Howard's reunion with Magic does not go too well

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Howard's reunion with Magic does not go too well

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dwight Howard wasn't his usually playful self in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room. He refused to answer certain questions and shared few personal thoughts about his ugly reunion with the Orlando Magic."It wasn't emotional," Howard said.Maybe that was part of the problem -- and one reason the Magic left the reunion with their biggest win of the season.Arron Afflalo scored 30 points, Glen Davis added 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Magic beat Howard's Lakers in their first game against their longtime center, 113-103 on Sunday night.Howard had 21 points and 15 rebounds against his former team, but the rebuilding Magic rallied impressively with a 40-point fourth quarter for just their fourth win in 14 games, snapping a three-game skid. Orlando pulled the upset partly by intentionally fouling Howard, who went 9 for 21 at the line -- including 7 for 14 in the fourth quarter.The Magic made their decisive 12-2 run while Howard wasn't helping the Lakers at the line in the final minutes, with Nelson and J.J. Redick hitting 3-pointers along the way.Howard's first few months with the Lakers haven't gone the way he might have expected after the four-team, 12-player trade in August: a sub-.500 record, a shocking coaching change, an injured point guard and an unsightly amplification of Howard's career-long woes at the free-throw line, where he has dropped to 46.5 percent (87 for 187) for the season."As a team, our effort wasn't there," Howard said. "We have to start the game with energy and play the whole game the same way. We didn't do that tonight, and they capitalized on it and they got a win."Howard left the court after the game without shaking hands with the Magic -- not that he has many close friends left in blue pinstripes anyway. Orlando has new coach Jacque Vaughn, a new front-office staff and just five players who played with Howard."Let Dwight be Dwight. If he wants to walk off the court, it's cool," said Davis, who overlapped with Howard only last season in Orlando. "No hard feelings. He lost. I'd feel bad, too. I wouldn't want to shake nobody's hand. We weren't even really thinking about him. We just wanted to get this win. I didn't talk to him. I'm here to play basketball. I'm not here to be buddies."Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 3-4 under new coach Mike D'Antoni with another inconsistent performance featuring deficient defense. Metta World Peace scored 15 points and Pau Gasol added 11 for the Lakers, who went back to poor form just two nights after a 122-point effort in a blowout win over Denver."Seems like we can't get out of our own way," D'Antoni said. "I think our problem is just not coming out with the intensity and the purpose that we need to have. ... We're slow right now. Just athletically, we're struggling with young teams that run up and down."Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 13 assists after nearly sitting out with tendinitis during the Magic's most impressive win under Vaughn. Orlando also started a stretch of five road games in eight days with just its second road win all season.Afflalo, the former UCLA star who moved from Denver to Orlando in the trade that sent Howard to the Lakers, had his highest-scoring game in a Magic uniform."The way we lost the past three games, I'm sure our fans just wanted to see us win in general," Afflalo said. "But for us to kick-start this road trip by playing well, against the Lakers in particular, they should be proud of that. It's a huge confidence boost for us."Vaughn said before the game that the Magic wouldn't hesitate to force Howard to beat them at the free-throw line in a close game. Howard missed seven of his first nine free throws against the Magic before finishing with more free-throw attempts than the entire Orlando roster, which went 19 for 20."That kind of got us out of our rhythm a little bit," said Antawn Jamison, who scored 10 points for Los Angeles. "But it's unexplainable ... to play the way we did tonight after playing so well the other night."Howard spent the past eight years as the face of the Orlando franchise since the Magic plucked him out of his Atlanta high school with the first pick in the 2004 draft. He made six All-Star teams and won the NBA's defensive player of the year award three times, leading the Magic to the 2009 NBA finals during five straight playoff appearances.It all fell apart over the previous two seasons when Howard criticized the organization, flirted with numerous trades and eventually bumped heads with coach Stan Van Gundy. Howard missed the end of last season with a herniated disc in his back, and the Magic missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006.NOTES:The Lakers don't visit Orlando until March 12. ... World Peace hit the 1,000th 3-pointer of his career in the third quarter. ... Lakers G Steve Nash did shooting and dribbling work on the court before the game. The two-time MVP has missed 15 straight games with a small fracture in his right leg, and the Lakers aren't sure when he'll return.

