Writer: Caleb Akpan
The best part of the November/December/January stretch of the year for students are without a doubt the holiday breaks. No school, no homework, no exams, just a bunch of cold weather and free time to make the best of the holiday season and hopefully recharge to come back stronger next semester. That moment to regroup and fix what wasn’t working well in the fall is something sports teams don’t have a chance to participate in, but imagine if these five-star athletes were given the same break we were. No games, no practice, a mid-season off-season to spend time with their families, watch some film, get their bodies right, and then come back once the new year begins to try and win a championship. Maybe a couple of teams in bad spots right now could turn their years back in the right direction, like:
The Houston Texans
The beginning of November is usually when people start talking about “the most wonderful time of year”, and that was the case in Houston for a brief moment. Wednesday night, the Astros win the World Series and the city is off to the perfect start for the holiday season, with the franchise’s first ever league championship. Thursday afternoon, and everyone is snapped back to reality, as in the NFL, just as the Texans seemed to be gaining a solid identity, the team lost their star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to a season-ending ACL injury. Watson was on pace for nearly 4500 total offensive yards and 50 touchdowns following six starts in his young career that saw the Texans average 34.6 points per game.
The former Clemson standout was everything for the Texans offense, and their usually great defense had already lost JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus to season-ending injuries. Any big plans for the Texans year were probably done even just with b those two injured, but the Watson injury is an absolute killer. Given a break, the Texans could probably find a better replacement than Tom Savage, but fixing that would still leave Houston having too many problems to try and compete for a second championship this sports season. They’ll have to settle for the great gift they received in baseball and hope the Rockets continue to bring cheer to H-Town.
The Dallas Cowboys
If you could compare something in sports to getting a lump of coal for Christmas, the Cowboys probably just received theirs with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension getting what seems like a final decision, and a terrible one for Cowboys Nation. Elliott will miss the next six weeks and then return for Week 15, when the Cowboys hope to be headed for the playoffs despite not having Elliott’s dominance on the ground in their gameplan. Without Zeke, Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden are expected to share the burden of replacing arguably the best running back in the league, a bit like getting the off-brand version of what you wanted for Christmas. Morris and McFadden do the same job as Elliott, just not as well, and if the Cowboys coaching and offensive line sets things up well, they may be able to look good enough, but Dallas could really use a holiday break to rethink their offense , and one that Elliott could somehow use as suspension time to be specific.
The Dallas Mavericks
If the Dallas Cowboys need a couple weeks off, the Mavericks could use a couple months. The team is off to its worst start in franchise history at 1-8, with losses at home to teams like Sacramento and Atlanta, a bottom five offense (98 PPG, 102.4 ORTG), and an atrocious defense (113 DRTG, 108.3 PPG allowed). The Mavericks have no real star to gift them wins and their present set of players isn’t meshing well at all, with an experiment of playing Dirk Nowitzki at the center largely failing, and Dennis Smith Jr. going through the usual ups and downs of an NBA rookie season. There’s not much that could get worse for Dallas, but if the losing continues, the team may skip Christmas vacation and just get their summers started early. A break could help Nowitzki’s aging body and hopefully help Smith become more acclimated to the league, but the Mavericks season is already in the gutter.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
At 3-5, a team that should be contending for an NBA championship in Cleveland has zero identity. LeBron James’ stats continue to look as great as ever (25.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.0 APG, 59% FG, 37% 3PT), but for some reason, they aren’t translating to many wins. Holdovers like JR Smith, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson aren’t contributing as much as hoped, and new additions like JR Smith and Dwayne Wade haven’t lived up to expectations. The whole team seems to simply be lacking effort or any urgency to win games when they should be one of the top teams in the league. A break could be used for them to get Isiah Thomas back and get their minds right, but with all the talent they have, they shouldn’t need one in the first place. The Cavaliers have too talented of a roster to be where they’re at right now, and hopefully by the big game on Christmas vs. the Warriors they’ll have realized that.
Make sure to give all four of these teams your best holiday wishes, because they need it.