Bigger than basketball

Mike D'Antoni speaks out on John Lewis' legacy and voting rights

Photo via: Salman Ali.

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni came to his media availability Thursday afternoon dawning another "Vote" t-shirt. It's part of an ongoing trend that the 69-year-old head coach started after Civil Rights icon John Lewis passed nearly two weeks ago.

"I have people send them to me and I appreciate it," said D'Antoni, smiling. "There's a lot of people concerned about what's going on and the only way anything get[s] changed is voting."

Lewis' funeral was nationally broadcasted Thursday morning from Atlanta, Georgia and former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were all in attendance and gave moving speeches and tributes. In light of this, D'Antoni was asked Thursday afternoon about Lewis' legacy and work on important issues such as voting rights.

"It's fundamental to our democracy," said D'Antoni. "One thing that's not talked about - we don't vote in mass enough. The percentage is way too low. [There are] too many obstacles put in front of people to deny them their constitutional right to vote. We have to strive to do better. His whole life was dedicated to that. And it'd be a great tribute to him to pass the Voter Act in his name that's on the Senate's desk and get it right."

The bill D'Antoni is referring to is H.R. 4, a measure to restore key elements of the Voting Rights Act that Lewis was instrumental to getting passed in 1965. The Act was stripped down in 2013 by the Supreme Court and since then, lawmakers in Washington have made several, organized pushes to restore those important provisions. After Lewis passed away, there was a new wave of energy to turn that bill into law and the House of Representatives even approved a proposal to rename the legislation after John Lewis. However, the bill has yet to be passed.

"Why are we even squabbling?" asked D'Antoni. "Why are we even having this discussion in a democracy where everybody has the right to vote and vote freely. [Do] whatever it takes - whether it's a expanded days [to vote] to make it easier for people, whether it's a national holiday. Whatever it takes to get every citizen the right to vote shouldn't be a discussion and it should already be done."

Several NBA players have taken on social causes that they feel strongly about in the Orlando bubble, including justice for the killing of 26-year-old Kentucky woman Breonna Taylor. While D'Antoni has generally not spoken out on social causes, he's been pretty skillful and vocal about voting rights while in Orlando.

"Again, when somebody has to devote their whole life's work to that, there's something wrong with what's going on," continued D'Antoni. "And this is what we're talking about. Hopefully we're all striving to get a more perfect union. You can't do that when there's racial injustice against the poor, whatever it is. We're not doing real well right now in how we're running things. Voting's the only answer - whatever way it is. If everybody has the right to vote, I think that's how things change and how things get better. That's how we get to a better place."

When asked about wearing the t-shirt to practice, D'Antoni cited "getting older" as part of the reason he's decided to speak up on this issue.

"When you're young, you think everything's good and you don't worry about these things, but we're in a time where you need to start doing your part," said D'Antoni. "The thing that everybody can do is vote. So, get out and register, take a friend, take a family. Just do it. Let's form a better union."

"Let's push America ahead and upwards and onwards," D'Antoni concluded.

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After a rough, disheartening loss the night before to even the series at one game apiece, the Astros tried to shake it off and regroup for a win on Thursday to get the series win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Here is a quick recap of the finale:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 5, Astros 4.

Record: 6-6, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (0-1, 40.50 ERA).

Bielak tosses an impressive start as Houston puts him in winning position

After both teams finished the first three innings scoreless, the Astros were able to get a little bit of good luck on their side, unlike the night prior. Jose Altuve started the inning with a much-needed single, stole second, then moved to third on a groundout for the second out. That set up Yuli Gurriel, who hit a ball down the third-base line that would strike the bag and bounce away from Arizona, allowing Altuve to score and put Houston up 1-0.

Though he likely would have preferred more run support, Brandon Bielak made do with that one run in his first career MLB start. He was able to complete five innings of work, holding Arizona scoreless over that span despite allowing a runner in each inning. He left in line for the win, with a final line of 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 HR.

Altuve extends the lead, then Diamondbacks go ahead

Jose Altuve helped double the lead in the top of the sixth, connecting for a one-out solo home run to make it 2-0. With Bielak's night over at five innings, Cy Sneed took over in the bottom of the sixth and allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to cut Houston's lead in half. He allowed a single to put runners on the corners before Dusty Baker would move on to another reliever to try and preserve the lead. Blake Taylor would enter but allowed the tying RBI-single to take Bielak out of winning position. Taylor would go on to allow a go-ahead run before getting out of the jam.

In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor was still on the mound but would only get two outs before another call to the pen. Andre Scrubb would enter and get the final out of the inning. In the top of the eighth, Jose Altuve would improve to 3-for-4 on the night with a two-out double, setting up Alex Bregman for a go-ahead two-run home run to make it 4-3, Houston.

Ryan Pressly allows the walk-off

Scrubb went back to the mound in the bottom of the eighth and was able to record a 1-2-3 inning to move the game to the ninth. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly would attempt to get the save in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he would allow the walk-off, loading the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles before a two-RBI single to give Arizona the win and the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to Oakland to kick off a three-game weekend series with the A's on Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The A's will send Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93 ERA) to the mound while Houston will turn to Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) to help cut down Oakland's division lead.

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