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

The A’s have options at the catcher position, and with those options come decisions to make.

Figure that manager Bob Melvin and the rest of Oakland’s front office will use the length of spring training to evaluate their catching corps, and the decisions that eventually come down will impact the rest of the roster.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley could form a natural left-right platoon, as they did to begin last season. But Phegley is coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2016 season in July and proved more problematic than anticipated as he recovered. His status can’t be adequately judged until camp begins and he’s behind the plate testing his mobility.

Adding intrigue to the catching puzzle was last season’s emergence of Bruce Maxwell, who hit .283 after making his major league debut in July and shows defensive upside.

Might the A’s keep three catchers to begin the season? Melvin acknowledged that possibility when asked about it during the winter meetings. Vogt has played first base and the outfield in the past, so he provides a little flexibility. But keeping him, Phegley and Maxwell would short the A’s roster elsewhere.

There are decisions to make, but a full Cactus League exhibition season should influence how things shake out at catcher.

STARRING CAST: Maxwell’s emergence, and the fact he hits left-handed, made the 32-year-old Vogt a potential trade piece this winter. But the veteran is still an Athletic and has been an All-Star in back-to-back seasons, though his 2016 stats didn’t jump off the page. He hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, delivering a much better first half than second half offensively. But Vogt’s biggest value comes with his clubhouse leadership and ability to connect with his pitchers. He’s the unofficial team spokesman, always willing to stand in front of the cameras after a tough loss. His steadying presence is even more important on a team that annually undergoes such heavy roster turnover.

CAMP COMPETITION: Phegley, 28, missed time in May with a strained right knee, then underwent surgery in July to remove a cyst from the knee. That seemed a rather minor procedure, but Phegley was hospitalized in August after developing a case of synovitis, or inflammation in the knee joints. A’s general manager David Forst said recently that Phegley’s offseason rehab has gone well, but Phegley will remain a question mark until he shows he’s full strength throughout camp.

Maxwell, 26, hadn’t played above Double-A before last season. But he impressed at Triple-A Nashville both with his bat and overall defensive skills. After a slow start in the majors, Maxwell hit .367 over his final 20 games. He began showing flashes of the potential the A’s saw when they made him a second-round pick in 2012 out of tiny Birmingham Southern College.

“Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see (before) September, and he’s a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively,” Melvin said during the winter meetings. “It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder (Alonso) gets a day off.”

Could the A’s simply go with Vogt and Maxwell at catcher, though both hit left-handed? Again, Phegley’s health could factor prominently.

PAY ATTENTION TO: A catcher the A’s drafted in the third round last summer, Sean Murphy. He’s a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Murphy, who attended Wright State, is said to be a gifted catcher defensively, with mlb.com’s Jim Callis saying last June that Murphy had the strongest arm of any catcher in the 2016 draft.

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has hired former Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, the team announced on Monday evening. He will be the team’s assistant head coach on the defensive side of the ball.

Pagano has spent most of his coaching career in San Diego, working with the Chargers in various capacities since 2002. He was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2012, where he led that unit for five seasons.

Pagano and Del Rio worked together in 1997, when Pagano was a New Orleans Saints defensive assistant and Del Rio was the assistant strength coach.

Pagano was a longtime linebackers coach before becoming a play caller. He has worked with several quality pass rushers and has proven to be adept at creating pressure.

The Raiders created a position for Pagano, who will help a defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and dead last in sacks. Pagano was looking for a different gig after new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn hired Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator. 

Ken Norton Jr. remains defensive coordinator, but Pagano will bring experience and creativity to the game-planning process.

He has worked within a 3-4 defensive scheme, but has experience in all formations. The Raiders run multiple defensive fronts.

Pagano is the assistant coach on defense, while offensive line coach Mike Tice has a similar title on the offensive side. The Raiders have a vacancy on the staff, and are looking for a new defensive backs coach.

John Pagano is the younger brother of Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.