The Pallilog

Astros continue to dominate the Houston sports landscape with Bregman signing (plus some other stuff, including UH and the Rockets)

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Given their overall stature as organizations within their sports, it seems appropriate that the Astros' biggest contract news this week was striking a five year extension with Alex Bregman, while the Texans' biggest move was signing backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. Hey, McCarron is a notable upgrade over Brandon Weeden! Though if DeShaun Watson goes down with a major injury they are still Texans Toast.

The Astros get cost certainty, and a relative bargain if Bregman is to be one of the great stars of the game well into the next decade. If Bregman is indeed to be a long-term stud he'd have made more money going year to year over the next four seasons until free agency beckoned. Hedging his bet is without question a smart play when the hedge makes Bregman a centillionaire. Pre-Uncle Sam's cut anyway.

Bregman at six years $100 million seems downright cheap relative to Jose Altuve's five year 151.5 mil extension kicking in next season. Carlos Correa must have some interesting unspoken thoughts.

UH in the tourney

21 times in 34 years of the 64 team NCAA Tournament bracket a 14 seed has shocked a three seed in the first round. Hence, the Houston Cougars are not an automatic over Georgia State. In 2015 the Panthers (Ga. St.) were a 14 when they took down Baylor. This season's GSU squad ranks in the top 15 in the nation in three point shooting percentage. But their numbers were primarily accrued vs. Sun Belt Conference competition. The UH defense is strongest on the perimeter and should choke off Georgia State's strength. The Iowa State-Ohio State winner should be next on Sunday. The Cyclones would pose a serious challenge Sunday, with the Buckeyes no joke if good enough to take out ISU.

While at Oklahoma, Kelvin Sampson twice had fourth seeded Sooner teams seeded lose to 13 seeds. And took a two seeded team to the Final Four.

Loss hurts Rockets goals

Down to 10 regular season games left for the Rockets heading into their game with the Spurs Friday night. Coming back from 19 points down in the 4th quarter at Memphis only to lose in overtime was a waste of time, having Chris Paul play over 41 minutes was not good, and the L basically snuffed out the slim in the slim and none chance of catching Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference. Denver is the probable number two seed, though the Nuggets have a much harder finishing schedule than do the Rockets. If the Nuggets go 6-6 to close, the Rockets have to go 9-1. Portland is tied with Houston in the loss column, has a favorable schedule, and owns the tiebreaker over the Rockets. Meaning: the Rockets dropping to fourth is a distinct possibility.

HOF next for Ichiro, but he is no Biggio

After playing in the Seattle Mariners' two regular season opening games in Tokyo, Ichiro Suzuki officially retired Thursday. He can safely start working on a Hall of Fame induction speech for 2025 in Cooperstown. A tremendous player who didn't come to North America until he was 27 years old, Ichiro racked up at least 206 hits in each of his first 10 Major League seasons and finished with 3089 good for 23rd all-time, until Albert Pujols passes him this season. He was a spectacular right fielder with a throwing arm that rates with the greatest the game has seen from Roberto Clemente on down the line.

On the radio show Thursday I addressed Ichiro as overrated by those who rate him one of the great offensive players ever. Context matters. I noted that Craig Biggio's peak offensive years were better than Ichiro's best. Boy did that draw some blowback in emails, tweets, and on-air from bi-weekly guest/CultureMap.com featured columnist/baseball dilettante Ken Hoffman.

Ichiro was a magnificent singles-slapping machine. In 2004 he racked up 262 hits to break a Major League record that had stood for more than 80 years. However, on-base percentage is a more valuable statistical measurement than batting average. In 2004 Ichiro hit .372, with an OBP of .414. In 1997 Biggio's OBP was .415 (while batting .309). Despite Ichiro having a career batting average edge of .311 to .281, Biggio's career on-base percentage of .363 tops Ichiro's .355.

Biggio also hit with notably more power. Ichiro one time reached 15 homers in a season. Biggio hit 20+ eight times, four of those when the Astrodome was his home ballpark. Ichiro topped 30 doubles twice with a season high of 34. Biggio topped 40 six times including two seasons over 50.

Over their best 10 year stretch, best five year stretch, or single best season, Craig Biggio was a greater offensive player than Ichiro. Not a better pure hitter, but a better offensive player.

Buzzer Beaters

1. As Charles Barkley's book was titled: "I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It." 2. Murray State's Ja Morant is the most compelling college guard since Stephen Curry. 3. Best ever in-game dunkers: Bronze-Michael Jordan Silver-Dominique Wilkins Gold-Vince Carter

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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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