TALK OF THE TOWN

6 takeaways from Rockets media day

Rockets.com

Excitement and hope filled the room as the Rockets held their annual media day Friday at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston. The Rockets enter this season again with strong title aspirations and weren't shy of making their goal known. Media day has become a day to pass around cliche preseason quotes, but occasionally something stands out that feels of particular importance. Aside from the usual "player A worked on X this summer" or "player B really wants to win a championship this season,'' a couple of interesting themes stood out from Houston's media day.

1. The Rockets seem open to paying the luxury tax

As it stands, the Rockets will be slightly over the luxury tax if they go into training camp with 15 players as Daryl Morey said was the plan to the Houston Chronicle. It seemed as if Houston may try and dodge it this year since they are so close to the line, but Morey said at media day that the team has not closed the book on paying it this year.

2. Houston values the addition of Tyson Chandler more than you'd think

Strangely enough, it seems veteran center Tyson Chandler was one of the stars of media day. Nearly every interview had some sort of passing reference to Chandler and the value he brings to this Rockets team. In fact, GM Daryl Morey's opening remarks at media day included unprompted praise of Chandler and his leadership. "Tyson Chandler's been just so vocal even in his time this offseason with our players, talking to the young guys, and working with the vets," Morey said. "Mike [D'Antoni] really told me how much he's going to add to the team in the locker room.

3. Lots of pressure on young Danuel House

Mike D'Antoni had talked about how essential Danuel House was going to be to Houston this summer and it seems that message has carried into training camp. It's very clear that Houston plans on making House a major rotation player even though he will be coming off the bench. Even Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talked about his excitement for House at media day.

4. Russell Westbrook doesn't hate the Houston media (yet)!

Jokes aside, from the moment Westbrook took the podium in August for his introductory press conference, he's been cordial with the Houston press. Westbrook was friendly and charismatic in a way that contradicts the image forged of himself in Oklahoma City. Obviously it's still early and games haven't been played yet, but so far so good for nervous media members.

5. The Rockets plan to renovate the Toyota Center pretty soon

When asked about any possible upcoming changes, CEO Tad Brown said the Rockets will likely make upgrades at the Toyota Center for the 20th anniversary of the building. While the building is still in pretty good working condition, Tilman Fertitta and Brown said they would like to spruce it up a little bit. There had been mention of this plan before, but as we near 2021 (the anniversary), it seems Houston plans to move forward on this project soon enough.

6. James Harden and Russell Westbrook have bought into this partnership

With the caveat that it's still very early and we have yet to see anything materialize on the floor, Harden and Westbrook said all the right things at media day about playing together. Both mentioned their long standing friendship as the primary reason the pairing would thrive. Mike D'Antoni said Houston plans to stagger the two so one of either Harden or Westbrook is on the floor for all 48 minutes. It's early, but if Harden and Westbrook are serious about putting egos and individual accomplishments aside, there's reason for optimism for this pairing to succeed.

There are still plenty of things to learn about this Rockets team, including the players and coaches that didn't get a chance to speak at media day (notably associate head coach Elston Turner). With training camp opening up today, it should be interesting to meet some of the new faces (and old ones, in the case of returning forward Ryan Anderson) and see what the points of emphasis are for Houston entering preseason.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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