Rockets summer league schedule set

Houston_RocketsThe NBA announced the game schedule for the Vegas Summer League, where the Houston Rockets will be participating. For the second consecutive season, the games will be played tournament style, with three preliminary round games and each team is guaranteed to play at least five games.

Friday, July 10 (times listed are central)
Cox Pavilion
5 p.m. – Milwaukee vs. New Orleans (Game 1)
7 p.m. – Atlanta vs. Denver (Game 3)
9 p.m. – D-League Select vs. Houston (Game 5)

Thomas & Mack
5:30 p.m. – Sacramento vs. Toronto (Game 2)
7:30 p.m. – Minnesota vs. L.A. Lakers (Game 4)
9:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Cleveland (Game 6)

Saturday, July 11
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – New Orleans vs. Dallas (Game 7)
5 p.m. – Washington vs. Phoenix (Game 9)
7 p.m. – Boston vs. Portland (Game 11)
9 p.m. – Brooklyn vs. Cleveland (Game 13)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – New York vs. San Antonio (Game 8)
5:30 p.m. – Chicago vs. Minnesota (Game 10)
7:30 p.m. – L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia (Game 12)
9:30 p.m. – Miami vs. Utah (Game 14)

Sunday, July 12
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – Washington vs. D-League Select (Game 15)
5 p.m. – Chicago vs. Toronto (Game 17)
7 p.m. – Sacramento vs. Denver (Game 19)
9 p.m. – Portland vs. Dallas (Game 21)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – Phoenix vs. Houston (Game 16)
5:30 p.m. – Milwaukee vs. San Antonio (Game 18)
7:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Atlanta (Game 20)
9:30 p.m. – Philadelphia vs. Boston (Game 22)

Monday, July 13
Cox Pavilion
3 p.m. – Cleveland vs. Milwaukee (Game 23)
5 p.m. – D-League Select vs. Atlanta (Game 25)
7 p.m. – Miami vs. Denver (Game 27)
9 p.m. – Toronto vs. Houston (Game 29)

Thomas & Mack
3:30 p.m. – New Orleans vs. Brooklyn (Game 24)
5:30 p.m. – Golden State vs. Sacramento (Game 26)
7:30 p.m. – L.A. Lakers vs. New York (Game 28)
9:30 p.m. – Utah vs. Minnesota (Game 30)

Tuesday, July 14
Cox Pavilion
2 p.m. – Portland vs. San Antonio (Game 31)
4 p.m. – Brooklyn vs. Chicago (Game 33)
6 p.m. – Miami vs. Boston (Game 35)

Thomas & Mack
2:30 p.m. – Washington vs. Dallas (Game 32)
4:30 p.m. – New York vs. Philadelphia (Game 34)
6:30 p.m. – Phoenix vs. Utah (Game 36)

 

Harden on NBA2K 16 cover

There are three covers for the new NBA2K 16 installment. One of the covers features Houston Rockets guard James Harden. 

   
Also the only player to finish ahead of Harden in the MVP vote, Steph Curry, lands one of the covers. (does not include daughter, Riley)

 

  

The third cover features the next great NBA superstar Anthony Davis.

  

Greatest moments in Tal’s Hill history

Including Thursday’s game, the Astros have 50 home games remaining at Minute Maid Park…plus playoff games of course. (Keep in mind no other division leader has a larger lead over second place than the Astros who lead the Angels by six games. Also Houston’s 34 wins ar three more than any other American League outfit.) But these remaining 2015 home games now will be the last at Minute Maid Park, and formerly Enron Field, that will be played with Tal’s Hill.

The Astros announced on Thursday plans to remove the 90 foot wide hill that rises in center field in front of the outfield fence situated 436 feet away from home plate. The plan is for a new fan-friendly set-up beyond the new center field fence, some 409 feet from home plate.

From Richie Sexson’s blast in 2003 that was well over the fence, but alas, hit the flag pole and remained in play, to Craig Biggio’s unfortunate face-plant as he made his way up the hill, Tal’s Hill has had some moments.

Rather than debate its merits or hazardous issues, let’s just enjoy what Tal’s Hill has brought to baseball over it’s 15 plus years in existence.

Former Astros OF Carlos Beltran with a miraculous catch in the 14th inning to prevent an Astros win.

