Friday, May 16, 2008

Fox Unveils New SF Strategy

Fringe and Dollhouse, the two new genre shows that Fox will add to its schedule during the 2008-'09 season, will be the beneficiaries of an experimental strategy called "Remote-Free TV," the network announced during its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on May 15.

Fringe, the J.J. Abrams-produced series set to kick off with a two-hour premiere on Aug. 26, and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, which will debut in midseason, will both air with fewer commercials and fewer promotional spots for other Fox shows.

"It's a simple concept and potentially revolutionary," Fox entertainment chairman Peter Liguori said during the presentation. "We're going to have less commercials, less promotional time and less reason for viewers to use the remote. We're going to redefine the viewing experience."

Liguori added: "Some people might think this is a scary financial prospect. We really see it as an investment. We need to give viewers a new reason to come to broadcast TV.?

Additionally, Fox revealed that Fringe will be filmed in New York and announced that it will air on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following House, in the fall. In early 2009, it will follow the juggernaut American Idol.

Also on the fall schedule is the returning SF series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which will air on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. When it premieres early next year, Dollhouse will take over the Terminator timeslot.

The network briefly mentioned Boldly Going Nowhere, an SF sitcom spoof that is in development by the team behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. No pilot has been filmed yet.

The network made no mention of Virtuality, an SF pilot that Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor (SCI FI Channel's Battlestar Galactica) are developing. --Ian Spelling

CBS Slays Moonlight

CBS has decided not to renew the freshman vampire drama Moonlight for a second season, Variety reported. Despite confidence among the show's cast and crew and a core audience of dedicated fans, declining ratings and creative upheaval behind the scenes did not impress CBS. The show has had five different show runners during its first year, and budgetary issues have been a source of conflict between the studio and the network.

The final episode, "Sonata," finds lovesick vampire Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) joining with his fellow vampires when they are threatened with exposure. It airs Friday, May 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rockets' McGrady undergoes surgery on shoulder, knee

Rockets guard Tracy McGrady on Tuesday underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and left knee with the removal of loose material from both.

McGrady is expected to need three months to be fully recovered. He can begin rehabilitation on both in the next week or two.

Rockets team physician Dr. Tom Clanton said no structural damage was found in the ligament or cartilage of McGrady’s left knee and that the loose bodies were in a non weight-bearing part of the knee.

Dr. Hussein Elkousy repaired a slight labrum tear in McGrady’s left shoulder while removing loose particles there.

Rockets guard Rafer Alston and forward Shane Battier are scheduled for arthroscopic surgeries on Friday, with Alston’s surgery to repair his right hamstring. Battier needs the removal of loose particles in his left ankle.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rockets to build on Yao-Tracy foundation after latest playoff defeat

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander did not hesitate before offering his typical direct, concise response.

The Rockets' loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday ended an eleventh-11th consecutive season before it could reach the playoffs second round of the playoffs. Alexander, as always, was taking the loss hard.

Asked then if the Rockets would continue to build around their foundation of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, veteran All-Stars who have never won a first-round series, Alexander was clear.

"Definitely,'' he said simply. "Definitely.''

When pressed further, he acknowledged that nothing in sports is definite. The plan, however, is.

"We're going to build on the Yao-Tracy foundation,'' Alexander said. "I want to say you never know in this league. We're never going to stand still. We never, never know. Obviously, we have two superstars. We want to build around them. I think if we had them both now, we would have won this series.''

As they often have in recent years, injuries defined and limited much of the Rockets' season. McGrady did not miss a game with the back issues that plagued his first three seasons, but he still missed 16 games, most with a left knee problem that flared up in the playoffs and could require minor surgery.

Yao missed the last 26 regular-season games with a stress fracture in his left foot. Rafer Alston, reliably durable in his first two seasons in Houston, went out with three injuries (a pulled hamstring, pulled groin and sprained ankle) in the last month, including his ankle injury in Friday's loss.

Alston indispensable

Still, the series seemed to reveal or underline several issues. Alston, whom the Rockets worked to replace last offseason, became indispensable, with the Rockets losing the three playoff games he missed or left with injuries. They will have four point guards under contract — Alston, Bobby Jackson, Aaron Brooks and Steve Francis.

The backups at the shooting guard/small forward positions have been undersized or unreliable, with Rick Adelman hesitant or unwilling to play Steve Novak or Luther Head and with Head struggling badly through a second consecutive playoff series.

Backup center Dikembe Mutombo, though a surprising success after Yao's injury, is 41, much more limited offensively than in his prime and again considering retirement.

The Rockets do have young players, particularly rookies Carl Landry and Brooks, whom they believe will grow, and they have always thought the team will be more effective running Adelman's offense in year 2.

"We have players who will continue to grow under coach Adelman," Morey said. "When building around Yao and Tracy, we'll either improve the players we have or have the ability to improve through free agency and trades."

Well over the salary cap, the Rockets can offer free agents all or part of their midlevel exception, expected to start at about $5.6 million per year. They also have a $2.4 million trade exception after the trade-deadline maneuvering. For the first time this decade, the roster is not swelled with bloated, long-term contracts.

With a first-round pick and signing Landry, a restricted free agent, the Rockets would exceed the luxury tax if they spend all the midlevel exception. But for the right player, Morey said, Alexander would permit that move, as he did last summer to sign Francis.

The free-agent market is unclear, with many coveted players such as Gilbert Arenas, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Corey Maggette and Shawn Marion holding the right to opt out of contracts and become free agents, joining a deep group of restricted free agents. All would expect much more than midlevel contracts, but few teams have much spending room.

