THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: On UH winning, the Rockets on a roll going into the break and Astros talk

Charlie Pallilo: On UH winning, the Rockets on a roll going into the break and Astros talk
James Harden and the Rockets are on a historic pace. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It didn’t quite wake up the echoes of Phi Slama Jama, but it was quite a night Thursday for the University of Houston basketball program. The Cougars taking down the 5th ranked team in the nation beating Cincinnati 67-62 doesn’t quite clinch an NCAA Tournament bid for UH, but the Coogs should feel free to order their dancing shoes. It will be just their second Big Dance appearance in the last quarter century.

Texas Southern’s Health and Physical Education Arena has served the Cougars well as a temporary home this season (and it’s a good thing because there’s a strong possibility the new Fertitta Center won’t be ready for the start of next season). UH is now 13-0 there. The joint wasn’t quite two-thirds full for Cincinnati, but the joint was jumpin’. Frankly the atmosphere was better than that at Toyota Center for most Rockets’ games—which is ridiculous given the Rockets’ magnificence this season, but whatever.

UH gets its 20th win of the season and has achieved something that even the final Phi Slamma Jamma team (1983-84) did not: beat 2 teams ranked 7th or higher in the national rankings. The win was the Cougars’ first over a Top 5 team since 1996.

Kelvin Sampson is simply an outstanding coach. His undersized team does the signature thing that most Sampson teams have done, reeeeally sink their teeth in on defense. Cincy is no offensive powerhouse, but the UH D absolutely suffocated the Bearcats who made one field goal over a 12 minute stretch in the second half.

Rockets on a roll

Behold the tedium of NBA All-Star Weekend! Nothing tedious about the Rockets. They are rightfully happy to have a week off, but it feels a bit like pushing the pause button on their tidal wave of momentum. Their second 10+ game winning streak of the season coupled with Golden State splitting its last eight games means for the first time ever the Rockets have the NBA’s best record at the break. 44-13! It would now take a borderline collapse for the Rockets to not break the franchise record for wins in a season. The ’93-’94 squad posted 58 wins. All these Rockets need to top that is a 15-10 finish.

Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright choosing the Rockets as buyout-free agents shouldn’t be that a big deal in bolstering the Rockets. Where is there regular significant playing time for either? Johnson played 31 minutes in his Rockets’ debut Wednesday, but Eric Gordon didn’t play and Trevor Ariza remains out. Wright should be an upgrade over Tarik Black as Clint Capela’s backup on the nights Nene sits out. The Johnson and Wright additions might be bigger in that the Rockets landing them means the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, or other possible Rockets’ playoff opponents didn’t get them.

When the league comes out of hibernation next Friday there will be two compelling Western Conference races over the final seven weeks of the regular season. The Rockets and Warriors are in a match race for the top seed, then there are eight teams chasing the other six spots. The Spurs sit third best in the West, but may presently have the 10th best team. No sign of Kawhi Leonard returning. LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili hobbled into the break. That the Spurs could wind up in the draft lottery just seems preposterous, but they are just three and a half games ahead of the 9th place Clippers and four and a half ahead of the 10th place Jazz who roared into the break on an 11 game winning streak. The Spurs’ preposterous run of 18 consecutive seasons winning at least 50 games may be coming to an end. Or, Leonard and Aldridge could both be healthy by mid-April and be a dangerous low seed.

Astros are back

We’re under six weeks to the Astros beginning their World Series Champion defense March 29th in Arlington. We’ll see how soon Manager A.J. Hinch settles upon Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel as his opening day starting pitcher. For the best of reasons there really are no compelling Astros’ storylines this spring. They are loaded both in the everyday lineup and on the pitching staff.

The silence is neither golden nor deafening re: absolutely no indication of the Astros attempting (or being rebuffed in an attempt) to talk contract extension with Jose Altuve. The reigning MVP is under contract this year as their 10th highest paid player (tied with Tony Sipp. Tony Sipp!). The Astros control Altuve with an option for 2019 that slates him to make less money than Pat Neshek among many, many others.

Buzzer Beaters

 1. Cake doughnuts are much better than yeast doughnuts   2. I would try the luge but not the skeleton.  3. Favorite NBA All Star Game memories:  Bronze-vacant  Silver-vacant  Gold-Magic Johnson in 1992

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome