John McDonough: Houston Sports

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Astros’ Carlos Correa On The Game Of Baseball

baseball-field-828713_1920 Baseball has long been considered America’s pastime. Over the years, attending baseball games has brought families and friends together. That being said, there are a few people, players and fans alike, who believe that baseball needs to have “more personality”. One person who recently revealed that he subscribes to this point of view is Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros.

Correa wrote a heartfelt first-person piece on the matter for SoleCollector.com, and he certainly didn’t hold back. This piece, written on April 4th, 2016 was entitled “Baseball Is Not Dying”. In the piece, Carlos Correa states that the sport is “stuck in the past”. Correa states that when baseball began, there was a set of unwritten rules that players were expected to follow. He feels that now, however, these rules have taking a negative toll on the sport. He argues that most the best athletes in the sports bring a unique passion and creativity to the sport, and that these qualities are being squelched by rules that were unofficially set up in the past. Carlos Correa goes on to say that within the sport of baseball, there is a desire to stick with the traditions of the past for fear of the game losing its old charm. However, he feels that the game cannot progress forward without change.

This opinion is largely what lead Carlos Correa to sign with Adidas, as he clarifies in this personal essay. He felt that by doing so he would be able to shape the future of baseball. In addition, Correa says that style is extremely important to him, arming him with confidence as he steps onto the field. He believes that baseball brands can take their part in creating change. Cleats, uniforms and accessories have gone unchanged for years, but Correa believes that there should be fewer restrictions on clothing. He also thinks that footwear could become an important aspect of the game, exciting the fans just as it does in basketball or football.

Before signing with Adidas, Correa had previously signed with Nike. Correa wrote that he chose Adidas because this company does things a different way. They aren’t afraid to present an innovative way of thinking about baseball, and clearly Correa is not either. He wants to see baseball become a combination of performance and style. He loves seeing athletes in other sports show their enthusiasm on the field, court, or in other sporting locales. He hopes that he can bring back the passion and camaraderie that made him fall in love with baseball in the first place.

Correa added later that he has the utmost respect for the past generations who have made key contributions to the game. He does, however, believe that the younger generation has the opportunity to add their own style to the sport and bring it to a new level of popularity. For Correa, this initiative is largely about inspiring future generations to know that they can move the sport forward, just as Carlos hopes to do today.

Devon & Leah Still Against the Toughest Battle

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From Devon Still’s Instagram

Throughout the 2015 season, the Houston Texans battled through a number of challenges. Of their many trials, none was as heart wrenching as the battle of Devon Still’s young daughter Leah against neuroblastoma stage 4, a rare form of cancer typically found in the adrenal glands.

Devon Still is a young father from Camden, New Jersey. After an extremely successful career as a student athlete for Penn State’s Nittany Lions, Still was drafted to the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2012 draft. Still played with the Bengals for two seasons, until he was cut in late August of 2014, right before the beginning of season. His dismissal from the Bengals came following the diagnosis of his then 4-year-old daughter, Leah.

In June of 2014, Devon and Leah Still came up against one of the most challenging battles of their lives. Leah, only a child, was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, this rare form of cancer is typically found in the small glands on top of the kidneys, though it can develop in the belly, chest, neck, pelvis, and bones. Cases of Neuroblastoma are extremely rare; there are less than 20,000 cases in the US every year. The majority of these cases affect the most vulnerable individuals, usually young children less than five years of age. In Leah’s case, her cancer quickly escalated to stage 4, at which point, the cancer had already spread beyond its origin. This catastrophic news understandably influenced Devon’s decision to put his football career on hold, so he could help his daughter fight this battle.

Though he had just been cut from the team, the Cincinnati Bengals quickly resigned Devon to the practice team. This move was in the name of goodwill on behalf of Coach Marvin Lewis. Devon’s membership on the practice team would allow him to pay for his daughter’s cancer treatment, and spare him from traveling with the team so he could stay home with Leah. Though it’s been a tumultuous battle for Leah and her father, she has defeated this illness. As of January 2016, she is cancer free, and her father is now signed to the Houston Texans

Houston Rockets Winning Streak Ends Against Wizards

819px-James_Harden_RocketsThe Houston Rockets were just gaining momentum as they came face to face with the Washington Wizards this weekend. The Washington Wizards, who are currently in 11th place of the Eastern Conference, broke the Rocket’s three-game winning streak as they narrowly defeated the Rockets (123-122) on their home turf, at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston.

