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.

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

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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.

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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

Rockets vs Spurs, part 1; West at-a-glance, 4/8

Heading into he final eight days of the season, all five teams in he southwest division hold playoff spots, four those teams have clinched a berth, but none of the teams know where they’ll finish. And that’s just in the division, let alone the playoff standings.

Last night: Pelicans 103, Warriors 100; Spurs 113, Thunder 88; Clippers 105, Lakers 100

The only surprise of the night came in New Orleans, as the Pelicans made the plays down the stretch and the Warriors didn’t. Steph Curry missed an open runner in the lane with under ten seconds left, then rattled out a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime. Although, the referees botched the call on that play, as I imagine will be reflected in the league’s Last Two Minute report released on Wednesday. Curry was defended by Dante Cunningham as he jumped up to attempt the long shot. There was minimal contact and no whistle (which in my opinion was correctly officiated), but after jumping and realizing there was no chance to make the shot, Curry merely let go of the ball. Then landed on his feet, paused, picked up the bouncing ball and fired up the shot. That should have been whistled for a travel, but wasn’t. See below.

(h/t @MikePradaSBN)

Moments before that with the score tied at 100, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans tripped himself up at midcourt, as he was losing the ball and headed down to the floor, Andre Iguodala reached in and caught him lightly on the knee. Iguodala was whistled for a foul and Evans sank one of two free throws.

Steph Curry still had another good game with 25 points on 9-18 shooting, including 5-8 on 3-pointers to go with nine assists. But fellow splash brother Klay Thompson was off, way off, scoring just seven points on 2-10 shooting and had four turnovers. Anthony Davis turned in a typical strong game with 29 points, ten rebounds, four blocks and two steals. He did all that, without a single turnover in over 40 minutes of play.

That win pushed the Pelicans ahead of the Thunder for the eighth spot in the west, since the Thunder were manhandled by the Spurs for the second time during the Spurs eight-game winning streak. Oklahoma City scored just 10 points in the first quarter, made just 4-of-21 shots and had six turnovers. The Thunder have lost five of six, were never in the game with the Spurs and do not hold the tiebreaker with the Pelicans. While the Thunder have a seemingly easier schedule remaining, they are playing terribly, while the Pelicans just knocked off the best team in the NBA. Russell Westbrook scored only 17 points and did not play in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

For the second time in three nights, the Clippers handled the Lakers, although this time the Lakers put up a fight. J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin each had 27 points and the Clippers got Jamal Crawford back after he missed the last 17 games with a calf injury. He scored four points in roughly 19 minutes. The Clippers could still finish as high as the number two seed.

Tonight: Pelicans at Grizzlies; Rockets at Spurs; Suns at Mavericks; Timberwolves at Blazers

New Orleans will try to ride that wave of emotions to Memphis as they look to claim the season series against the Grizzlies. Memphis beat New Orleans by 18 at home in the first week of the season, but the Pelicans won both games in New Orleans. Memphis and Houston, along with San Antonio are still in the race for the division crown, which could come down to division record. Memphis is 8-7 with this being their final division game. Houston is 7-6 with two games remaining with the Spurs and one with the Pelicans. San Antonio is 6-7 with the two games against Houston and one with New Orleans remaining.

The Rockets and Spurs have not played since just after Christmas with the Spurs winning 110-106. Houston got a strong game from Dwight Howard (24 points and 17 rebounds), but had a season-worst 25 turnovers. Howard is averaging 28 points and 16.5 rebounds, while shooting 74 percent in two games against San Antonio. He remains on a minutes limit, however, and is expected to play around 25 minutes. The teams will meet again in Houston on Friday night. The importance of these games is fairly obvious. A sweep by either team could put that team in position to win the division. Houston already controls their own destiny. If the Spurs win out they could win the division, although they would need the Grizzlies to lose to the Pelicans tonight, to allow for the Spurs to potentially win that division tiebreaker, because if the teams remaining tied and have the same division record, the Grizzlies would claim the division title based on better conference record. I know – not confusing at all.

The Mavericks had the night off on Tuesday, but finally clinched a playoff berth with the loss by the Thunder. They have nearly clinched the seventh seed, their magic number to do that is one. They are hoping to get Chandler Parson (knee) and Rajon Rondo (knee) back healthy before the playoffs as well. Parsons is listed as doubtful, while Rondo is listed as probable to play against the Suns.

The Suns have not been eliminated from the playoffs yet, but their final five games of the season are by far the hardest in the entire league. The five-game closing stretch began last night with a 96-69 drubbing in Atlanta. Their next three games, all on the road, are against Dallas, New Orleans and San Antonio. They then finish at home against the Clippers. If they miraculously sweep their final four games, they’ll have 43 wins. That’s just one more win than both the Thunder and Pelicans already have.