 

Andruw Jones helps Jeff Bagwell to a “little league home run.”… then makes up for it on the next pitch.

 

Carlos Gomez takes a hit away from Astros catcher Jason Castro

 

From earlier this year – Astros CF Jake Marisnick with a gem.

 

Denard Span falls on his back side – makes the catch.

 

Fuld up the hill and up against the wall

 

Fowler makes it look easy

 

Brandon Barnes…kind of on the hill

 

Michael Bourn hauls it in

 

Compilation from mlb.com (some duplicates in here, but also Lance Berkman’s comical catch! Click the pic to watch the video.)

Harden in new Body Armor ad

James Harden, Mike Trout and Rob Gronkowski headline Body Armor sports drink’s stable of athlete endorsers and they are front and center, along with Skylar Diggins, Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman and Buster Posey in Body Armor’s new This is Now ad campaign.

Harden as an old-school, short-shorts wearing hooper? It’s in there.

HardenBodyArmor

Harden as gold-chain wearing, boom box-blasting dude? It’s in there.

HardenBodyArmorBoombox

Here’s the video:

 

 

New Rockets Clutch City trailer released

While the sting of the Rockets playoff exit certainly has not worn off yet, the NBA released a new trailer for their latest documentary Clutch City all about the Houston Rockets two championship runs in the mid-90’s. The documentary features interviews with Rudy Tomjanovich and many of the Rockets players, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Vernon Maxwell and Mario Elie, as they reflect on the team’s championships in 1994 and 1995.

It will premiere on Monday, June 8 at 8 p.m. CT on NBA TV, the evening after game two of the NBA Finals. There will also be a 30-minute show preceding the documentary with Robert Horry and other guests adding more thoughts on the Rockets championships. Here’s the link to the Clutch City trailer: Click here.

CC_Dream

CC_Mario

CC_Clyde

CC_Clyde2

CC_Sam

Texans the choice for Hard Knocks

TexansThe Houston Texans will be the featured team on Hard Knocks on HBO for the upcoming season. The series runs five episodes, with the first show airing the week of the opening preseason game, which for the Texans is Tuesday, Aug. 11 for the Texans before their preseason opener against San Francisco in Houston.

Not many members of the Texans team or football staff have been with the featured Hard Knocks team previously. Here’s the list I came up with:

Brian Gaine – asst GM Miami 2012 (current Dir. of Player Personnel)
Mike Devlin – Jets TE coach 2010 (current Texans OL coach)
Johnathan Joseph – Bengals CB 2009
Will Yeatman – Dolphins OT 2012

J.J. Watt will be all over this production to be sure and I think everybody remembers how he was introduced to Hard Knocks fans when the Falcons, the 2014 featured team came to Houston for some preseason practices.

Here’s the full video (NSFW – Mike Tice has a potty mouth) with Watt going up against rookie T Jake Matthews.

 

The other story lines that I will guess will be a part of the show :

– The QB battle: Remember the Texans QB room with Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, and OC George Godsey, along with Bill O’Brien all were together in New England with Tom Brady. Wonder if any subtle, ball preparation topics get discussed. Also they were together for this little outburst, that may get brought up to illustrate O’Brien’s fiery personality:

 

– Arian Foster is very accommodating with the media when he wants to be – see him making the rounds at a Super Bowl or in sit-down interview with Hannah Storm – not to mention his acting career gets closer every day his NFL career gets shorter.

– JaDeveon Clowney – Injury recovery, rehab have always been a part of Hard Knocks and until they capture one that hasn;t yet happened, this recovery from microfractre surgery is a big one to follow if he is back on the field during training camp.

– There will be a rookie or two that they will focus on, plus the inevitable long-shot rookie, too. I’m guessing Jaelen Strong, since I imagine some focus on Andre Johnson being gong will be a storyline.

I’ve produced the Bill O’Brien TV show for the past couple of seasons and in getting to see his personality a little bit, while I don’t think he’s a big fan of the intrusion of cameras and the time it will pull from him and others, I think he will be quite good on the show. When he was at Penn State in 2013, the Nittany Lions were featured on ESPN’s training days and You can get a pretty good idea of the Bill O’Brien you’ll see on Hard Knocks.

