THE FERTITTA ERA BEGINS

Tilman talks: New Rockets owner discusses national anthem, Toyota Center food, and why he loves the NBA

Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown and owner Tilman Fertitta. Marcy de Luna

It’s not every day that an NBA franchise gets a new owner. There are, after all, only 30 teams. Thursday, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved Tilman Fertitta as the new owner of the Houston Rockets, setting the stage for the commencement of the Fertitta era. He acquired the franchise from Les Alexander for $2.2 billion.

Fertitta, who was a limited partner with former Rockets owner Charlie Thomas in the early 1980s and an advisory director for the Rockets during the two years they won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, is no stranger to the NBA team.

The Houston billionaire had a lot to say when he and Rockets CEO Tad Brown met with the press on Tuesday. Read on for their answers to nine questions on topics ranging from bringing an NHL team to the Bayou City to the concessions at Toyota Center:

Why the Houston Rockets?

“I kind of went through my life, and I’ve had a wonderful life and a wonderful family and lots of good things have happened to me, and I got to a point where I said, ‘Gosh, if I laid my head down on the pillow for the last time, the one thing that I never got to accomplish was owning a team in my hometown,'" Fertitta said.

“I started listening to the San Diego Rockets when I was in junior high school, when they said they were moving to Houston, Texas, with Elvin Hayes. That’s when I became a Houston Rockets fan. So I’ve been on the ride from the beginning.”

On receiving the big news

“It was a wonderful moment. I was on my boat in Marina del Rey shooting Billion Dollar Buyer. I was sick and at the same time the storm (Harvey) was coming, and Tad (Brown) called and asked me to come in the next morning," Fertitta said.

”If I can expand, it was the Friday the storm was hitting, we were closing the offices, Tilman was sick, and Leslie (Alexander) told me to engage in closing discussions with Tilman," Brown said. "When I called (to tell him), we were FaceTiming each other, Tilman put his head down and started to cry. And you could see, immediately, that it was the right call.”

Now that it’s official, how does it feel?

"This is the ultimate. You’re in a club of 30. Anybody can go build a boardwalk, anybody can go build an aquarium, anybody can build a tall building, but not everyone gets to own an NBA franchise,” Ferttitta said.

What sort of owner will you be?

“I can’t describe what kind of owner I’m going to be. Somebody said, ‘are you going to be more like Peter Holt (owner of the San Antonio Spurs) or more like Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks)?’

“ … I don’t think I’ll be anything like Mark Cuban, who has an excellent style to be as successful as he’s been, and I think Peter has an unbelievable style that fits him to run San Antonio, but I’m just going to be Tilman.”

The NFL, MLB, and NBA

TF on NFL: “We don’t really know where football is going. There’s nothing like the NFL, we all agree that we wait for football season, but even people that I know in football are concerned about where it’s going to be in 50-60 years."

TF on MLB: “And then you have baseball and the average viewing age is 60 years old.”

TF on the NBA: "The NBA has become a true world sport. Out of the three major (professional sports), leaving out hockey, I think this is by far the best one to have today. I would have been scared to pay $2.2 billion for an NFL franchise … the NBA is where it’s at.”

Is Houston getting an NHL franchise?

“We’ve looked at many NHL teams over the years. It wasn’t a matter of not wanting to bring someone in, whether they be a tenant or not, it’s just that the deals didn’t work," Brown said. “Tilman and I have talked about a number of different things. There’s optionality going forward with things that he wants to look at. And we’re going to look at everything that makes sense for this building, for his companies, and for the city of Houston."

“You’ve got to pay attention to the numbers," Fertitta said. "I would put an NHL team here tomorrow, but this one (the Rockets) has got to work. Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely. We’ll do whatever we can do, but it’s got to make sense. But will we be aggressive? Yes, that’s my nature.” 

Will you make any changes to concession offerings at Toyota Center?

“We want to cross promote anything we can — I’ve got to offset that $2.2 billion! There’s one company that owns everything: Fertitta Entertainment, of which I own 100 percent. It owns the Houston Rockets, Landry’s 600 restaurants, the huge hospitality division, and the huge gaming division — I don’t think they’ll let me put a casino in here!

"There is a contract with the Levy organization. We have a good relationship with them and they’ll let us do basically whatever we want to do. So will you start seeing some of our brands and our food? Yes.”

Do you have a policy for the National Anthem?

 “The NBA has a policy. And the NBA says everybody’s going to stand up for the National Anthem. And I think it’s really good — that’s what we should do. I totally believe in free speech, and everybody should do what they want to do on their time, but we’re going to live by the NBA policy. I have to follow their policies, so I expect the players to.”

What does this mean for your family?

“This family loves owning the Houston Rockets and they will be involved in the decision making process as much as I will.

“This is a generational asset. If you know us, we are not big sellers of assets, we are acquirers. I would be extremely disappointed, and I think they would be, too, if any of y’all are still covering this team in 50 years without the Fertitta family.”

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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