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23.05.2018 14:52
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This story is part of ESPN The Magazines Oct. 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!Houston RocketsOverall: 80 Title track: 70 Ownership: 66 Coaching: 112 Players: 114 Fan relations: 77 Affordability: 67 Stadium experience: 64 Bang for the buck: 64 Change from last year: -45At the beginning of last season, expectations were high for the Rockets players and fans, after the team made the Western Conference finals in 2015. But an 0-3 start and the firing of coach Kevin McHale 11 games into the season led to a downward spiral. In the end, the off-court drama between James Harden and Dwight Howard got more play than the on-court product. The Rockets were a mess the entire season, and they dropped 45 spots in these standings.Whats goodThe Toyota Center remains one of the nicest arenas in the league and maybe in all of sports. Its spacious concourses, nice sightlines and variety of entertainment (from the Rockets Power Dancers to Clutch the mascot, who has a sidekick who pops out of a garbage can to distract free throw shooters) give the Rockets a nice feel. The overall stadium experience dropped 28 spots from last year, but at 64th, it still represented, along with bang for the buck, the Rockets best showing in these rankings.Whats badMany fans and reporters expected the Rockets (who ranked 25th in opponents points per game last year) to selected a defensive-minded coach such as Jeff Van Gundy to take over from interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Instead, team owner Leslie Alexander went with Mike DAntoni, a noted offensive coach, and Alexander seemed almost in defensive mode at the introductory press conference in May. Fans didnt love the move; the Rockets coaching rank is down 44 spots this year, all the way to 112nd. Alexanders reasoning, which might or might not convince Houston faithful this year? He wanted to play an up-tempo style with 3-pointers galore, so here comes DAntoni.Whats newWhen Dwight Howard left the Rockets in free agency this summer, the team signed Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene as new partners for Harden. From a national perspective, Harden gets negative press for his beard, style of play and overall aloofness. But his teammates know he has a nice sense of humor, and his game is probably underappreciated. Without the joyful Howard, however, many fans dont believe the Rockets upgraded the talent around Harden. Houston dropped 62 spots in players, and now only three NBA teams rank worse. Most of the pessimism centers around Anderson and Gordon, two players who will be expected to produce but who have struggled with their health the past few years.Next: Washington Wizards?| Full rankings Stitched England Jerseys . The catch: It needs a lot of money, and it needs it fast. England 2018 FIFA World Cup Jerseys . The Vancouver coach and an announced sellout crowd of 18,910 watched in dismay as the Canucks lost 7-4 to the New York Islanders on Monday night by squandering a 3-0 lead in the third period. .In my heart and mind Im competing for India, luge competitor Shiva Keshavan told The Associated Press in an email interview. Every day Im flooded with messages from Indians all over the world telling me they are supporting me. England Fabian Delph World Cup Jersey . Louis Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey last Sunday. The fine is the fourth this season for Goldson. He was fined $30,000 for a hit on the New York Jets Jeff Cumberland in Week 1. England Jordan Henderson World Cup Jersey . Philadelphia is 2-0 against the Senators this season and scored five goals in each victory. The Flyers recorded a 5-0 win in Ottawa on Nov. 12 and then earned a 5-2 home decision on Nov. 19. The Flyers have claimed three straight and four of the last five encounters with the Sens overall and Philly has won two in a row and three of its past four tests in Canadas capital city. DENVER -- Jason Hammel will carry an impressive scoreless streak into his start for the Chicago Cubs and oppose his former team in the rubber game of a series with the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.Hammel is 13-5 with a 2.75 ERA. He gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings in his last start Tuesday at Milwaukee.Hammel has not allowed a run in 22 innings and is 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break.In his one start against the Rockies, Hammel gave up three runs in six innings on April 11, 2015, in a 9-5 win. Hammel pitched for the Rockies in 2009-2011 and 27-30 with a 4.63 ERA.Hammels start comes in the wake of the Cubs 9-2 win on Saturday night in which left-hander Mike Montgomery, in his first start for the Cubs after seven relief appearances and governed by a 60-65 pitch limit, worked 4 1/3 hitless innings before giving up a homer to Nick Hundley on his 60th and final pitch.Montgomery was filling in for injured John Lackey, who along with ace Jake Arrieta can be a free agent after 2017. The Cubs lack starting pitching depth at Triple-A Iowa, making Montgomery an intriguing possibility for their rotation.We think he can be very, very helpful to us, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. Its an easy delivery. Hes pitching with confidence. I can see him settling in. And he knows he belongs here and can do this and be good. Not just pedestrian. This guy can be very good.Montgomery will have a limit of 80 to 90 pitches in his next start Friday at the Los Angeles Dodgers as he tries to build upon his outing against the Rockies.A free agent after this season, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, 35, who will start Sunday for the Rockies, is in the final weeks of his career with Colorado. Hes 7-7 with a 5.29 ERA and has had no-decisions in his past three games, all Rockies losses, including Monday against Washington when he allowed four runs in six innings in a 5-4 loss to the Nationals.De La Rosa, who has been with the Rockies since 2008, is 52-19 with a 4.26 ERA in 102 games, including 95 starts, at Coors Field. Hes 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three games against the Cubs in Denver but has not faced them at homme since 2013.ddddddddddddDe La Rosas next start after Sunday is scheduled for Saturday at Washington. He is then next scheduled to pitch Sept. 2 at Coors Field against Arizona. That date is after the Aug. 31 deadline for making a trade after putting a player through the waiver process.And there is a chance, albeit perhaps a small one, that on Sunday, De La Rosa will make his final start for the Rockies at Coors Field.Regardless, the Rockies were able to get a look at their starting pitching future on Saturday night when Jeff Hoffman made his major league debut. He gave up seven hits and seven runs (six earned) in four innings, leaving with a sullied pitching line after giving up Kris Bryants three-run homer in the fifth inning.In reality, that line wasnt nearly as bad as it appears, and the Rockies, who acquired Hoffman, 23, in the deal last July that sent shortstop and franchise icon to Toronto, are extremely high on Hoffman.He will make his next start Friday at Washington and figures to be in the Rockies rotation to start the 2017 season. Hoffman gave up two hard-hit balls to the Cubs and four singles that found their way through the infield, three when the Rockies shifts didnt pay off.I wasnt getting ahead as much as I should have been, and that obviously opened up a whole world of opportunities for them, Hoffman said. When you are not getting ahead, and you are facing guys in the box who know what they are doing, they are going to find holes. Thats what they did tonight, they found holes with everything.Chalk it up as a learning experience for Hoffman in his big league debut before a sellout crowd of 48,113 at Coors Field.I felt very comfortable here, Hoffman said. I dont know why that was. I was really expecting to be nervous, to be jittery, all that stuff.For my first big league game, this was exactly what I was expecting. A ton of people. It was loud. It was electric. I just got to go out and do a better job of executing pitches.The Rockies are quite confident he will. 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