The Wizards were ready to play, even though their coach Randy Wittman suffered a large personal loss earlier in the day. Wittman unexpectedly lost his older brother, Rick, the morning of the game. Though it came as a surprise, Wittman was determined to coach his team through their game in the evening. He told the Washington Post it was a, “tough day, but he was here. He watches every game in a La-Z-Boy and he’s up in heaven watching it in a La-Z-Boy. Tough day, but I’m proud of our guys.”

This victory was crucial for the Wizards, who were on a three-game losing streak and narrowly fell into a season worst of five games under .500. They arrived in Texas fresh from an embarrassing loss to the Denver Nuggets, who have been giving an underwhelming performance this season. The Wizards powered through the game with a questionable defensive effort, the 122 points scored by the Rockets were some of the most they’ve let a team claim this season. Three of the Wizard’s players scored double digits, including John Wall who led the charge with 19 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. Ramon Sessions scored 17 points more for the Wizards, and Otto Porter worked through his back and hip injuries to score nine points in 12 minutes. For the Rockets, Dwight Howard added 20 points earlier in the game before being ejected. The Wizards Nene Hilario was ejected, along with the Rocket’s Howard, for participating a shoving match after fouling each other. Nene was given a common foul and a technical foul, but after reviewing the play, the refs designated both as technical fouls. Howard was given a technical foul in the second quarter, and then a second for shoving Nene.

After the ejection, Harden was given a foul which created a 15-5 Rockets spurt that pulled the Rockets ahead 113-107. The Rockets were able to maintain the lead for a short while, until the Wizards targeted Clint Capela, who replaced Howard. The Wizards followed Capela, a 57.2 percent free-throw shooter, and made him miss three of four free throws. The Wizard’s Wall then landed a three-pointer to tie the game 117 at the 2:27 mark. The Wizards took the lead by four points, with free throws from Dudley and Wall. This loss was a close one for the Rockets, and they worked hard through every play. We’ll see if they start a new winning streak, and continue the losing one, as they go head-to-head against the Miami Heat tonight.

Houston Texans Race For 1st in AFC South

largeDespite the loss the Houston Texans faced against the New England Patriots last week (27 – 6), the Texans have had a pretty decent season. This year, with a record of 6 wins and 7 losses, the Houston Texans are second in their division. If the Texans can make a strong recovery from last week’s loss, they could slide into the number one position in the AFC South this week.

The team trying to stop the Texans from reaching their goal, is none other than the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are number one in the AFC South right now, but the Texans have a chance of getting the big win this week. The Colts lost their starting quarterback Andrew Luck a couple weeks back from a lacerated kidney against the Denver Broncos. This allowed the Houston Texans to have hope in clinching the first place spot. The Colts are hoping their backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst can make a miracle happen against the Houston Texans. Considering the embarrassing loss the Colts sustained against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week (16-51), the Texans’ fans should feel comfortable about this week’s game.

However, if the Houston Texans lose against the Indianapolis Colts, and the Jaguars continue to win, this could cause more trouble than expected. A loss this week would put the Colts record at 6-8. As mentioned previously, the Jaguars destroyed the Colts last week, so if they keep this up and defeat the Atlanta Falcons, the Jaguars could potentially have the same record as the Houston Texans, which would make both teams tied for second place. The chance of the Jaguars winning this week are high, due to the major loss the Atlanta Falcons took against the North Carolina Panthers.

The race for the number one spot of the AFC South, really depends on this week’s results because the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars are all capable of being number one. Out of the three teams, the Houston Texans are the most capable to win this division, so fans just have to keep their fingers crossed and expect for everything to work in the Texans favor.

