HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Artist Otterstad ready to unveil massive Astros mural

Opie Otterstad unveiled his latest painting. Patti Smith/Twitter

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You’ve been watching him for months now.

The man in the fedora and plaid jacket. Always on his scaffold, always hard at work on that giant painting.

You recognize Altuve. Keuchel. Verlander. The scene – Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. And definitely the moment – your Houston Astros winning the 2017 World Series in seven.

Opie Otterstad has been a staple on the concourse at Minute Maid Park all season. His last stop was just behind the Insperity Suite, but he’s moved around the park, letting fans see at least one-fifth of what will be a Texas-sized celebration mural for everyone.

The final product – all 10 feet x 25 feet of it -- will be unveiled at a press conference Friday afternoon at 4:30 on the Suite level. That’s when Otterstad, Houston’s own and one of Texas’ best sports artists, will show off the challenging piece.

It is, for the most part, a larger version of the work he released this spring, but with some tweaks. Because of the size and proportion, some of the players are in a slightly different position and the background has changed a bit

“Doing a mural like this is different than doing a piece in the studio because in the studio, it’s a completely different rhythm,’’ Otterstad said. “You paint sort of on a regular schedule, but when you add the element of fans and people talking to you, it’s a different experience all together.’’

Fans and friends have dropped by to see the progress over the last four months, but, before the All-Star break, Otterstad took the painting back to his studio to stand with it by himself – no people, no distractions – and put the finishing touches on the canvas.

Otterstad has done the official World Series celebration paintings for the past 15 years. He’ll tell you the 2004 World Series when the Boston Red Sox snapped the curse and the 2016 Series that went to the Cubs are among the special moments. But nothing can compare to being at every Astros’ playoff game last season and being on the field for the Game 7 win.

In fact, he did an entire series of paintings of the Astros – including the smaller official painting -- that can be viewed at Off The Wall in The Galleria.

In addition to baseball – Otterstad has a special affinity for the sport going back to his younger days when he grew up with Nolan Ryan and Jose Cruz’s children – he has also painted athletes like Ben Crenshaw, Brett Favre and Tom Brady.

He was also the official artist for the first annual Houston Sports Awards and the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

Each work has a place in his heart, but this mural? It’s on another level. And, if the Astros would happen to repeat? Would he do another massive project?

"This sets the new precedent,'' he said. "It's the gateway painting for a new culture of winning in this town. I don't know that I'd want to work on a painting this big again. I'm not a muralist. I like painting big, but this is on a completely different level."








 

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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