HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Drexler excited to bring Big3 season opener to Houston

Clyde Drexler has the Big3 in Houston for opening night. Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

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Still trying to shake off the Rockets’ loss in the NBA, er, Western Conference Finals?

Pondering what could be if LeBron James picks – or doesn’t pick -- Houston?

Or just trying to un-see some of those moments during the Ted Cruz-Jimmy Kimmel Blobfish Classic?

Whatever basketball malaise you’re in, Clyde Drexler is pretty sure he has the cure.

Friday’s Big3 season two opener at 5:30 p.m. at Toyota Center.

The Houston basketball legend-turned-Big 3 commissioner couldn’t be more excited to bring the 3-on-3 league filled with recent NBA stars and coached by Hall of Famers to his hometown.

“Opening week, we wanted to be perfect,’’ Drexler said. “Houston is one of our premier destinations and we can’t wait for it to get started.

“We try to go to cities that follow the NBA game, that are big basketball cities and vibrant economic cities. Houston checked all the boxes.  We’ve got an incredible mayor, great leadership and Toyota Center is a great place to play and our fans love the game of basketball.’’

How does a 4 p.m. kickoff concert from Big3 co-founder Ice Cube followed by 8 teams filled with former NBA stars playing four half-court 3-on-3 games in one night grab you?

And don’t forget that five of those teams are coached by Hall of Famers Julius Erving (Tri State), George Gervin (Ghost Ballers), Gary Payton (3 Headed Monsters), Rick Barry (Ball Hogs) and Nancy Lieberman, the league’s first female coach. Lieberman is coaching Power, the team Drexler coached last season.

“Nancy is one of the most competitive people I know,’’ Drexler said of the former college and WNBA star and current Sacramento Kings assistant coach. “She’s a winner. She knows the game of basketball, she’s a leader and I think she’s going to do very well in the Big3.’’

No one knows the city or the game as well as Drexler, who started working his magic here at Sterling High then caught everyone’s eye at the University of Houston as a founding member of Phi Slama Jama. He went on to become a 10-time NBA All-Star at Portland and Houston, helped the Rockets to the 1995 NBA title and has had his No. 22 jersey retired by the Cougars, Trailblazers and Rockets.

He coached the Big3’s Power to a tie for third in the inaugural season – Trilogy beat 3 Headed Monsters for the 2017 title - and said this year’s league has even more talent.

Drexler said about 80 former NBA players competed for 17 open roster spots this season.

“The talent level has risen and the game is becoming more and more popular,’’ Drexler said. “People are getting familiar with the names. We only have 8 teams, we only play for 10 weeks, but all eight teams play every single week in the same arena. We play four games. So when you go, you get to see all these players, all these Hall of Famers.

“It is a festival of basketball. It’s very competitive.’’

The league has a 4-point shot (30-footers from set spots) and a 14-second shot clock. The first team to 25 points is halftime and the first team to 50 points, provided it is up by 2, wins the game. “So the games can go quick,’’ Drexler said, “or they can take a while.”

Last year  Drexler’s team included Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette. This year, Power added Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Glen “Big Baby “ Davis, and Quentin Richardson.

Trilogy won last year with Al Harrington and Rashad McCants and added Kenyon Martin and James White. Tri State added Nate Robinson and A’mare Stoudemire to go along with Jermaine O’Neal and Bonzi Wells. And the list goes on . .

League co-founders Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz are also committed to giving back to the communities starting with the Young3 initiative for players 7-14 years old. The Young3 will be played Thursday morning at the Boys and Girls’ Clubs.

The Big3 also refurbishes courts in the cities where they play and Drexler said Houston’s project will be in Acres Homes.

Additionally, Drexler said about 1,000 tickets will be made available to Santa Fe High school students who want to attend the event. The community is still healing from the recent tragic shooting at the school.

“We want to show them the love,’’ Drexler said. “We want to let them know that people care about them all over the world and especially here in the city of Houston and shine a little spotlight on them.’’

The Big3 did not play in Houston last year, but Drexler hopes what he calls the best 3-on-3 league will draw big crowds and keep Houston on the league’s schedule.

“With 3-on-3 professional basketball, It doesn’t get any better than the Big3,’’ he said, “So when it comes to your town, you don’t want to miss it.’’





 

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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