Rockets Defeat the Knicks In Overtime, 116-111

gettyimages-499215834_masterSunday night’s win wasn’t an easy one for the Rockets. After carrying over into extra time, the Rockets defeated the New York Knicks, 116-111. Last year, the Rockets advanced as far as the Western Conference finals. This made the Rockets hopeful at the beginning of this season. However, this year’s record isn’t reflective of a team on their way to the championship. Now that they have one more victory, maybe their season will turnaround.

The Knicks kept the game under control for the majority of the night, even as they played without Carmelo Anthony, who was ill on Sunday night. The Knicks played hard, but the Rockets pulled ahead in the end. Starting point guard, Patrick Beverley pushed his teammates to play their best. Beverley rallied all the guys, including Harden, and Ty Lawson, who was on the bench. He says, “The guys know me who have been around here for years. Biggest thing for me is winning basketball games, and I hate losing. Everybody knows that if my approach one day is cussing you out, then that’s what it is. I’m doing that in the position to win basketball games.”  Shooting guard, James Harden, played his part. After scoring 26 points within 45 minutes, Harden needed an IV to recover. Harden had a great night, and as interim coach pointed out, “We got contributions from everybody. Guys who might not have been playing extremely well or a lot came in and made plays, and it was a bunch of small plays…and those plays make a difference.”

The game changed in the fourth quarter, after the Knicks’ Marcus Thorton scored a three-pointer. Thorton’s move tied the score 101-101 with 32.2 seconds left on the clock. In overtime, Howard landed a two-handed dunk over Kristaps Porzingiz, a Knicks rookie. Later Porzingis came back with a shot over Trevor Ariza, and tied the game at 103. The Rockets were jumping on the bench yelling as the close game continued. The Knicks’ Langston Galloway landed a jump shot, and made the score 111-111. After a pass from Harden, Ariza was open to land a three and bring the Rockets ahead, 114-111 with 1:12 left.

Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, is hoping this win will shift the Rocket’s trajectory. He says, “Things are turning in the right direction for us, but with us, we understand it is everyday. We can’t afford right now with the position we’re in to take any steps backwards. We can’t get too comfortable, too confident because we won a game. This game is over with now, and we fly to Detroit and we got to prepare ourselves to get a win in Detroit.”

The Rockets lost to the Pistons in Michigan, but maybe they’ll score another win over the New Orleans’ Pelicans this Wednesday night. For more Houston Rockets coverage, be sure to check out ESPN.

 

Houston Rockets in Good Shape for ’15-’16 Season

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The 2015 NBA Preseason has come to an end, and the Houston Rockets are showings signs of promise for the 2015-2016 season. The most promise comes their advancement into the Western Conference Finals last season. The Rocket’s roster is laden with veteran players who are looking for a championship title, including last season’s MVP runner-up James Harden, Jason Terry, and Dwight Howard.
Since last season, they added point-guard Ty Lawson to the team. The Rockets are trying to build a comfortable rapport with him, especially with James Harden and Patrick Beverly. The team has started playing all three together, they tried some new offensive sets against the Spurs which didn’t pan out well. In Lawson’s words, “We got to re-tune a couple of things, probably run our plays a little bit harder and a couple of things and put some more effort into it.”
While they work on strengthening their plays, the team also needs to take care of themselves physically. The Rockets’ preseason has been littered with various injuries down the roster, including Terrence Jones’ hurt ribs and concussion, Marcus Thorton’s eye, and James Harden’s knee. Ty Lawson was forced to sit out the second half of the past Friday’s game due to some back tightness. The team has also been missing their forward Donatas Motiejunas for all of preseason, as he takes time to recover from a back surgery. Lawson is apprehensive about pushing too hard, “I didn’t want to really risk it right now and do something worse to it. Just get a little bit of treatment and I should be good to go.” While the team is struggling without these players, giving them time to recovery could pay off well in the end.

Houston’s playoff hopes coming down to the wire

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As baseball’s regular season draws to a close, Astros fans have something to be excited for for the first time in a few years. But of course, they have fans on the edges of their seats as they bring the hope for a playoff berth down to the wire. The Angels are breathing down their necks, and they have been hot lately. Houston got to experience their explosive offense first hand last week.

You’ve got to give it to the MLB for adding the second wildcard spot in 2012. It’s really involved many more fans, probably hundreds of thousands, in the end of each season. Many people were saying when they added the second wildcard spot that it was just transparently a way for the league to make more money by extending the playoffs for another game. While that may be true, it doesn’t take away any of the excitement from the wider possibility of an end of season playoff run for a given team.

When you look at the stats for the Astros, what stands out is how few players have really had a stand out season. Dallas Keuchel has obviously been dominant – he hasn’t lost a game at home all season – and Alexander McHugh has also pitched incredibly well, especially down the stretch. Other than the two of them there is not a starting pitcher with more than 5 wins. The bullpen deserves a lot of credit. On the offensive side of things there is, count him, ONE regular starter – Jose Altuve – with a batting average over .300. Of the players who have started over 100 games, only two are even above .250. They have really come together as a team to give fans a reason to watch late into the regular season and, hopefully, further than that.

Biggio Enters The Hall

Craig Biggio arrived at Seton Hall University to play baseball, as a middle infielder. Surrounded by talent in would be major leaguers Mo Vaughn and John Valentin, who would have thought Biggio would be the best of the bunch? Nearly 30 years later, Biggio is the one entering the Hall of Fame.

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Craig Biggio at the HOF Induction Ceremony

A lifetime Houston Astro, Biggio spent 20 years with the franchise en route to joining the 3,000 hit club with 3,060 hits. Biggio spent most of his career at second base but did spend a few seasons in center field and left field. Of his 3,060 hits, Biggio accounted for 291 home runs and 668 doubles. He also was a speedster swiping 414 bases. A career .281 hitter, Biggio excelled in all facets of the game collecting 4 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and was a 7 time All-Star. His best year came in 1998 when he hit .325 with 51 doubles, 20 home runs, 50 stolen bases, 88 runs batted in, and scoring 123 runs. Biggio was a huge part of an era in the Houston Astros when he Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, and Roy Oswalt had the Astros contending in the playoffs year in and year out.

While having been inducted into the Hall of Fame, he previously had his number 7 jersey retired by the Houston Astros in 2008. Biggio was joined by Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz in being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.

Houston Rockets At A Glance

John McDonough - Sam Dekker

Sam Dekker was selected 18th overall.

The Houston Rockets drafted two great forwards on draft night in Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker with the 18th pick and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell with the 32nd pick (2nd round). Dekker was a 3 year player for Bo Ryan and averaged 13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .5 blocks and .5 steals per game as a junior. Dekker was a vital player in the Badgers quest for an NCAA Title, a quest that ultimately ended with a loss in the Finals to the Duke Blue Devils.

Montrezl Harrell is a great value pick for the Houston Rockets. A 3 year player under coach Rick Pitino, Harrell was prospected as a potential mid to late 1st round pick. Instead, Harrell was selected with the 2nd pick of the 2nd round and finds a home with a contender in the Houston Rockets. Harrell figures to be a combo forward. While he’s a bit undersized for the 4 and a bit to slow for the 3, he’ll play some sort of combo forward in the NBA. He worked on his outside shot in college to prep himself for playing time at the 3 at the NBA level. He’ll bring toughness and energy to the Rockets locker room.

Moving forward, the NBA’s Free Agency period is just about to begin. The Rockets are looking to be big players but will have to be cautious about it. They want to bring in another big name, someone like Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge to play alongside Dwight Howard in the paint. The Rockets were not far off from reaching the NBA Finals last season. The team was hampered by injuries to point guard Patrick Beverley and forward Donatas Montiejunas which ultimately hurt them come playoff time. GM Daryl Morey would like to keep this team together and has the opportunity to do so and add his two draft picks to the mix. Some of their own key free agents include Jason Terry, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, and Patrick Beverley. It’ll be interesting to see who stays, who goes, and who will be acquired via free agency or trade.

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