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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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