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1. Arian Foster is going to be in Houston for a while. The Texans signed Foster to a long term deal today. He’ll make a little over $20 million guaranteed over five years and has lots of incentives that could make the deal worth as much as $43.5 million.
As the draft approaches and free agents are on the cusp of seeking deals with other teams, it seemed less and less likely that the Texans were going to be able to sign both Arian Foster and impending free agent Mario Williams to long term deals. Considering how well the Texans defense played this past year without Mario Williams, with very little time to learn a new scheme, it’s not surprising that Foster was the first priority for an offense that worked best when he was always touching the ball.
Houston isn’t going to place a franchise tag on Williams, so they’re going to need to sign him for big money if they want to bring him back next season. At this point, the only thing that the Texans have going for them is that Williams has previously said that he is more focused on staying in Houston than signing a max deal.
Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel, Joel Dreessen, and Neil Rackers are other free agents that need to be signed. So if Williams doesn’t come back, they’ll have more money to spend on keeping key guys like Myers and Brisiel around. Dreessen and Rackers are likely more expendable to the free agent market.
Of course, I’ve previously advocated that one of the pluses of not keeping one of the big guys around is the freedom it’ll give the Texans to free up some money in 2013 to sign Drew Brees, who was just franchised by the New Orleans Saints and will become a free agent after next year.
So we’ll see who Houston is able to keep and who they’re going to let go as the draft approaches and they can fill needs in the draft.
Photo courtesy Javi Perez/Playmaker Magazine
2. The Lamar Odom saga continues. The E! reality show crew isn’t following the right member of that married couple because Odom’s trials in Dallas have been the focus of the team ever since the LA Lakers traded him away.
He missed three games bridged by the All Star break, so he actually missed more time than just the three games. The reason he’d given for leaving was to tend to his father, who was gravely ill. But reportedly, his father only had a stomach virus and Odom took his time coming back as most assumed he’d be back in the lineup after the break.
Before Saturday night’s game where the Dallas Mavericks narrowly defeated the Utah Jazz 102-96, Odom addressed the team and apologized for his past effort being affected by distractions in his personal life. While Dirk Nowitzki blew up for 40 points in the win, the Mavs were complimentary of Odom’s effort and enthusiasm in the game as he turned in nine points, five rebounds, three assists, and three blocks in his 18 minutes on the court.
We’ll see if Odom’s effort extends beyond one game as Dallas plays the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. The win over Utah snapped a four-game losing streak which had dropped Dallas to the 6th seed in the West, four games behind San Antonio in the loss column in the division standings.
3. The Houston Rockets haven’t been able to take advantage of these Mavericks losses because they’ve been going through some tough times as well. They lost twice this weekend, to the Denver Nuggets and to the LA Clippers in overtime.
Houston lost to Denver 117-105 because, you guessed, they got killed on the boards. Their loss to the Clippers was tougher because they held their own pretty well in the paint. The combination of Samuel Dalembert and Chandler Parsons outscored Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. But what really hurt the Rockets was Kevin Martin’s shooting (6-22 from the field) and Kyle Lowry’s injury that didn’t knock him out of the game but significantly affected his play after he took a hard fall on his left wrist. He never left the game, but he wasn’t the same as he took another hard foul later that quarter.
There isn’t much room in the Western Conference for moral victories, but the way that the big men played against the Clippers was promising. We need to see it more consistently though before we shed that label and worry about the other holes that the Rockets have.
4. Last night was a historic night for the San Antonio Spurs. It’s the first time all season that nobody was on the injured list. Everyone is back, including Manu Ginobili. The team looked pretty good as they came back from a 16-point first half deficit to make a game of it and play it close throughout the 2nd half. The problem was the 4th quarter. Denver was able to grab critical rebounds and score some easy points on key possessions because the Spurs looked rusty in crunch time with Manu back. They were able to score big buckets, but couldn’t get the stops they needed. They also missed some critical free throws.
Ty Lawson really reeked havoc on the Spurs offensively as San Antonio never forced the ball out of his hands and let him make plays. Of the last four baskets that Denver scored, Lawson assisted on three of them and scored the other, adding two free throws to seal the game.
The Spurs aren’t in action again until Wednesday. I’m sure until then, they’ll be working on getting everyone back into the roles they need to be in going forward. It’s almost like they’re starting the season all over again.
I’ll be at the game on Wednesday first hand to see the Spurs take on “Linsanity” and the New York Knicks. We’ll see if they’ve made the adjustments and have the dynamics down to go on another winning streak like they did on their rodeo road trip when they were decimated by injuries and taking down really good teams.
5. The Texas Longhorns played really well in Kansas against the Jayhawks on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to win as they lost on senior night in Lawrence 73-63. The loss didn’t hurt Texas’ tournament chances, but they missed an opportunity to punch their ticket with a win.
The game turned when Alexis Wangmene left the game with a dislocated left wrist early in the 2nd half. Even though Clint Chapman suffered an ankle injury in the 1st half that clearly affected his play, he was gutting the game out and Texas was hanging in. But when Wangmene, Kansas created some separation that they hadn’t had all game and held on to it to close out the game.
The Horns never really let Kansas pull away as J’Covan Brown just wouldn’t let them. Although he shot poorly in the 1st half, Brown caught fire in the 2nd scoring 29 of his 33 points after the break. The Texas defensive effort was impressive in the first half. They slowed the game down to a snail’s pace, limited their turnovers, and the big men played tough underneath the basket. Chapman and Wangmene suffering injuries was ultimately the difference in the game along with several poorly timed turnovers by Myck Kabongo.
Baylor’s slide down the polls continued on Saturday as well as the Bears lost at Iowa State. Despite being a much smaller team, the Cyclones finished with more rebounds, many more assists, and also went to the free throw line a lot more as well.
Pierre Jackson played out of his mind, scoring 35 points. But it was an after-thought considering the game ended in a loss to a team that Baylor handled easily just a few weeks ago. ISU did a great job of spreading the ball around as every starter was in double figures and the starting lineup shot close to 50% from the field. Meanwhile Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller combined for 8-20 shooting and just 16 points (10 from Jones).
The loss dropped Baylor to 4th in the Big 12 Tournament bracket and the Cyclones jumped to 3rd, which makes you wonder how Iowa State is only now ranked and Baylor is somehow just outside the top 10 despite identical conference records.
6. In any case, the Big 12 Tournament bracket is now set.
It’s widely considered that Texas needs to win one game to get to the NCAA Tournament. The two teams split their two regular season matchups with the home team winning each game. Texas won the first game on January 4 while ISU won the game on January 24. It’ll be one of the two most anticipated games on the 2nd day of the Big 12 tournament. The other will be the matchup between Baylor and the Kansas State Wildcats. The two teams have split their two meetings and they were decided by a combined three points.
Baylor will be playing to stay among the top four seeds for the NCAA tournament.