Also if you’re really into seeing what O’Brien is like, here’s a huge video library from the Penn State TV crew from his time as their head coach in 2012 and 2013.

Remember these fisticuffs from last year, though D.J. Swearinger is no longer a Texan.

 

This is one of my all-time favorite clips:

 

On a side note, I have used Hard Knocks for my fantasy football team name several times in the past. Cheeseburgers on the Field from the Jets season was one of them, Tank from the Chiefs season was another. Child, Please was another. (This Chad Johnson clip is a big NSFW)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTrn2aZoZMU

Harden brings his best to Game 4, WCF

Houston_RocketsHouston Rockets guard James Harden turned in the finest postseason performance of his still young NBA career in propelling his team to a 128-115 game 4 victory. He did so with his team facing elimination for the fourth time this postseason. His playoff career high 45-point effort in game four of the western conference finals ensured the Rockets would extend the series and their season for another game and kept alive their hopes of being the first team in NBA history to win a series after falling in a 3-0 hole. But let’s keep that off in the distance a bit, since that’s really where it is, way off in the distance, three wins away. Houston just grabbed their first win in eight games against the Warriors over the course of this season.

Now back to Harden, who has been an offensive force this entire season and on into the playoffs. The best news for Rockets fans, though, is that he has turned it up a notch in the western conference finals against an elite team and an elite defense. It’s also not the first time Harden had raised his offensive game in the conference finals. It’s his third trip to conference finals, first with Houston – and as the chart below depicts (click for larger view), this is his finest playoff performance to date.Remember the totals for his four game ride against Golden State includes his game 3 clunker, 3-of-16, 17 point performance. Here are Harden’s offensive numbers in each of his 13 career postseason series.

JamesSeries

The Warriors have thrown Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and others at Harden, and he’s continued his effective, efficient performance. Here’s his shot chart through four games.

HardenVsGSThru4

In his 45-point game 4 performance, Harden was getting it done against all comers. According to SportVu player tracking data, Harden scored 20 points on 10 isolation plays and another 15 points on 16 ball screens.

Houston won their pair of titles in 1994 and 1995 and then advanced in the playoffs each of the following two seasons. Since then they had advanced in the playoffs only one time. Just one playoff series victory since 1997, until this season. Twice they have advanced this postseasons and in doing so the Rockets, like their championship teams are showing incredible ability to stave off elimination. Since Harden arrived in Houston, the Rockets have won seven times when facing elimination, including their current four straight wins in that situation. They are 7-2 overall with Harden in elimination games, although if that record doesn’t rise to 10-2, the Rockets will have lost all but 1 of the series they faced elimination.

Then again if they stave off elimination and advance this time – they will have made NBA history.

Rockets couldn’t get two, so still need four

Houston_RocketsAfter a second consecutive fantastic effort at Golden State against the Warriors in the western conference finals, the Rockets are left wanting more. Technically, they are wanting just about the only thing they didn’t get – a win. The Rockets fell by a scant one point, 99-98, Thursday night to the Warriors when on their final possession – the final possession – of the game, they were unable to even launch a potential game-winning shot.

Trailing by one, after forcing a Harrison Barnes miss at the rim, James Harden grabbed the rebound and started heading downhill, looking for the win. He was met at the 3-point line by the Warriors star backcourt duo, Klay Thompson on Harden’s right, Steph Curry on his left.

Not liking what he saw, in terms of a driving lane, Harden stepped back and passed the ball to his right to Dwight Howard, who immediately tossed it back to Harden with just under three seconds remaining. Thompson and Curry remained glued to Harden and after he took one dribble, he lost control of the ball. A brief scramble ensued, very brief, and he final buzzer went off. All the Rockets needed was two points and they would have gotten out of Golden State with the win they had to have. By not getting two points, they still need four wins to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning the title in 1995.

Harden, who was named first team all-NBA for the second consecutive season earlier in the day, had been brilliant up to that point. The Rockets found themselves in position to get the must-have victory on the road because of his 38 point night. Harden finished one assist shy of a triple-double, just as he did in game one, and pushed the Rockets to the brink of victory with every play he made in the final minutes. Right up until the final play, which he didn’t make.

