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Houston Rockets photos from the 1980s

It is amazing and revealing what you find when cleaning out your attic. We had season tickets for the Houston Rockets for Hakeem Olajuwon‘s entire career (1984 – 2001). I started with tickets in the 2nd level, behind the back board for the price of $99 for a 22 game package at the Summit…that’s right, $4.50 a ticket to see Olajuwon play. We ended up second level half-court, which is where we sat for every playoff game in the two championship runs. I used (and still have) a Canon AE-1 with a telephoto lens for most of these pictures. I haven’t done any photoshop clean up on them yet, just scanned in my prints with a photo scanner.

The 1986 NBA Finals vs. The Boston Celtics

I cannot remember if these two were taken in Game 3 (which the Rockets won), Game 4 (which Boston won) or Game 5 (which Olajuwon dominated and the Rockets won). I believe it was Game 5, when Ralph Samson was ejected for punching Jerry Sichting, as Sampson is in neither of this pictures. RocketsOlajuwanMcHale1024

 Olajuwon dunking over current Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

Players in photo (from L to R) – Danny Ainge (of the hated Celtics), Rodney McCray, Larry Bird (Celts), Robert Parrish (Celts), Dirk Minniefield (Rockets, who’d I’d forgotten about until seeing this photo), Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon (Rockets), Kevin McHale (Celts), Jim Peterson (Rockets), and Dennis Johnson (Celts). All of the Celts except Ainge are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, only the Dream on the Rockets.

RocketsOlajuwonDreamShake1024The end of a Dream Shake over Robert Parrish

In addition to those previously mentioned I believe that is Steve Harris of the Rockets in the bottom left, guarded by Sichting.

RocketsSpudWebb1024 5′ 7″ Spud Webb of the Atlanta Hawks dunking

This is obviously from a different set of seats. That’s Steve Harris looking on in amazement as Spud dunks. RocketJordanReed1024

Robert Reid guarding Michael Jordan (Bulls)

Reid (from San Antonio St. Mary’s, if I recall correctly) always got up for the games where he was guarding Jordan (so did Vernon Maxwell, for that matter).  There’s not much action in this pic, but the size of Mike’s hand on the ball always blew me away.

JordanDunk Best of many Jordan dunk photos

Most of the ones I took were too blurry, and this one is still a bit out of focus, but it was the best one of the lot.

I’ll post more as/if I find them.


Can Houston Rockets Choke City 2 turn into Clutch City 2?

Disclaimer right up front: I am biased.

I had Rockets season tickets for the great Hakeem Olajuwon’s entire career, and saw every game of the two championship playoff runs. And I agree the old adage “you can’t go back.” Whether one is discussing being a participant (be it fan or player) of a great team’s run, or working for a great company like a Compaq, that particular environment, the excitement and enthusiasm is hard to recreate. You expect things to be the same, but they rarely are.

And that brings us to this year’s Rockets.

In the 2004 season, against the Phoenix Suns, the Rockets had home court advantage, just like this year’s Rox had home court against Portland. The 2004 Rockets had leads evaporate in both game 1 and game 2. This year’s Rockets let game 1 slip away and were soundly beaten in game 2.

The Rockets of 2004, of course, earned the name “CHOKE CITY” for losing those first two games in that fashion, and then came back and won the series in seven games, prompting the T-shirt empire that was “CLUTCH CITY.”

And then those Rockets: Hall of Famer Olajuwon, and a cast that included TNT Commentator Kenny “the Jet” Smith, Vernon “MadMax” Maxwell, the underrated Otis Thorpe, Mario Elie, Sam Cassel, Robert Horry (who has more championship rings that most Hall of Famers) and a cast of others…won the NBA Championship over the New York Knicks.

Then they did it again the next season, with the addition of hometown hero Clyde “the Glide” Drexler.

And they were done.

They brought in the “Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley, who was more round than rebound. That didn’t work out.

They brought in Scottie Pippen, late in his career, and without Michael Jordan. That didn’t work out.

Tracy McGrady came in, Yao Ming came in. A small bit of playoffs, but that didn’t work out.

And thus we come to the current incarnation, good players with good nicknames: James “the Beard” Harden; Dwight “DHo/Superman” Howard, Chandler “J.T.” Parsons, and a good cast of Patrick Beverly, Jeremy Lin, Terence Jones and others.

Like their illustrious predecessors, this years Rockets get home court in the playoffs, and lose the first two.

Can they make lightning strike twice? Can they turn Choke City II into Clutch City II?

Sadly, I think not. Even worse, I find that I cannot care about this team.

There are several reasons.

