Kelvin Sampson Takes Over the Coogs (Just Don't Expect a Tourney Visit This Year)

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The Cougars try to rebuild once again.
The Houston Cougars come into this basketball season with a new coach. They have new players, and supposedly a new culture. But some things never change, and just as with last season, the Cougars are going to lose a lot of games.

Kelvin Sampson's the new guy in charge. The former assistant coach for the Houston Rockets, Sampson's had numerous NCAA stops, getting Oklahoma and Indiana into the NCAA tourney on multiple occasions. But he lost two of the team's best players shortly after he was hired when TaShawn Thomas transferred to Oklahoma and Danuel House transferred to Texas A&M. Another key player, L.J. Rose, has a broken foot and is out for the foreseeable future. And if the season started today, walk-on Wes VanBeck would be seeing major minutes at point guard.

"We're building this program," Sampson said Tuesday. "This year is what it is. We're establishing culture and getting these guys to play the way we want to play. When people see our style of play, they're going to be excited to watch us. This is going to be a fun team to watch. I'm excited about it."

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The Sports Hate Between the Rockets and Mavericks May Be Approaching Football Levels

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Graphic by Monica Fuentes
As the horn sounded ending the first game of the NBA preseason between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks, former Rocket fan favorite (ample stress on the word "former") Chandler Parsons, now a centerpiece for the Mavs, made his way over to the Rockets' bench area to exchange salutations with his ex-teammates and ex-coaches.

A bear hug from Dwight Howard, a handshake and squeeze from James Harden, a brief cordial chat with Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, the post game scene between Parsons and his former cohorts appeared warm and friendly. It belied the acrimony from Parsons that had bubbled up shortly after his departure to Dallas and boiled over from both sides in the weeks leading up to the 2014-15 season.

"It's crazy the first time I play with my new team it's against my old team, but it was fun to get out there and play against someone else other than ourselves," Parsons said afterward. "Once the ball goes up in the air, all of the awkwardness and the weirdness kind of went away from me playing Houston."

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Like Monty Python's Black Knight, CSN Houston's Not Dead Yet

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CSN Houston's not dead yet
Walking out from a concert at the House of Blues on Monday night, I couldn't help but notice that the lights were still burning brightly inside the offices and studios of CSN Houston. Earlier that day, a bankruptcy judge had heard evidence regarding the financial worth of the troubled network so he can decide whether to approve the plan that will ultimately kill it. But the network lived through the night. As of now, after the judge heard evidence throughout the week, the network lives on until at least October 21.

The CSN Houston saga is a long, drawn-out affair that most Houston sports fans wish would've ended long, long ago. Most of us living in the Houston area haven't been able to watch two seasons of the Astros on TV. We've also missed two seasons of the Rockets, and guess what, the NBA regular season is fast approaching. There's a plan in place to replace the network with Root Sports Houston that would make the Astros and Rockets available on DirecTV and U-Verse as well as on Comcast. But until that plan's approved by the bankruptcy judge, the broadcast rights to both teams remain with CSN Houston.

Houston sports fans care not about legal battles. They don't care about how much of its $100 million secured loan made to the network that Comcast should receive in bankruptcy, or the value of Comcast's contract to air the network. They don't care about whether the Rockets or Astros are ever actually paid the rights fees they've not received since the middle of 2013. They don't care about whether AT&T or DirecTV are paying any money to purchase the network, or whether anybody will be on the hook for damages. The fans care about one thing: seeing the damn games on television sometime in the foreseeable future.

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Dear Chandler Parsons: You Are Officially Dead to Us

Categories: Basketball

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Photo by Amanda Cain
We know our dirty city disappointed you. Glad you are fresh and clean in Dallas.
There are lots of things we can forgive in this world. Take Andy Pettitte. He did what many players allegedly did during the "steroid era" in baseball. He took performance enhancing drugs to make himself better or stronger, or to heal from injury quicker. In short, he cheated the system. Of course, virtually all evidence points to the same being true for his long-time teammate both with the Yankees and Astros, Roger Clemens. In the case of Clemens, he is clearly one of the greatest pitchers ever to take the mound, but he too -- by many indications -- gamed the system.

But, there's a difference. Pettitte admitted doing it. He was contrite. He was remorseful. If there is one things sports fans love, it's a good comeback. Hell, we let Michael Vick return from prison and the systematic torture and abuse of animals. But, Clemens? He is still considered by many to be nothing more than an egomaniacal liar who cheated and won't fess up.

Some things, it would seem, are virtually unforgivable, which brings me to Chandler Parsons, the now former Rocket who signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason. Fans are often sad to see former players go, but generally welcoming them when they return. Sure, they might boo on occasion. Mario Williams was booed when drafted first by the Texans and receives a smattering of the same every time he is back at NRG Stadium. But, for the most part, fans appreciate what players did for their teams and get the business of it all.

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On Cusp of NBA Season, Rockets-Mavericks Rivalry Is Going Next Level

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Monica Fuentes
As much as we'd all like to get along, as much as life becomes easier with peace and harmony, there is no doubt that conflict stokes people.