"It's going to be a very interesting offseason free agency-wise," Morey said. "This may be the first year there are more players than money. We will look closely at players that might fall into midlevel range and ones that are strategic fits for any amount up to full midlevel line."

Things to come?

Until then, the Rockets believe the accomplishments of the season are signs of hope greater than after many of the previous first-round losses.

"What we really had to overcome throughout the season, losing me for probably about a month of the season, losing Yao for the time we lost him, we really hung in there and had a magnificent year," McGrady said.

Morey said the season that just ended could be the start of something better.

"I'm just really proud of the team and the coaching staff for the incredible effort put in," he said. "We came up a little short, but the future looks bright."

As Alexander would say, "definitely," even if he has learned "you never know."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Time to take a look at roster


Rockets need thorough review of team after another first round exit

SALT LAKE CITY — Another embarrassing finish, another long offseason. Will the Rockets ever get it right?

They had legitimate excuses for failing again. Don't they always? Yes, they were short-handed. No Yao Ming, etc.

It's a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is that the Rockets didn't show up for start of the game that ended their season.

They were outworked by the Utah Jazz from the beginning, and there's no excuse for that.

Maybe they were going to lose anyway, but the way they went down should force general manager Daryl Morey to take a hard look at his roster.

The Rockets did the basic things as well as any team in the NBA while winning 22 in a row during the regular season. Those are the things that failed them Friday night.

Rebounding. Defense. Turnovers. They were out of the game almost before it began, falling behind by 19 in the first half. They don't have that many injuries. They don't have that much youth. They're not that small.

They rallied to get within four at halftime but had nothing left for the second half and were smoked 113-91 in Game 6 of a first-round series.

"We just didn't have enough answers for them," Rick Adelman said.

Tracy McGrady? He was magnificent with 40 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He scored 24 of those points in the first half, making play after play when no one else was doing a thing.

"He didn't have much help," Shane Battier said. "He kept us in the game. He was a one-man wrecking ball out there."

No matter what you think of the Rockets this morning, don't put this defeat on McGrady.

He did go scoreless in the third quarter and got his final 16 points after the thing had been decided.

By that time, the Jazz were running at least two defenders at him on every possession. Their defense was geared to stop one man because that's what the Rockets were down to.

The Rockets lost because they had nothing for the start of the game, and because Rafer Alston left in the first half with an ankle injury.

"We're a different ball club when he's not in our lineup," McGrady said.

They lost because Dikembe Mutombo drew two fouls in the opening three minutes of the game, because they were a step slow defensively and because they lost almost every individual match-up.

Mehmet Okur had his way with Luis Scola. Deron Williams beat up both Alston and Bobby Jackson. Carlos Boozer outplayed Chuck Hayes.

The Jazz got double-figure scoring from seven players. The Rockets had McGrady and little else.

"Their better players stepped up," Adelman said.

Adelman went up and down his bench looking for a combination that worked. He never found it.

The lack of offense that worried him before the series all turned out to be insurmountable. Players not named McGrady shot 33 percent from the field.

Here's the requisite excuse. No team should be expected to win without its center and point guard, but trailing by 19 in the first half and 26 in the second is inexcusable.

Perceptions can be cruel. Perceptions can be false. Which brings us to McGrady.

There'll be one national story line.

McGrady fails again.

His teams have been to the playoffs seven times and failed to get out of the first round seven times. The Rockets haven't advanced since 1997, but that's another story.

This will be the third time in four years the Rockets lost in the first round. This is the second time in four years they were blown out in the deciding game. Is it all on McGrady?

Of course not.

"It is what it is," McGrady said. "Out of the seven years, I've probably been favored one time. I'm eager to get out (of the first round). That's for damn sure. I'm not going to let it hold me back."

McGrady's scoring average has gone up in the playoffs in six of the seven years he has made it. His career scoring average is seven points a game higher than the regular season.

That said, stats mean nothing. Star players are judged only by the bottom line, and the bottom line hasn't been kind to McGrady. No one is going to stop and read the fine print.

You're tired of reading about it by now, aren't you? You just want results.

Amid the disappointment, the Rockets would like you to know they're also proud.

They're proud of what they accomplished in a season in which the parts were constantly changed.

To lose McGrady for a time and Yao for a longer time and to still win 55 games speaks volumes about the character and professionalism of the group.

"We have a bright future," McGrady said. "We were out there competing with three rookies, with an undersized team, with a 41-year-old playing center. I'm proud of what we accomplished."

Listen to Richard Justice weekdays from 10 a.m.-noon on 1560 AM.

Friday, May 02, 2008

SF Series Likely This Fall

As the TV networks prepare for scaled-back upfront presentations to advertisers in New York next month, Variety speculated on which SF&F series will make the fall schedule, including Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and J.J. Abrams' Fringe on Fox.

Dollhouse, starring Whedon's former Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast member Eliza Dushku, already has an episodic order, as does Fringe, which has a series commitment, the trade paper reported.

Fox is also reportedly fond of the SF spoof comedy Boldly Going Nowhere, but a pilot won't be shot until long after the upfront.

Hot projects at CBS are said to include the psychic drama The Mentalist and Jerry Bruckheimer's SF series 11th Hour, which is already hiring staff writers.

At ABC, David E. Kelley's reboot of the U.K. time-travel drama Life on Mars is a contender for a 2008-'09 slot.

Rockets lose Game 6 to end their season

But that's OK, I still love my Rockets. It was an incredible season and they played very well without Yao.

I'm looking forward to next year.

Go Rockets!!!