Dwight wants out, but will the Magic comply?

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Dwight wants out, but will the Magic comply?

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Magic say they haven't committed to honoring Dwight Howard's latest trade demand that he be dealt to the Brooklyn Nets. New Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan said Monday that Howard told him in a meeting last week that he would like to be traded, but Hennigan said he has not committed to honoring that demand. He said will keep communication lines open between both the All-Star and his agent. It's exactly the scenario the Magic wanted to avoid -- for a second time. Howard listed several teams last season that he wanted to be traded to, but on the day of the trading deadline he committed to the Magic for the 2012-13 season. Magic CEO Alex Martins has said previously that the organization will not enter next season with Howard's situation unresolved. Orlando was looking to sign Howard to a long-term deal, however, now that Howard has had his first, face-to-face sit down with the Magic's new general manager, the All-Star center made it clear he still very much wants out of Orlando. Hennigan said that having Howard single out one team as a desired destination does complicate any potential trade scenarios, but for now, there is no immediate move the Magic to make following the sit down. "As I told Dwight, I said I don't know. I have to think about what you're telling me.' I want to take some time to process everything," Hennigan said of the meeting. "And the answer is we want to map out what's in the best interest of our team. And any decision that at decide going forward with will be one that we feel puts our team in a position to be successful and move forward." Howard told Yahoo Sports Monday that he won't sign long-term with another team if the Magic decide to trade him to somewhere other than Brooklyn. "There's only one team on my list and if I don't get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that," Howard said. Howard also vigorously denied an ESPN report that he was claiming that the Magic blackmailed him at the trade deadline to give up the opt-out provision in his contract that would have allowed him to become a free-agent this summer. Howard asked to be traded last season, and then opted-in for 2012-2013 -- forgoing becoming a free agent this summer. "I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic," Howard said. "I never said that. It's defamatory and it's inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate." Hennigan also said the charge was never levied by Howard. "In terms of his health, I think what I can tell you is that Dwight's rehabilitation process is progressing in the right direction," he said. "I do not believe his health will be an issue going forward." Hennigan reiterated that beyond sharing Dwight's request, he wants the discussions beyond that to remain private at this time in order as a matter of trust between himself and Howard. "That's my plan with Dwight and with whoever we talk to on our roster...I would leave it to Dwight to share with Dwight any details he wants to share about the conversation," Hennigan said. "But again, out of respect for the trust and privacy I'm trying to build I'm not really going to talk about what else we discussed." Aside from Howard, the Magic are facing other lingering free agency questions surrounding career-long Magic players Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, and reigning league most improved player Ryan Anderson. Nelson told the Magic last week that he would opt out of the final year and nearly 8 million of his contract and test free agency. Redick is due 6.1 million next year in the final season of his deal, but the team can get out of that if they waive him by July 7. Anderson is a restricted free agent, though the Magic extended a qualifying offer to the third-year forward last week. It allows the team to match any offer he receives on the open market this summer. Hennigan said that they will take their time this week making a decision on Redick and still hope to keep Nelson next year. "My hope is that he remains in Orlando and in a Magic uniform," he said of Nelson. "But there needs to be a mutual desire for that to happen."

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

* * *

No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

* * *

A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

* * *

If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

49ers announce more hires to Shanahan's staff

Kyle Shanahan put together some of the final pieces of his coaching staff on Tuesday.

The 49ers announced the hirings of seven coaches, including confirmation of John Benton as offensive line coach.

The team hired former NFL standout linebacker DeMeco Ryans as defensive quality control coach. He was a second-round selection of the Houston Texans in 2006 and spent 10 seasons in the league. He finished his career playing four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers also hired Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, Stan Kwan as assistant special teams, Vince Oghobaase as assistant defensive line, Adam Stenavich as assistant offensive line, and Michael Clay as strength and conditioning assistant.

Benton, 53, was hired away from the Broncos after being on the job for approximately a month. Benton served as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach last season. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Benton and Shanahan worked together for four seasons with the Houston Texans.

Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.