One, hack-a-Howard. If anything makes a game not worth watching, it is this strategy. Sure, the guy being hacked (whether Shaq or Howard or Omer Asik) should make the free throw and thwart the strategy. But what a waste of watches and paid attendees time.

Two, if it is true, this sequence from Harden:

“I’m not worried about my offense, I’m worried about our defense — our defense as a team,” Harden said.

A few minutes later, the questions stopped coming, but not before Harden, evidently still aggravated, circled back and spun the questioning to the aforementioned reporter, taking issue with his basketball credibility.

“You’ve never seen someone shoot 29 percent in two games? You must not watch basketball.”

The longtime reporter responded that he’d watching basketball longer than Harden had been alive. And that Harden should be held to a higher standard because he is All-NBA.

“Weirdo,” Harden said, before walking out of the room once Houston’s PR staff stepped in.

Despite his defiance, Harden has never been this bad. He has missed 33 shots in his past two games, the most he has ever missed in a two-game span in his career. In the 2012 Finals, Harden infamously shot 18-for-48 (37.5 percent) in five games, but he wasn’t the focal point of the offense like he is in Houston.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, Harden missed 13 shots, which is more than he attempted in any of those five Finals games.

Third, DHo. My son and I like him, really want him to be successful. But, unlike Olajuwon, who’s motor and competitive fire seemed to always be running (sometimes to his detriment) and who is working with Dwight, Howard seems to need a push. And, when he plays like Shaq wants him to play, the running Rockets are out of sorts.

And, lastly, and most telling, I find myself switching over to watch hockey (which I call Rugby on Ice). I find it more enjoyable these days than the NBA. I don’t get as much enjoyment from a Rockets win as I do from the San Jose Sharks winning. I get more enjoyment from an Anaheim loss than I do a Spurs loss. The players seem to try harder, push themselves more, and aren’t such prima donnas.

Can this year’s version of the Rockets come back?

I wish them well, but most likely won’t be watching.




Rockets punt season, time to watch Hockey

GO SHARKS!sharks

When the Rockets lost to the Western Conference worst Minnesota Timberwolves at home a few games before the All-Star break, it isn’t hard to imagine Les Alexander and the powers that be saying “Trade for Carmelo or blow up the season.”

And here we are. Carmelo went for the bright lights and the contract in NYC. A Rockets defense that sucks mightily (ranked 24th overall) just traded their defensive stopper for a project center and a draft pick. That Shane Battier’s contract was up at the end of the year and the Rox may have ended up with nothing if they had held onto to him until then is small consoliation. Best of luck to a class act, wish he would have went to a contender.

Brooks was toast as soon as he chose to walk off the court that day, and his contract was expiring as well. Perhaps with these two contracts, Yao’s and the draft picks, there will be something exciting in Rocket’s basketball next year.

The Rockets had an outside (okay, I’m being optimistic) shot at reaching the 8th seed in the playoffs, mainly due to Utah and Denver submarining themselves with trades. But they are four games out with Phoenix and Memphis also between them and the playoffs. And by throwing the towel in, they save me from the humilation of watching my ex-hometown Spurs annihilate them (the Spurs were my team when I was there, with the Ice Man, Larry Kenon, Artis Gilmore, the Whopper, etc….but not after I drank from the fountain of The Dream!). The remainder of the team is not Clutch City, they would stand little chance against the rejuvenated Spurs.

So, thanks in large part to Yao Ming’s feet not being built like Shaq’s (how does Shaq survive for so long?), I’ll just be glad that the San Jose Sharks rebounded from a poor first half, just in time for another wild ride at the playoffs.



bookrev: Drood by Dan Simmons

Very few authors can make something as mundane
droodpicacio1as a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life appeal to readers outside of those with Degrees in English.

Dan Simmons is one of that select group. Drood is an enjoyable read, that intersperses factual references about Dickens and Wilkie Collins (a lesser known author of the time) with a character either real or imagined named Drood. Whether the Drood character is truly real or is a figment of Collins’ opium delusions (or some other reason which I won’t spoil here) is a large part of the enjoyment of this novel. This novel succeeds on multiple levels, introducing or reminding one of Dickens’ works and life, introducing the works of Collins, and blending historical fact with fiction in a smooth fashion, quite similar to Simmons’ previous tome, The Terror.

I read the traditional Little, Brown and Co. version, but I also most point out the magnificent cover (see picture) that graces the limited edition from Subterranean Press, designed by fellow San Antonian and Northside School District veteran (although my high school was better than his) John Picacio; another excellent cover, John!

The novel covers the last five years of Dickens’ life, told from the perspective of his sometime friend, rival and collaborator, Wilkie Collins. (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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