Trade deadline: Will Howard stay or go?

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Trade deadline: Will Howard stay or go?

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Orlando Magic entered their third meeting with the Miami Heat shrouded in uncertainty because of the unknown status of their biggest star. Dwight Howard made a preseason request to be traded from the only team the former No. 1 pick has ever known, leaving fans wondering if every game could be his final one with in a Magic jersey But with the NBA's 3 p.m. EDT Thursday trade deadline fast approaching, Howard used the aftermath of a 24-point, 25-rebound performance in the Magic's 104-98 overtime victory over the Miami Heat Tuesday night to quell some of that uneasiness. Howard took back his preseason request and said that he wanted to remain with the team for the remainder of the season. "Well, I told those guys, I've been telling them for the past two or three weeks now that I want to stay and finish the season," Howard said. "I told them I feel we have a great opportunity to win and I told them that I want to be here and I want to bring a championship here. I told them they've got to give me that chance. They didn't trade me at the beginning of the season and I told them I'd go out and play as hard as I could every night to put our team in a position to win." Jameer Nelson scored 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter and overtime. It was the eighth 20-20 game of the season for Howard and 40th of his career. It helped the Magic overcome a 14-point, first-half deficit to win their third straight and fifth in six games. Dwyane Wade scored 28 points and Chris Bosh 23 for the Heat, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. LeBron James added 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. The Heat visit Chicago on Wednesday in a matchup of the East's top teams. Orlando goes to San Antonio for its final game before the trade deadline. But the story was what happened after the final buzzer. Howard said in the preseason that he wanted to be traded, potentially ending a seven-year relationship for the only franchise the 26-year-old, three-time Defensive Player of the Year has known. He has the option of terminating his current contract and becoming a free agent in July. It will be still be an interesting time for the Magic with the trade deadline looming, but barring the Magic deciding to trade him anyway because of fear he could walk this summer, the team has a calm it hasn't had in months. Howard said he expects to be with the Magic on Friday. "I expect it," he said. "...I talked to (Magic chairman) Dan DeVos. I talked to (CEO) Alex (Martins) and (general manager) Otis (Smith), and I want to finish the season out, and I think we're going to hit our peak at the right time. We're going to make a good run." Never-bashful Magic coach Stan Van Gundy acknowledged before the game that all the Howard drama had to be on his players' minds. He shrugged off an ESPN.com report from earlier in the day that Howard had been told by team officials he could decide the fate of Van Gundy and Smith if he signed a contract extension. "If anybody thinks I care about that, I really don't give a damn about being fired," Van Gundy said. "That doesn't concern me in the least. ... If they want to fire me to please somebody, fire me." He went as far as to say the most disappointing thing about the season-long speculation about Howard is that his team's actual game performances have been secondary. After Tuesday's narrow win, Van Gundy wasn't in the mood to discuss anything more about what could happen the next two days. "For tonight we're actually going to give a (expletive) about the game," he said. Howard has been inundated with questions about his future all season and it made for an uncomfortable time during the All-Star break with Orlando's Amway Center serving as host. "We're third in the East and playing great basketball," Howard said. "I don't want to see that slip away. We have to take a chance and I think we have a great chance to surprise a lot of people by winning." Though it seemed abrupt, Howard said this change in philosophy has been discussed with the Magic for some time. "We've been talking for a while," he said. "I told them that I want to finish this season out and give our team and our fans some hope for the future. I feel they have to roll their dice. It might be tough, but I feel like we have a great opportunity. They've got to roll it." Now it would seem the onus would shift now to the Magic to bring in players to ensure he won't leave anyway in a few months. Smith, the Magic GM, has said that team officials won't consent to every one of Howard's demands, but has said they have taken Howard's input in the past and that includes bringing in big man Glen Davis in the preseason. What else the team is willing to do to convince Howard to stay long-term remains to be seen. As for Tuesday's game, Howard made sure it was a memorable night for the fan base that seemed ready to say goodbye to him. Howard scored the first basket of the extra frame and Orlando took a 100-96 lead on Nelson's running layup. Following an offensive foul on Mario Chalmers, Nelson scored again on a twisting layup in the lane to increase it to six with under a minute left. Wade trimmed it back to four and Howard missed a pair of free throws on the Magic's next possession to give the Heat hope with 26 seconds to play. Wade missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Howard was fouled again. He missed two more free throws, but James also came up empty on a 3-point try. "They executed and made more plays in the overtime," James said. "We're not going to hang our heads over this one. We played hard." Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had the same assessment. "Some second chances, some big, big plays there in the second half," he said. "In the third quarter we didn't play our best basketball (and) gave them life, gave them an opportunity to get back in the game, get some confidence and they took full advantage of that." Though the questions or speculation won't end with Howard's latest declaration, he said his mind is at ease with his status in Orlando. "This moment is what matters," Howard said. "We have a great opportunity. The guys on the team are working hard every day to get better, and we got a good start. And everybody trusts our captains me and Jameer. If we hit our peak at the right time, nobody's going to be able to beat us."

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.