“(I) got the ball off the glass, and I’m thinking, just to try to get an easy one,” Harden said after the game about the final play gone wrong. “They did a good job of having two guys on me, so I couldn’t attack, and when I looked up I saw a red jersey and it was Dwight, so I tried to throw it back to him. At that time, I’m thinking five seconds on the clock, so I tried to get the ball back, and it was still two guys right there, and I watched the film, it’s just a tough, tough play.”

Heading off the court, Harden knocked over some temporary curtains back in the tunnel and described his frustration along with his teammates encouragement in the locker room.

“(It’s) frustrating to give the game away like that for myself, but my teammates and coaches were behind me, just saying that we’re going home to secure home now, go out there Game 3,” Harden said, explaining the support from his teammates. “Ten out of 10 times we’ll take that play. It gave me confidence, but it’s still frustrating when I know I could have at least got a shot up.”

“It’s just a little frustrated at that last play, but overall I feel good. We’re really confident about what we have going on,” Harden said. “We let two slip away, so now we go back to Houston and take care of business at home. Just because we’re going home doesn’t make it easy.”

With just under three minutes to go, Steph Curry, who had 33 points in the game, drained a long jumper with his foot on the 3-point line to put the Warriors up eight points – their largest lead of the second half. Harden immediately answered with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five, 94-89.

After assisted Andrew Bogut on a layup, Harden went to the free throw line and missed his only free throw of the game, but still closed the gap to six when he made his second attempt.

The Warriors then bled 41 seconds off the clock, thanks to a questionable offensive rebound by Harrison Barnes, when it looked like Terrence Jones was knocked to the floor by Draymond Green. Curry capped that possession with his final points of the game on a step-back jumper from 22 feet out and the Warriors again led by eight. Now only 1:39 remained on the clock.

Harden wasn’t done yet, again driving and drawing a foul. His free throws cut the lead to six and after Green made a one of two free throws, Harden drove again, this time finishing with his only dunk of the game. The deficit was five. A Barnes 3-point miss followed and Harden went driving again, got fouled, and drained two more free throws. The deficit dipped to three.

Following his second free throw, the Rockets sent both Corey Brewer and Jones at Steph Curry trying to bring the ball up court, his initial pass was nearly stolen by Brewer and it ultimately led to an eight-second violation on Golden State and a huge turnover for Houston.

No surprise what the Rockets did next. Harden drove right this time and despite both Thompson and Green draped all over him, he floated a perfect lob pass to Dwight Howard, who finished the alley-oop to make it a one-point game, 99-98, with 33 seconds remaining.

Harden had scored 12 of the Rockets last 15 points, with the only non-Harden basket coming on the alley-oop pass he made to Howard.

The Rockets then made their final big defensive stop of many down the stretch, followed by the shot that never came.

Game three is Saturday night in Houston. The last time a team feel behind two games to none on the road in the conference finals and come back to win the series was the Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat the San Antonio in four straight games after losing the first two in 2012. Harden, in his final season with the Thunder, averaged 18.5 points per game on 49% shooting from the floor and 61 percent on 3-pointers in that six-game series against the Spurs.

Similarly, Harden’s Thunder were the second seed facing the top seeded Spurs, just as his current Rockets are the two seed facing the top seeded Warriors.

The votes are in – how’d I do?

Now that all the major NBA awards have been announced, I’ll share how I did with my unofficial votes. My votes listed first, followed by the actual results.

MVP
1. Harden 2. Curry 3. Paul 4. James 5. Davis 6. Westbrook
ACTUAL
1. Curry, 2. Harden 3. James 4. Westbrook 5. Davis

Coach
1. Kerr 2. Popovich 3. Budenholzer 4. McHale 5. Snyder 6. Stevens
ACTUAL
1. Bud 2. Kerr 3. Kidd 4. Stevens 5. Pop 6. McHale

Rookie
1. Wiggins 2. Mirotic 3. Noel 4. Payton
ACTUAL
1. Wiggins 3. Mirotic 3. Noel 4. Payton

Defensive Player
1. Leonard 2. Green 3. Gobert 4. Jordan
ACTUAL
1. Leonard 2. Green 3. Jordan 4. Davis 5. Gobert

Most Improved Player
1. Butler 2. Gobert 3. Motiejunas
ACTUAL
1. Butler 2. Green 3. Gobert (8. Motiejunas)

