This blog will chronicle my attempt to visit all 30 NBA Arenas during the 2007-08 season.

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Contact info: Drew Cieszynski 2637 N. Frederick Ave. Apt# 106 Milwaukee, WI 53211 / 717.676.9963 / acieszyn@hotmail.com

Click below on "2007" to view the first 13 arenas.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Houston Rockets (#22)

Houston is having no problems. As of publish date, the Rockets have won 22 straight and are the #1 seed in the Western conference.

When I had toured the baseball stadiums two years ago, the most memorable part was the "25 hour challenge." This challenge was to leave a final at 7 PM on a Thursday and make it to Houston via car by 7 PM the next evening. I somehow made it, only stopping for gas along the way - behind the wheel for 23 hours straight (the speeding, evidenced by the ticket in Virginia, cut 2 hours off the trip). While visiting Minute Maid Park, I noticed the Toyota Center sitting downtown. Never did I dream that I would return...

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Probably the best part of the Arena is the outdoor court right next to it. The best can participate in a pick-up game before or after Rockets games. I thought that surely the court would be deranged after two years, but it was still in tip-top shape.

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When I arrived at the arena, I met up with Jonathan Kornblith, who provided me with a pair of tickets and a bag of Rockets merchandise, including a Yao Ming growth chart (doubt I'll ever get that tall), shirts, visor, mouse pad, and calendar.

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The lobby was pumping with probably overly loud music from a DJ, You either sat in the lower section or took the "20 minute" escalator ride to the upper bowl.

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Before going down to the court, we checked out the upper bowl, where during the pre-game, there were all sorts of games and opportunities to meet the cheerleaders.

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Vertical leap test
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I relate this one to "whack-a-mole"
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Hot-Shot basketball
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Size your hands up against the Rockets
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Skee-ball
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Reason # 134 on why I never made the NBA. Check out the video below and laugh at my non-leaping ability

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Brad putting his wingspan up against Yao

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I was hoping to hop on this court and get a few slam-dunks in, but the little kids were hogging it.

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A shot from above of the court. When I first arrived, I thought they were going to only illuminate the court as the Lakers did, but eventually all lights we turned on.

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Many clever names on the spots to get food, including "Clutch City Pizza," "Baskets Grill," "The Rim," and "Space City Dogs."

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Of course, being the Toyota Center, they had to have a bunch of vehicles in one part of the arena. I really liked this arena, but this is one part they should scrap. This space could be utilized for a "fan experience," but instead Toyota is shoving its product down our throats. Basketball and vehicle shopping do not go together.

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A first in a basketball arena...a salad stand! See you can eat at a game without adding to that heart attack!

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The Comcast Hi-Def Zone. I grabbed a beer and caught the end of the Lakers-Mavs game here. Limited seats available, so get here early!

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This picture doesn't do it justice. But the Toyota Center had the most gargantuan jalapeƱo toppings I've ever seen!

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This crazy little basketball hoop with legs was running all over the arena

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One thing I noticed here, the roaming beer sales. I'm seeing less and less of this around the league. I've got to do some research and find out why. If anyone has any insight, please comment.

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Loved the logos on the walkways

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Rudy Tomjanovich leads the way for retired Rockets jerseys

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The upper bowl had curtains along the walkways that allowed fans to look down at what was going on rather than having their views obstructed by the typical cement walls.

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Now I don't know if the Rockets staff tried this or not, but we were sitting next to a very very very organization cheering section. This group was made up of kids and adults, males and females, and a variety of ethnicities. They had painted faces, drums, "Jason masks," "Werewolf masks," signs, and all kinds of Rockets gear. About 30 minutes before the game, they all went to the concourse and started parading around arena, cheering and chanting everywhere. Wherever they went, heads turned. They were a monumental part of the game and really gave it a "high school basketball" feel. They usually started chants and the crowd joined in. Their best work of the night, the chant of "Chicken Nuggets." They sit right behind the Rockets basket, and for their efforts, I recently gave them "Best Fans" in a Yahoo! Sports article.

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Taking my photo and showing the "22" in front of the court

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A shot of the 2 championship banners from the days of Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Vernon Maxwell, and more. Also a banner for Hakeem Olajuwon as the all-time leader in blocked-shots. The current #2 Dikembe Mutombo is now playing for the Rockets & is over 500 away.

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During player introductions, the bottom of a rocket comes down from the middle of the scoreboard, and then "blasts off!"

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When the national anthem was sang, the crowd really gets excited when the "rockets red glare" part comes. Very similar to the "O" during the "O say can you see" portion in Baltimore.

Tipoff time

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They even make Alston jerseys with the nickname

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We all know Dikembe's finger

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The Helicopter blimp

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Scoreboard

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Clutch, the Rockets mascot, wins the award for "Laziest mascot in the league." Seen here on a segway, there were no exciting moves coming out of this guy.

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Let's be honest. No one thought the Rockets winning streak would roll on. When Yao went down with an injury, no one gave the Rockets a chance to continue on. I, the writer thought for sure, the Nuggets would beat the Rockets on this given night.

McGrady letting a bomb fly

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Alston lets one fly as 'Melo tries to box out Mt. Mutombo.

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T-Mac going to the hoops and an alien ship sighting at the other end of the court.

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Shane Battier at the line.

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The crowd is feeling #15

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Rafer, are you ready for the crossover?

