the WNBA, NHL, MLS and MLB joined the NFL and NBA in support of their athletes’ rights to civil protest.
NCAA cancels men’s, women’s NCAA Basketball tournaments
After not seeming to know what to do as the coronavirus began to spread in March, all conferences across the country began to stop their conference championship tournaments that were already in progress. It wasn’t long after that the NCAA made the unprecedented move of canceling its lucrative men’s and women’s tournaments. It was the first time since 1939, when the men’s tournament began, that it wasn’t played. The NCAA had originally hoped to play the tournament in empty arenas but instead pulled the plug when it saw that the NBA and MLB had pushed the pause buttons on their seasons.
NBA, MLB pause, delay seasons
In a move that had not been seen before, the NBA suddenly stopped its season with roughly one month to go until the postseason. Major League Baseball delayed the start of its season out of major concerns for the health of their players, coaches, personnel and fans. Months would go by without a clear direction of when or how either league would resume their seasons.
Texans GM/head coach Bill O’Brien trades DeAndre Hopkins
In a move that left many scratching their heads, O’Brien and the Texans parted ways with one of the top receivers in the game to begin the NFL’s new calendar year. There were lots of rumors as to why the move of taking away Deshaun Watson’s No.1 target so abruptly had to happen. But this all came down to money. While Hopkins was still under contract, he had certainly outperformed the deal he was under and a likely tough negotiation and hold out were ahead for the Texans and their top receiver. What made this trade more problematic was the capital the Texans received in return for one of the best playmakers in the game. The Cardinals sent David Johnson, a running back who had lost his starting job and a mere second-round pick. This was a blow fans would not get over and O’Brien ultimately would not live down.
Astros hire baseball well-respected Dusty Baker as manager
In the wake of the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the entire MLB, Astros’ owner Jim Crane fired the team’s WorldSeries-winning skipper, A.J. Finch and Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow. To right the ship, Crane turned to one of the most successful, steady and respected managers in the game, former MLB player and manager Dusty Baker. Considered a baseball lifer, Baker brought with him his impeccable reputation. Baker was a three-time National League Manager of the Year and had amassed 1,863 wins in 22 seasons. Baker led the Astros’ on a seemingly magical playoff run that had the team playing above expectations and nearly making in back to the fall classic.
Rockets restart 2019-2020 season in Orlando bubble
Following a 20-week hiatus, the Rockets along with 21 other teams restarted their season in July in what became known as the NBA bubble on the Disney grounds. The selected teams played eight seeding games before beginning their playoffs in August. The idea behind the concept of a bubble was that players, coaches and personnel would be isolated from the outside world, including their families, cutting down chances of being infected with the coronavirus while being tested regularly. The concept was wildly successful with no positive tests in the bubble and an ending that saw the Los Angeles Lakers dominating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals in October.
NBA, WNBA players halt play, support Black Lives Matter
After witnessing the shooting of an African American man in Kenosha, Wis. NBA and WNBA players demonstrated by refusing to play games in the bubble. First, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the playoff floor against Orlando and before long a movement began. Games were ultimately cancelled for a few days while the respective leagues and their players hashed out some conditions in which play would be resumed. The NBA and WNBA were joined in game stoppages by MLB and MLS players. Other sports leagues also took various actions to show support for the cause of police reform.
Texans QB Watson signs four-year, $160m contract extension
In a move that was widely expected, the Texans and their star quarterback came to an agreement on a contract extension that will keep him in Houston for a while. The total value of the deal with $177.54 millions with $111 million guaranteed. Watson’s deal only trails Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes’ 12-year contract with the Chiefs.
Stephen Silas lands first head coaching job as Rockets new leader
After a surprising offseason that saw the Rockets part ways with both coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, the team hired longtime assistant coach Stephen Silas. In Silas, 48, the Rockets get an assistant coach with 20 years of bench experience who also comes with an impressive pedigree as the son of respected NBA coach and former player Paul Silas. The Rockets interviewed former head coaches Ty Lue and Jeff Van Gundy, but ultimately settled on Silas.
Rockets Harden, Westbrook demand trades
Not happy with the direction of the franchise, both NBA stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook both seek offseason trades. Ultimately, the Rockets grant Westbrook a trade after just one season, sending him to Washington in exchange for John Wall and a protected first round draft pick. Harden remains with the team for now, but most believe the Rockets will eventually deal their star player when the right offer is made.