Many of you reading this live in the great state of Texas, where conflict is inherently baked into our opinions on the state as a whole and our respective cities within the state. Houston hates San Antonio, San Antonio hates Houston, and everyone hates Dallas. Hell, conflict is the basis for our state's catchphrase, for Willie Nelson's sake!

Don't mess with Texas.

Our state is one big people stew of various flavors of the "likes to fight" guy. Don't mess with our city, don't mess with our state. So in the one professional sport where the state has more than two teams (and that third team just happens to be the best in the world at that sport), it's fun to see leadership for a couple of the teams get feisty and personal.

Yes, the NBA season is here, and if the quotes from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey are any indication as to how his players and coaches feel about the Dallas Mavericks, then (to quote WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross) business is, by GAWD, about to pick up!

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Root! Root! for Root Sports Houston!

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Say hello to the new name of CSN Houston.
If Judge Marvin Isgur approves the bankruptcy plan proposed for CSN Houston, Houston sports fans will be able to watch the Rockets this season. They'll no longer be able to watch the Dynamo, or any of the Houston-centric sportscasts aired by CSN Houston, but the return of the World Poker Tour should make up for that, right?

Word came down Tuesday that if the plan is approved, 75 of the network's 105 employees will lose their jobs. That includes most of the on-air talent and the behind-the-scenes personnel such as camera and graphics operators, producers, statisticians and other support personnel. These people aren't required for DirecTV/AT&T operations because with these entities, local product is strongly discouraged.

Most of Houston never had the chance to see CSN Houston because of disputes between network owners and the other various cable/satellite providers over the cost of distributing the network. AT&T/DirecTV will tell you the cost was too high. Astros owner/network partner Jim Crane says that that price point was established by Drayton McLane and Les Alexander so they're the ones at fault, and Crane has filed a lawsuit against McLane alleging fraud because of this. And if you talk to McLane, he'll strongly dispute this contention. But no matter who was at fault -- something that may be known only after many years of lawsuits -- the fact remains that over 60 percent of the Houston market was unable to view the network.

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TMZ: Dwight Howard "Blows More Reds Than Communist Hooker"

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Photo by Jeff Balke
Howard is seeing red...lights. What?
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is a happy, free-spirited guy to go with his tremendous talent on the court. He is also, apparently, a scofflaw, at least in Florida. According to a report by TMZ, Howard recently had his Florida license suspended for multiple traffic violations, mostly running red lights.

Red-light cameras -- those things we see all over Houston that pissed off Houstonians so much that they were rescinded, but the equipment remains atop our intersections because government -- caught Howard running lights nine times in ten months beginning in 2012 and once more in 2014 for a total of ten violations. Court records indicate he paid for nine of the tickets, but the one outstanding ticket -- for a whopping $285 -- is outstanding, triggering the suspension.

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Time, Goodwill Could Be Running Short for Harden

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Photo by Groovehouse
Fans have his back for now, but another poor defensive showing this season and James Harden will be on his own.
It's amazing how quickly things can turn. One minute, you're at a podium in front of thousands of screaming fans telling them how you are going to bring them a championship. The next, you are taking the brunt of every fan's animosity while your team toils away in mediocrity. Ask Tracy McGrady.

Few players have entered the Rockets organization with as much fanfare as the former scoring champ. And few have left with as many curse words from the same people who stood and cheered for him when he arrived. That is the blessing and the curse of being a superstar player. You carry the weight of your team on your shoulders, often having to work harder and score more while still being a leader and unselfishly making those around you better. But hoisting that probably feels like a feather pillow compared to the burden of expectations.

If James Harden is not experiencing that pressure, he soon will.

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Zapruder Analysis of the Latest Swimming Pool Dunk (VIDEO)

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Screen shot from JamBroz
I have to say, Internet, rarely do I chastise you. Rarely do you let me down.

But I'll be honest -- the lack of acrobatic suburban white kid swimming pool dunks from you has been disappointing. Frankly, those dunks were a big part of what sustained me last summer from a content standpoint. (Aaron Hernandez's addiction to killing people was the unfortunate other part.)

However, if you're going to make a late run in the latter part of August, I may be willing to forgive and forget. The latest pool dunk you've given us is a pretty good start toward mending fences.

Not only a pool dunk, but apparently a pool dunking faction that I was unaware of! Like a WWE stable whose gimmick is perfectly timed jumps off diving boards and rocking GoPro cameras on their heads!

Say hello to the Jambroz, who if I'm not mistaken authored the "ring of fire" dunk I Zaprudered earlier this summer.

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Notable Dates on the 2014-15 Houston Rockets Schedule

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Time to dig in to the Rockets 2014-15 schedule.
The NBA released its schedule for the upcoming season and, naturally, the first thing everyone looked for was when Lebron James would return to Miami (Christmas Day as it turns out), but we here in Houston were more interested in the Rockets, who will try to improve on their 54-win season and first round knockout at the hands of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers.

The Rockets have 16 nationally televised games (not counting games on NBATV), which is key considering their home network still isn't on providers other than Comcast -- though that could change if things go their way at hearings in October. But, there are plenty of interesting games on the schedule worth noting.

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