The Blazers are expected to have both starting forwards back for their game against the Timberwolves. LaMarcus Aldridge (thumb) and Nicolas Batum (back) sat out their loss at Brooklyn on Monday night. The Wolves are in a cat fight with the Knicks for the league’s worst record and with it the most chances in the lottery to land the top selection. Minnesota has lost seven straight and 14 of 16, while the Knicks just snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over the Sixers on Sunday. The remaining schedule for the 15-win Knicks and the 16-win Timberwolves:

NYK (15-62) – vs IND, vs MIL, at ORL, at ATL, vs DET
MIN (16-61) – at POR, at LAL, at GSW, vs NO, vs OKC

Here’s the look at the west standings and the remaining schedule. Click the graphic to enlarge.

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Click here for tiebreaking procedures

NBA Vine of the Night – The Heat are trying to secure a playoff spot and with execution like this, they just might get it. Or with luck.  (h/t  @Ananth Pandian)

Check back daily for the latest updates.

Dirk will be here all week, please tip your waitresses

I’m sure you saw this from over the weekend when Shaun Livingston got caught reaching for the ball(s).

he NBA gave Livingston a one-game suspension for the shot to the jewels. Dirk Nowitzki said after the game, that everyone was just moving on from it and he didn’t consider it a big deal. Although from his comments below, he jokes that Livingston did, in fact, consider it a big deal.

That was on Monday at a Mavericks team event at Six Flags. Now that is amusement at the old amusement park.

 

NBA to share officiating reports

The NBA announced today it will provide play-by-play reports regarding all calls and just as importantly, all material non-calls that occur in the last two minutes of close games and during overtime periods. These reports will be available at NBA.com/official beginning on March 2 and continuing throughout the 2015 playoffs. The league cites their new transparency initiative relating to its officiating program, aiming for it to create a more specific protocol for commenting on the most scrutinized calls in NBA games.

Previous actions as part of league’s effort toward more transparency in its officiating program include this season’s launch of the NBA Replay Center, real-time postings on NBA.com and @NBAOfficial of the replays used by officials to make calls during replay reviews, and bi-weekly rule “points of emphasis” memos that are sent to teams, referees and the media.

“Our fans are passionate and have an intense interest in understanding how the rules are applied,” said Mike Bantom, Executive Vice President of Referee Operations.  “NBA referees have the most difficult officiating job in sports, with so many split-second decisions in real time.  We trust this consistent disclosure will give fans a greater appreciation of the difficulty of the job and a deeper sense of the correct interpretations of the rules of our game.”

The league will release assessments of officiated events in the last two minutes of games decided in regulation that were within five points at the two-minute mark.  Each play will be reviewed by a senior referee manager or basketball operations manager who will provide the assessments.  Every play on the report will include a video link to that specific play.  The reports will be posted on NBA.com/official by 4 p.m. CT the day after each game.

The link below shows a sample of what the “Last Two Minute report would look like. AS mentioned above, each play includes a video link, which is definitely worth checking out since it includes up to nine different options for viewing each play, which is pretty nice.

SAMPLE – NBA Last Two Minute Report SAC at POR 1-19-2015

Hakeem Olajuwon Says Michael Jordan ‘Far Superior’ to LeBron James (VIDEO)

Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon was conducting an television interview (seen below) and was asked if LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time. He immediately responded with “Yes.” Then, unprompted, expanded on his answer and brought up comparisons to Michael Jordan, which he said were unfair. Hear his answer in the video link below.

And Rockets’ fans, stick with the video after that answer as he recounts his greatest basketball memory.

Hakeem Olajuwon Says Michael Jordan ‘Far Superior’ to LeBron James (VIDEO).

Is this just a guy backing a guy who played in his era, versus the guy playing now?

He does mention how tough the league was when Jordan and Olajuwon played. He has worked with LeBron James on the court, during previous offseasons, so he definitely knows his game pretty well.

I imagine this gets more run than it probably deserves – especially since Jordan is better than James – see what I did there!

Hit me up in the comments section or on twitter with your thoughts.

(h/t to Slam Online)

Is Smoltz ribbing Biggio?

Nice video put together by MLB.com with the new Baseball Hall Of Famers, Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. There is some cool stuff as they headed to the MLB network and the David Letterman Show to deliver the top ten list (which by the way had, as usual, more misses that hits).

But here’s why I posted this video. Sorry Astros fans, but during their ride though New York, for some reason Smoltz, the former Braves star, is telling Biggio a story about Brian McCann.

Now when you watch and listen to the story and watch Biggio as he is listening to the story, it will disturb you just as much now as it ever did when the Braves and Astros met in the playoffs. But all in good fun, right?!

Just click on pic to play video.

Tracy McGrady getting hazed by Damian Lillard

Current Houston Rocket James Harden and former Rockets Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley have been featured previously in some pretty funny Foot Locker ads. Now it’s Tracy McGrady’s turn. He gets the business from Blazers guard (and Rockets current nemesis) Damian Lillard. Good stuff.