It's the third of January. You haven't made it out of bed since New Year's Day, and that bottle of Advil is running low. The only bowl game left is the so-called championship, and you're watching Most Extreme Elimination Challenge -- again. Hey, there's a world out there! A world with a seven-foot-six Chinese guy playing basketball for a coach who comes up to his elbow. A world of sharp-shooting guards like Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. And a world of newfound defensive prowess where opponents average 85 points per game. Wake up and smell the hardwood. The Houston Rockets are in the tightest race in the NBA. Their Midwest division competitors are all early-season playoff contenders, separated by only about four games from first to last place. One of the rivals, the Utah Jazz, arrives downtown this weekend, having already beaten the Rockets once this season. The Jazz are in their first year without the Hall of Fame combo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, the driving forces of that team's success since 1985. If the Rockets' Thanksgiving loss is avenged, they will be able to bust out with an obligatory new-era pun: That was then, this is Yao. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 3. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information and tickets, call 1-866-4HOUTIX or visit www.houstontoyotacenter.com. $10 to $150. -- Eric Norvell
If the color-coded threat levels determined by the Department of Homeland Security are to be believed, we could be under fire at any second. And duct tape isn't going to cut it. We need target practice in real warfare conditions. We need paintball. Okay, maybe we don't need paintball, but it sure is a lot of fun. At Adventure Village, you can roll around in the mud and take potshots at your friends (and enemies) in several different scenario games, including "Capture the Flag" and "Attack and Defend." Or you can make up your own scenarios, such as "Find the Dictator in a Hole." 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Adventure Village Paintball, 8311 FM 1960 Bypass in Humble. For information, call 281-548-3386 or visit www.adventurevillage.com. $15 for entry; $10 for rental of gun and mask; $6 for a bag of 100 balls. -- Keith Plocek
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