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How is Kenyon Martin to concentrate with all of those noisemakers waving around?

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A.I. for three

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Carmelo Anthony going to the basket.

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Bottom-line. The Nuggets played flat all night. Neither Anthony nor Iverson broke 20 points. The guy who impressed me most was rookie Luis Scola who contributed 18 points and 14 rebounds. He always seemed to be in the thick of things and was always there for the needed basket. The Rockets pretty handily got the win 103-89. My favorite part of the game was easily Dikembe Mutombo, who on 3 occasions produced a block and proceeded to do the finger wave! However on one of them, he spent more time waving his finger than going after the ball and the Nuggets scored. Kenyon Martin had a dunk in the third and did his own finger wave at Dikembe.

Although I don't have photos, both Roger Clemens and Vince Young were at the game.


Downtown Houston. One of the quietest, most beautiful and at the same time most discreet downtown in America. I mail a postcard from every city in America to a friend of mine, but that was nearly impossible here as there are no post office boxes on the streets. I did some research and I THINK this is because some dumb old woman ruined it for everyone. She drove up to a drop box, dropped off her mail and then pulled into traffic and got into an accident. Was she sued for her negligent driving? No, the post office was!

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Home of the Astros

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The NASA's Johnson Space Center

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I wish I could explain it, but I can't

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The Bayou seems to be the downtown drinking spot

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If you have time to read a book, check out the Library

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Me conducting an interview with Radio 1560 THE GAME regarding my NBA tour

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During the drive from Houston to Dallas (3 to 4 hours), you should stop and see the Sam Houston statue. It's actually in Huntsville, TX and stands approximately 75 feet.

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The drive from Memphis to Houston was brutal (10 hours after a day of sightseeing and drinking). We stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas in search of Bill Clinton. We couldn't find him, so we slept for about 4 hours at a hotel. Possibly the most disgusting hotel ever! The ice machine...well the ice machine was a cooler with a handwritten sign that said "ICE."

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The funniest part of this place wasn't that 1 out of 8 outlets worked, or that the refrigerator was in the middle of the room, it was that we were staying in an Executive Inn and the cups said "Best Western" and the soap said "Days Inn."

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Shout out to Bruno Baltazar who earlier today gave me my first non-North America email from Portugal.

On the drive from Little Rock to Houston, we saw a truck selling Tamales, a trailer full of goats for sale, and about 13 places to stop for "Grocery and Cat Fish Buffet."

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While I was in Texas, I took some time to check out the capial, Austin. Now, my home of Milwaukee claims to have a big music festival and such, but I don't think any city in America has as big a music influence as Austin.

Below is the famous 6th street, loaded with bars such as Cheers Shot Bar, The Jackalope, Dizzy Rooster, Chuggin Monkey, The Thirsty Nickel, Peckerheads, and the Blind Pig Pub.

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Frost Bank Tower

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Now I know this has nothing to do with basketball or the city, but when this happens right next to you, it's mind-bloggling. The Lotus was flying down the street and then realized the red light a bit late.

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The Texas state capital...reminding us not to mess with Texas.

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A sculpture of a bat. Seemingly not a big deal. But then you realize that the Congress Ave bridge is right behind it. From approximately March to October, this bridge is hoppin when the sun is setting. From here, you can see the world's largest bat herd, 1.5 million deep swarming into the night sky in search of insects.

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Thanks to Ken Shierr, Jonathan Kornblith, "Hip-Hop," James Mannion, Brad Cieszynski, and Bob Butella.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice polish eagle shirt
:)
cari

Anonymous said...

Looking for the hops video...

Anonymous said...

In your blog you said "Now I don't know if the Rockets staff tried this or not, but we were sitting next to a very very very organization cheering section."

I can answer who this group of people are. They are called the "Red Rowdies". They attend all the home games and alot of the away games.

You can find more info and videos of them here on their wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rowdies

Bruno Baltazar said...

Thank you soo much for that shout out in the Rockets blog.
Did you got my email and did you contacted already any of the NBA contacts i gave you?
Let me know .

Houston Rockets Mascot Clutch said...

Rockets mascot Clutch the Bear here. Not exciting, HUH? I'll give you exciting. How about the fact that I am one of only 6 professional mascots inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame or that I was the first ever NBA Mascot of the Year in 2005 or that I aired a very funny spoof video entitle "My Cubical" that got lots of laughs the night you attended our game or the home court advantage that I help to inspire taking advantage of our Rockets winning streak or many other exciting things that can be seen under my page at rockets.com or at myspace.com/clutchrocketsmascot. How is that for a run on sentence. Exciting enough for you. Segway?!? Yes I ride a Segway for T-shirt toss. Very well I might add. I'd like to get you on a Segway and watch you fall off. Watch any of my videos on rockets.com and tell me they are not exciting..... Go ahead. I'll wait.........

Anonymous said...

Invite him back for the challenge clutch! I'd love to see it!

Anonymous said...

haha! That's a phenomenal idea! Clutch, you should invite him back during the playoffs to have some sort of segway-face off or challenge!

Go Rockets

-Robert D

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I didn't like Clutch at first either. I think the costume made me expect him to be corny or something so I didn't give him a fair chance. Now I can see that the costume makes him even funnier. Definitely a great mascot.

Anonymous said...

Clutch is a bum. He should be burned under one of those rockets. How the H*ll did he make the hall of fame. shenannigans

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Milwaukee, WI, United States