Sixth Man
1. Thomas 2. Williams 3. Crawford
ACTUAL
1. Williams 2. Thomas 3. Crawford

All-NBA
1st: Curry, Harden, James, Davis, Cousins
2nd: Paul, Westbrook, Griffin, Aldridge, M Gasol
3rd: Irving, Thompson, Duncan, P Gasol, D Jordan
ACTUAL
1st: Curry, Harden, James, Davis, M GASOL
2nd: Paul, Westbrook, Aldridge, COUSINS, P GASOL
3rd: Irvng, Thompson, Duncan, D Jordan, GRIFFIN
(The 15 players I unofficially voted for, all made 1st, 2nd or 3rd team.)

Rockets Howard still unsure about game two

Houston_RocketsAs the Rockets prepare for game two of the western conference finals, the only thing that is certain is the Dwight Howard that took the floor to start the series will not be available for Thursday night’s game. That’s not to definitively rule him out of the contest after he suffered a left knee sprain in the first quarter of game one, but it was clear watching him try to labor through the pain in several short stints that followed, he will not be the same player, if he plays, this soon after the injury. On Wednesday’s day between games, Howard said the knee felt no better.

“The same. The same,” Howard said, when asked about how his knee felt the day after he suffered the injury. “You know, it was very sore.  It was throbbing during the game.  But just another test that I think I’ll be able to overcome.”

At Thursday’s gameday shootaround, Howard was wearing a brace on his left knee and coach Kevin McHale said he was trying to get comfortable with it, calling him a game-time decision.

Howard, who would certainly be limited if he should try to play through the injury, missed 41 games, mainly due to a right knee injury during the regular season. While it’s accurate to say they’ve successfully dealt with him being out or limited during the season previously, their means to cope with the absence are quite different.

When Howard missed his 41 regular season games, the Rockets turned to the same player 38 times to fill his void. Donatas Motiejunas, who finished eighth in most improved player voting this season, averaged just over 30 minutes a game in those games he played without Howard. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 51.1 percent  from the floor, while he took on the role of top low-post option and presence. But with the back injury and subsequent surgery he had late in the season, he is not available to fill-in this time.

Enter Clint Capela. The 21-year old rookie, played in just 12 regular season games for the Rockets, while spending the bulk of the season with the Rockets d-league franchise in the Rio Grande Valley. But he’s played in all 13 of the Rockets postseason games as Howard’s primary backup at center. He’s shooting 67 percent from the floor in the playoffs and has made his last ten shots. His per 36 minute averages are excellent at 18 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. Among players with at least 100 minutes played this postseason, his rebounding ranks third, behind only teammate Howard (15.0) and the Clippers DeAndre Jordan (14.0).  Similarly his blocked shot numbers would place him second behind only the Cavaliers Timofey Mozgov (2.9).

While he has thrived since joining the rotation, he’s only played roughly eight minutes per game. Potentially he could be leaned on a whole lot more. “When you have different players, you have different strengths on the floor,” McHale said about dealing with injuries and different lineups. “So when you have different strengths on the floor, you’ve got to play to different things.  But 90 percent of it is‑‑ Clint (Capela) is not going to turn into Dwight Howard overnight.  He might, but I don’t know.  He’s got to hit the weight room.”

After some laughter, he continued, “You know, those are really impossible questions to answer because different players bring different things, like we’re a different team every time we make a substitution.  Your team changes a little bit.  We’ve just got to go out there and play.”

Capela played one minute and 12 seconds in the regular season against the Warriors, missing his only shot in a Rockets 12-point loss back in November. In Tuesday’s game one, Capela was very effective, making all four his shots, grabbing four rebounds and scoring nine points in just under 13 minutes.

“They’re a different ballclub, for sure,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Capela has been playing really well, and I’m sure he’ll probably fill in at the 5 for him. You see the growth of him over the course of the season.
You know, we’re going to prepare as if Dwight is playing, and if not, we’ll adjust the game plan a little bit.”

Terrence Jones had his own injuries during the season and also was not available for many of the games Howard missed during the regular season. Jones first 21 games back after his nerve injurywere all played without Howard and Jones averaged 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during that strethc. He has not been nearly as consistent or productive in the playoffs, as he’s come off the bench in the last four games. He missed eight of his ten shots in game one.